Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dominican Culture through the Eyes of Children.

I was just at a neighbor's house (teaching more math), and listened in as two girls clapped their hands and sang a song.  I think it provides a pretty good perspective on how young girls see the roles of various people in this community:

Cuando era bebe, bebe, bebe,
Yo lloraba, aba, aba.

Cuando era niña, niña, niña,
Me pegaban, aban, aban.

Cuando era joven, joven, joven,
Coqueteaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era madre, madre, madre,
Cocinaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era vieja, vieja, vieja,
Pateaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era muerto, muerto, muerto,
Yo pestaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era angel, angel, angel,
Yo volaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era Dios, Dios, Dios,
Yo mandaba, aba, aba.

Cuando era el diablo, diablo, diablo,
Pelliszcaba, aba, aba.

Translated, the verses mean:

When I was a baby,
I cried.

When I was a little girl,
They hit me.

When I was young,
I flirted.

When I was a mother,
I cooked.

When I was old,
I tottered around.

When I was dead,
I stank.

When I was an angel,
I flew around.

When I was God,
I gave orders.
When I was the devil,
I pinched people!

(at this point they attack each other with pinches and the game collapses into giggling).

Knowing that their about to make the transition from little girl to young person, they add in more hip shaking than is becoming on nine-year-old girls.  Also, notice that there's no transition between 'young' and 'mother.'  Fifteen-, fourteen-, and even thirteen-year-old mothers are not unheard of here.

Basically, they cry, they get beaten, they get treated like objects, and then the only possibility for their lives is housework until they're too old to do anything useful.  And God is nothing but a demanding tyrant (not to mention the sketchy theology about turning into angels and then into God...and then into the devil).

While I have some disagreements about what happens after they die, the rest of it is depressingly true.  More than teaching English and Computers, I feel the need to teach the community not to beat their children for the same bad behavior that the adults constantly (shamelessly) model.  I'd like to teach them to overcome the oversexualization that starts at a disturbingly young age and teaches that there's nothing in between 'I like them' and 'We're having babies together.'  I could even take a page out of the not-so-radical-feminist book and teach them that women can, in fact, work outside of the home, if they so desire (or their body).

There was another game I found myself playing a couple of months ago, which they called 'malcriada' (badly-raised/misbahaved child).  It was something like playing house, except there was a mom and a daughter, and the mom was beating the daughter: kicking her, pulling her hair, telling her how stupid and worthless she was while the daughter cried.  I ended up joining in as the 'good' parent, and then the daughter would hide behind me and cry while the mom shouted insults and tried to hit her.  I usually like playing with kids, but I didn't like that game, and I ended it early.

I'm probably overreacting to this kids' game, but it's really wearing me down to be constantly surrounded by (what looks to me like) child abuse.  And seeing the kids accept it as normal and incorporate it into their games doesn't make me any happier.

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