by Gina Dettmer
The women in this town take their job seriously. They rise before the sun, and by the time they step out the door at seven their children are smartly dressed in freshly ironed uniforms, hair plaited and bellies full. Some walk with babies on hips and youngsters in tow, others balance three to a bicycle; after school the mothers are waiting to bring them home. Heaven only knows how white school uniforms stay white in this town, but I’m sure the women have something to do with it. They keep their houses spotless and also clean the houses of foreigners; they cook for their families and for homestead guests too; they do all the laundry. These are the women who tend gardens, run family businesses, help with homework after school. If they greet me as I walk by, and they always do, their brooms don’t miss a stroke or their clippers a wilting leaf. And so I feel surprised when I suddenly find myself surrounded by these same iron women, except now they are giggling and flashing smiles that could rival those found in any preschool classroom.
“I don’t like to sew,” Jacqueline tells me, referring to the microenterprise branch of the Women’s Empowerment Program. “I’ve tried it and it’s just not my thing. But I do like to exercise.” I don’t see many Ticas strolling on the beach or jogging up the mountain roads, but it’s true, many of the women like to work out. And who wouldn’t enjoy dancing to Latin beats with friends beneath a fiery sunset? Our instructor Patti walks us through the newest zumba steps and we laugh as we try to keep up, our feet fumbling over the concrete floor. Kids of all ages run about, trying out the moves and making faces; a big dog lies sprawled on the floor beside us, then gets up and wants to dance too. There is a contagious spirit of fun in the big airy salón. We are rocking hips. We are punching the air. We are sexy. We are strong. We dance the sun down outside the windows and continue to shake our hips into the night.