Los Hombres

An American in Peru

 

“Hey Blondie” photo credit: by Ivan Mlinaric

If I wrote “Peruvian men are a bunch of scum-buckets,”  that would be stereotyping.  So I will phrase it this way:  I have encountered a lot of Peruvian men who are complete, disrespectful slime-balls.  I briefly touched this topic in the previous blog, and I would like to delve a little deeper.  I hope to do this without offending any Peruvian men who may not be slime-balls or scum-buckets.  I also don’t want to sound negative as the majority of my actual interactions with Peruvians have been good.  I just feel the need to point this out because it’s not something I’ve experienced much of in the States.

I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima and do not venture far from my apartment on my own for reasons of safety.  Even so, on a typical walk of less than one mile to the grocery store, I get honked at approximately 30 times.  I hear the word “rubia,” directed at me at least 10 times, the word “bonita” at least five times, and the word “puta” at least two times.  While in the States, I feel sexy when I catch a guy checking me out from across the bar; here they are far less discrete.  They stare and smile creepily, slow their cars down and drive alongside me, yell things, sometimes reach their arms out of bus or car windows towards me.  Sometimes they make smoochy kissy noises.  Gross.  My favorite, so far, was a guy on a motorcycle who swerved to get my attention and when he had it, pointed to his crotch and smiled at me.  I wanted to give him a sarcastic thumbs up, but held back and kept walking with my head facing forward.

That’s what you do.  Ignore them and just keep walking.  Sunglasses help, but still it’s harder than it sounds to keep a straight face and steady pace without reacting.  I want to punch them in the face.  The guys are small here and I think I could take some of them.  I want to walk up to them and scream “I’m not a sex object, I’m an occupational therapist!  I have a masters degree!” but I don’t think that would help.  I keep walking and hope that their negligent driving skills get them in a well-deserved accident.

This doesn’t just happen to me because I’m blonde, although I’m sure it doesn’t help. I see it happening to Peruvian women too.  And it’s not because I’m wearing sexy outfits.  Despite the warm weather, I’ve taken to wearing sweat pants and baggy tee shirts for my runs, rather than the more comfortable shorts and sweat-wicking tank.  It makes no difference.  Looking to your local police for help is not necessarily your best bet either.  They are slightly more polite about it, but stare you up and down as much as the next guy.  I even have one police “friend” who I see almost every day now.  He says hi to me, then sometimes follows me on his bike for at least one to two blocks until I switch directions and make it clear I know he’s there.

Cristina, a friend of mine from Argentina and reader of this blog, suggested that I take these as compliments rather than get offended.  In some cases, I can accept being called “beautiful blonde.”   They’re just stating a truth, right?  Charlie tells me it’s cultural but I have such a hard time accepting this.  He says that when he lived in Argentina, he experienced women yelling flirtatious things at him.  For some reason, I feel like a woman yelling “guapo” towards an 18-year-old Charlie didn’t bother him that much.  I could be wrong…he has a point though.  This is a feature of Peru that I’m going to have to put up with.  I don’t understand it, and don’t like it, but if I don’t get over it pretty darn soon, Brandy will quickly tire of my vent sessions that occur after every one of her walks.

Jerks.

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann, 20 Jan 2010

14 thoughts on “Los Hombres”

  1. In my youth, ahem, a million years ago, as a young and attractive blonde woman, I encountered much the same in Mexico and Guatemala. It’s annoying at best, but can be intimidating and worse at times. Now that I am older, it has been interesting to make the transition to being able to walk almost anywhere unmolested.

    The odd thing is that although the catcalls were pretty awful, the only time I have ever actually been attacked in any fashion was just three years ago as I was on a walk from one small village to the next over a stretch of road not well traveled. A very young and obviously destitute joven came at me. I was shocked, as even when I reminded him that I was old enough to be his grandmother, he continued to try to overcome me. Luckily another woman came along from the opposite direction, and we fended off the attack together.

    I think most of the time it is a cultural thing … infuriating to most North American women, but not uncommon by any means.

  2. I have had problems of the same sort in Peru, I guess you could call it cultural but I think the main issue is that being treated in that way makes you feel unsafe while walking to the store in your own neighborhood. It does happen to Peruvian women, just look at some of the crap that passes for women’s “uniforms” at really random locations like gas stations. It’s also not uncommon to go into a perfectly respectable store and find a G-string girls on cars calendar on the wall next to a poster of the virgin Mary above a display of formula and diapers.
    But it being cultural probably doesn’t make you feel any better while you walking to the store. That behavior isn’t as accepted as it seems when you’re walking up the street alone. it rarely happens if you are with a group and especially not one with guys, none of my male friends in Lima act that way and I’ve seem them making fun of guys that do. That said eventually you probably will yell at someone for being such a jerk, my Limena friend Natalie once screamed at a group of guys on my behalf for that it didn’t really help future encounters but I felt pretty good anyhow. I know it hasn’t been that long but start making plans to take a trip outside of Lima, staying in the city too long makes me grouchy too.

  3. This sounds like NYC. In my old neighborhood the old men were so gross and they would whisper nasty things in your ear as you walked by. It was disgusting. When I went to Mexico they wouldn’t leave me alone because I was blonde. Yes they like blondes but it’s not an excuse to be vulger. I’ll come and kick some butt for you 🙂

  4. Thank you guys for your replies. Dad, your feed back is very constructive. Just remember, everything you write in the comment section needs to get approved before the website administrator publishes it.

    In all honesty, I’m getting a lot better at ignoring los hombres. The first couple weeks, I would come home from every walk huffy and puffy like I want to kill someone. Now, I just get a song in my head and try to keep it in my head for the endurance of my walk. I also think to myself, maybe their comments are directed towards someone else who’s walking behind me. I’m trying to focus on the positive and ignore the little things that bug me.

  5. Hi Danielle,

    I don´t think I suggested taking piropos as a compliment, particularly when they can be so rude… In Mendoza and in Argentina, in fact, men will be saying things at you as you pass by… It is very upsetting, especially when they can get obscene.

    For safety, I think trying hard to ignore them is all you can do.

    And maybe think of it as a reflection of where women in Latin America stand in this respect: why many women dress so provocatively, why they are almost nude on TV… I think it´s all part of the cultural role we play, if we choose to play it!

    I think I agree with Charlie, it is cultural, part of our culture I don´t like, but live with!

    Piropos, particularly the old fashioned ones can be very funny and witty… los que los ‘galanes’ de Buenos Aires le decían a las ‘minas’… But very few of those are left!

    Seguro que la próxima carga de tu celular va a andar perfecto!! Suerte!

    Cariños,
    cristina

  6. I am thinking those heels could come to good use for self defence…can you carry mace? Now I’m sounding like your mother :/

  7. Linda Hendrickson

    If you can’t carry mace can you carry hornet spray? I have heard it works just as well! I’m probably going to get you thrown into the Peruvian prison for a couple of years. Don’t listen to me!

  8. Hi Danyaelle,

    I’ve come to Hampton for a couple of days just to read about your adventures and misadventures in Peru. Of course the fact that I knew I would be getting clams and onion rings helped. Also, even though it’s only March, Karen is making me go shopping for a grandmother of the bride dress. For some reason my daughter doesn’t think my 20 year old dresses would be appropriate. Reading about all the fun you’re having makes me want to get my own computer. When are you coming home? I miss you. Love, Grams

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  11. I just had to reply … I laughed out loud reading this. I always thought I was immune to the catcalls on the street because of my a) current state of non-hotness as an exhausted mom of two and b) blending in a little better here, being of Asian descent who tans well. But, walking in Miraflores to pick up my child the other day, I heard it – Hola, chiniiiiiiitaaa …” I was like, wha? Oh, no, EW! The dude was my dad’s age, too. So creepy. I don’t know if that’s worse than getting chatted up against my will in the grocery store by random old men anymore, wanting to reminisce about the Korean War. There’s always something, isn’t there?

    Keep writing!

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