Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Marvel of the Andean Women

Mother, Beauty, Fight, Latina- a mural depicting the Andean woman.
I am in complete awe of the Andean women! Strong and beautiful they are indeed! These mountain women seem to undergo hardship without missing a beat. Or maybe it's not hardship, that's something to ponder.  If one hardly smiles, does that make them less happy of a person? It's easy to assume but not so easy to ascertain.

I've been curious to the nth degree about these women since I made it to Peru. They are so intriguing to me in that they exude strength and competency, yet at the same time seem so distant from me, so hardened, so mysterious, and so completely apart from my world and my existence.

Taking a break in bowler hats on Isla del Sol.
They walk around the streets of Cusco, selling food, pictures, handicrafts, you name it. In Isla del Sol they carry half their body weight on their backs, all wrapped in brightly colored Andean blankets. It's amazing what you see them wrap in these cloths then heave onto their backs, ranging from babies to massive crates full of produce, to enough handicrafts to sell to a hundred tourists. And they do it all with such aplomb, such ease, such obvious naturalness.

I've often wondered where the men are. Driving the taxis, working, in the fields? Yes I have seen them there but when it comes to the real strength and workload it seems that the women in these parts are the ones carrying and sustaining the boatload. In Isla del Sol, Bolivia, I was told that, as happens in many marriages and cultures, the men are the figureheads and the women are the ones that really hold the reins and steer the happenings. They are the ones that carry the magic and also the ones that make sure to follow through with it.

I am so grateful for this picture. It perfectly depicts my sentiments on this topic.
I have to admit it's probably my favorite picture of this PERUsing adventure.
Text translation: 'Don't forget that the strength of Bolivia lies in its women.'
Is this a trickle down of the unfortunate happening in societies around the globe where women tend to try and do it all? From teaching the kids to cleaning the house to running the company to wearing the pants in their family or relationships.. A strong disparity between masculine and feminine that finally seems to be gradually coming into more of a balance. Or maybe it's that they simply have no other choice. If something is to get done women in the States often feel the need to do it themselves, if they want it happen, or simply to prove that they can. Here in the Andes I've been told that it's very common for men to start a relation with a woman and then as soon as she gets pregnant, boom!, he's gone. I've also been told of frequent tales where men don't find any women in their village to their liking, so they go to the next village, and will literally steal an entire family and bring it back to his village with him. Such drastic irony to me. The men either want nothing to do with their newfound family or they're willing to go and 'steal' and entire family to bring back into their lives. What?

With these happenings it makes sense that the women would have to bare the brunt of the hardships, especially when they are left alone with several children. And nowadays most kids make far more money for their family working on the streets then they would if they were to put in the time to go to school and receive a hard earned education. And that ranges from small children selling souvenirs in Cusco to young women dancing on the streets of La Paz for money. The incentives are all backwards and it blows my mind.

What to do? I donated some time and money to a wonderful organization in Cusco called The Meeting Place. There I learned a lot about Andean Peruvian youth and disparities. They educated me and allowed for a concrete way to give back. The program I donated to is one geared towards giving children backpacks, full of supplies, ready for the school year to come (remember it's summer here). So far the owners of The Meeting Place have raised enough money to donate backpacks to about 300 kids. The aim is to provide incentive for the children towards actually going to school rather than just opting for the financially lucrative option of street peddling. A worthy aim indeed. This is just one program among many that The Meeting Place and others have going on in the area.

So where have I ended up. The Andean women. They just seem so magical to me. I hate to think that they are doing all the work. Maybe it's not so. It's hard to tell when they distance themselves so far from outsiders. I've dealt with this distance while working with the Latino community in Bozeman- the desire to be left alone and the distrust of outsiders- but this is an entirely other league since I am not living here and as much as I hate to admit it, am merely a tourist. I had grand plans to come into these countries and share yoga with these remarkable women. And I have, to a certain degree. But when it comes to actually breaking through to their psyches, beliefs, and well-beings, well they couldn't care less about what I think or have to offer (regarding yoga that is, my business they are happy to partake in). After all, there are potatoes to harvest, food to cook, mouths to feed, and items to make and sell. Something to ponder on for the future.

Selling la papa in the markets, such a typical Peruvian scene.
So in the mean time I'll just continue to offer my smiles, my support, my compassion, and my belief in their strength and abilities. I'll also continue in my hope and honest belief that societies in general and the world at large are starting to come into their own equilibriums in terms of masculine and feminine powers.

As a woman I can say it's not fun trying to doing everything myself, or trying to prove that I can. But nor do I like feeling dependant upon others, independent spirit that I am. So my best option is to work on balancing my masculine and feminine within (thus cutting out dependencies) and then accepting, giving, and receiving help when I want and need it. Ahhh I feel better already.

This is something we all need to work on in order to have healthy, passionate relationships with ourselves, our lovers, our families, our careers, our bodies, and so on. So hopefully if nothing else these Andean women are feeling the same, maybe that's why they inspire me so. And if not, hopefully the effects of our developed countries that continue to trickle down into the 'developing' world can be one of a more balanced, harmonious self. If I share my yoga in any way, may this be it (for all of you AND the Andean women)- that we may feel competent, beautiful, and able, yet receiving and deserving  of support, acceptance, and balance at the same time.

Here's a meditation borrowed from Living in the Light, by Shakti Gawain, on learning to embrace the inherent masculine and feminine qualities within each of us.

Think of some of the most important women in your life. What are their strongest or most attractive qualities? Be aware that they mirror some aspects of your own female energy (whether you are a woman or man).

Now think of some of the most important men in your life. What qualities do you most like, admire, or appreciate about them? Recognize that they reflect similar aspects of your own male energy (again, this applies whether you are a man or woman).

If you have trouble seeing that some of the things you admire in others are in you as well, it may be because you have not yet developed those qualities in yourself as strongly as they have. Just imagine yourself embodying those characteristics... think it, feel it, see it... and eventually you will find them within yourself as well.

If you're ever in Cusco, go check out The Meeting Place! They have amazing internet, delicious pastries, as well as scrumptious food. All proceeds go towards this non-profit's charity aims and you can also just straight up donate towards their cause if you like. And thanks Jenna Leigh for letting me borrow this transformational book, Living in the Light, for my journey of the Self!

NAMASTE y'all.


  1. LOVE that picture (your favorite) - it is Perfect!

  2. I really love the painting! Who's the artist?
    Jessica, thank you for this blog. I have been engaging with the exploration of the masculine and feminine within, as its harmony brings us healing and wholeness, spreading loving and peace. And while I was looking for inspiring images of this message, I came across your painting of the masculine feminine balance. Thank you for sharing your journey. Blessings, Nora

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