Monday, July 7, 2008

A Lesson in Paraguayan History (or not)

Guarambare, 6.29.08 - Yesterday, as a part of a session about Paraguayan history and politics, two women came to speak to us about Parguayan history and politics. Unfortunately they were notthat effective. One woman basically used the time to brag about her accomplishments and the time she spentin 30 of the 52 states, namely Arkansas and Albany, NY, where she was an AFS exchange student.Everything she mentioned could be found on the State Department´s website on Paraguay, and of course Wikipedia. The best part was at the end when, in an attempt to quell any fears black peoplemay have had about racism in Paraguay, she told of an encounter she had with a black policeman outside of Chicago. After he stopped her and she began talking, he asked where she was from, towhich his immediate response was, "are there any black people in Paraguay???" In allhonesty, that was also my first question (lol). So at that point in the story, she said thatthat was her first time being made aware of the question of race. While this may have seemedsimple, in relating the story to us, she referred to the policeman as "colored". Now, upuntil that point, the point of her anecdote was unclear and I had pretty much tuned out. However,upon hearing the word "colored", my internal record player came to a screeching halt and I said to myself,"wtf did she just say???" and looked around to see how it registered with the other black peoplein my group. We all met glances. While I am sure that our reaction was not was she was tryingto ellicit, that´s what happened nevertheless. She probably meant well; no one bothered to say anything because we were relieved that she had finished talking. Ah, the irony.

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