Written by Alexandra Carelli
Today, I was made aware of another layer of problems in Playa Potrero, one that often flies under the radar of the local gringos because it is one that can not be seen or heard in the streets: Domestic Abuse. We were meeting with a prominent community leader, Elizabeth, a woman who has made it her own crusade to act as a surrogate teacher and parent to many of Potrero’s offspring. We were discussing the backgrounds of the AM students, when the conversation abruptly shifted.
Elizabeth spoke passionately about the families that live in a small squatter community outside Potrero, with entire families living in one room and many children never attending school. She said that when she sees some of the kids that are bound to this godforsaken area, they will speak candidly about how their father drunkenly beat their mother the night before. She told stories of men battering their wives black and blue while they are 8 months pregnant, with their 5 other children looking on. She relayed moments of horror, when Indian women would be beaten publicly by their husbands, as mothers and wives looked on, cheering. She spoke of women that aren’t allowed to leave the house, and that have told her straight-faced, “I am stupid, I am worthless”, with scars and bruises across their cheeks.
I wouldn’t say I was shocked. I wouldn’t say I was even alarmed. As the days and weeks go on here, it seems that I learn about a new unfortunate issue each day that passes. It is a never-ending story of sadness, of self-sabotage and relentless hopelessness. Even beautiful Costa Rica is not without the horrific markings that define the developing world.
Alas, Elizabeth was telling her tales of woe to the right group of women. As Charlotte, Meradith, and I listened, the wheels were turning in our heads. Then and there we decided that Abriendo Mentes would have to expand. That we will begin a program to help these faceless women, give a face to themselves. We will start small, with a simple class, to bring them together in an effort to build solidarity, community, trust, and most importantly, self-esteem. We will collaborate with community members to bring this issue to light, and stop the cycle of violence that has been allowed to continue unbroken for far too many generations. In a place with no options, with no where for these women to go, with no one for them to tell, we will provide an outlet. We will begin to open the minds of not just Potrero’s children, but of the women as well. We will empower women to empower themselves, in whatever way we can.