Things are not always what they seem
This is not a post about beautiful tropical birds. But you probably opened it, thinking it would have the warm, exotic feel of jungle on your wintry psyche. I set you up… got your attention anyway, with that bright blue, didn’t I??
Now, anyone reading this blog who didn’t know me before, likely sees me as a pretty typical American woman who feeds squirrels and counts geese, dreams of a garden and misses her cat. That’s me alright. But I have another me: the one who spent 17 years in Mexico. The one who slept in a hammock in the midst of the Chiapaneca jungle, gathered drawings from children during the day and listened for jeeps by night. The one who knelt behind a giant beach rock with a local marine biologist, to watch a mammoth sea turtle scrape a shallow chalice in the sand where she would leave 200 eggs, then drag herself back into the Caribbean sea with the moon on her back. The one who read stories to Noelia in the children’s shelter. Her mom was in jail and Noelia was cared for by nuns. The one who later met Noelia’s mom when we were both inmates in the Oaxaca State Penitentiary.
Now, if you click this link, an essay opens up from xoJane, with an overly large photo of me. And you see that photo, and the title about prisons… and some assumptions are made. Right? I didn’t imagine what those assumptions would be, until the comments started appearing under my decidedly “light” essay. Seems people assumed I was a wealthy white woman gone down to Mexico to save brown souls, in the spirit of good old-fashioned colonialism, interventionism and imperialism. Or if my ideals weren’t so lofty, at least it seemed I wanted to live the exotic life, write lyrical pages about the noble brown savage, (poor Mexicans, so in need of saving) while sipping a tequila under a palm tree.
Those readers didn’t know about the remote jungle, the sea turtles, the stories with Noelia. They knew nothing more about my Mexican experience than a short paragraph excerpted from my book. And in that paragraph, they saw the abusive invader, the great White threat.
I was quite taken by surprise by the number of people willing to read the worst stereotype into my short narrative. It is not an invalid stereotype given the history of the planet, just a huge assumption to lump me there. Things are not always as they seem. After a few short breaths, I knew not to take this commentary personally. But it did leave me musing… how easy it is for some to lash out online. And what are they actually lashing out against? Maybe it is a kind of therapy for some. I don’t think their ire was honestly directed at me… After all… how can you hate something you know virtually nothing about?