Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

In response to the article "Real Estate In Ecuador Beachfront And Mountains" ~ By Jorge Loor Zambrano. This article gives a brief description of purchasing property in Ecuador that was for the most part accurate; however, what disturbed me most was the last paragraph. Mr. Zambrano wrote "And why not mention about those Men that are looking for good wife (Ecuadorian women are similar to geishas...they take very good care of their husbands)... This is a great place to find dedicated women."
Not only does this comment by Mr. Zambrano paint him, and your magazine by association, as endorsers of sweeping gender and racial stereotypes, it is inaccurate. It may be true that members of powerful, wealthy nations like the United States have historically gone to economically challenged areas--within the United States or beyond its borders--with the hope that they may use their money to lure women to become servile wives. That this is a practice that obviously attempts to objectify, if not dehumanize women is not my concern in this letter. My concern is that your magazine fully endorses, recommends, and thereby celebrates viewing women in this light, more specifically Ecuadorian women, making the claim that "Ecuadorian women are similar to geishas."
A geisha is defined as "a Japanese woman trained to entertain men with conversation and singing and dancing." Even though strictly speaking Geisha does not mean prostitute, the word “geisha” contains connotations of prostitution. There has been much confusion regarding this inaccurate depiction in Western popular culture, specifically in the United States. Hence, the comments by Mr. Zambrano are insulting to the women of Ecuador, more so to women in general. A woman’s character should not be judged solely by her ability on being a “good wife”, especially when the standard that is being used is based on the act of obedience, submissiveness, or sexual favors.
In order to remove the ignorance associated with this comment, I would like to give you an example of what is truly an Ecuadorian woman:
In 1944 a woman named Dolores Cacuango founded the Ecuadorian Federation of Indians (FEI) and led Indigenous forces in an attack on the local army barracks in Cayambe. In Quito, white feminists including Nela Martínez and Luisa Gómez de la Torre who had founded the Ecuadorian Feminist Alliance (AFE) helped organize a human enclosure around the Government Palace in Quito and gained the surrender of the men stationed there. Without the support of the military, Arroyo resigned the presidency. Contemporary reports indicated that the women's committees played an important role in the large street demonstrations which accompanied this major change in government.
According to a recent report by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 7% of the local governments are women, and in 1999 15% of the Ecuadorian Congress were women. In 2000, a total of 24.8 % of women were represented in politics. In order to increase woman participation in politics in Ecuador, a quota was established. Ecuador has a 20% quota law that requires women's participation as candidates in legislative elections. In Latin America, Ecuador was the first to recognize women's political rights, in 1929.
Yes, Ecuador is a great place to find a dedicated woman. An example of what kind of woman can be found in Ecuador would be someone like Angiolina "Angie" Wiskocil. Angiolina Wiskocil, is an Ecuadorian woman who is the Senior Vice President of Network Services of SBC Communications Inc. She is an Ecuadorian woman who is responsible for network operations strategy and staff support, capital program management, and network regulatory support, and has headed the SBC/Yahoo strategic alliance, been vice president for Network Engineering West, and served on California's United Task Force to bridge the "Digital Divide." She also has represented SBC Communications in the national women's group Leadership America in the United States.
But let us not forget to mention, that Ecuador for a brief period of time, had a woman president. For a couple of days, Vice President Rosali'a Arteaga, initially backed by the military, and Fabia'n Alarco'n, head of Congress, jockeyed for the post of president. While taking time out of her role as a “geisha”, she has also been a central figure in the affairs of Ecuador for many years. Rosalía Arteaga Serrano was vice president in 1996-97 and served briefly as the country’s president during a constitutional crisis in February 1997. Before that she held a number of important government positions, such as minister of education, culture, and sports; president of the National Council of Development; and several other prominent posts in the Ministry of Education and Culture and other areas. She was also a councilwoman in her native city of Cuenca in 1986-88. Today, as secretary-general of the Brazil-based Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, she plays a major role in helping to restore the Amazon region and rescue it from the threat of environmental disaster. She works at high levels with the governments of all the countries in the region. A journalist and a lawyer, Ms. Arteaga has written several books and publishes articles and columns regularly in newspapers, magazines, and journals.
Other woman whom have played a major role in Ecuador include, but are not limited to: Cynthia Vitery, deputy of the Christian Social Party, possible candidate for presidency, Nina Pacari the first Indigineous woman to be elected to vice president of the Ecuador’s National Assembly, and deputy of the Pachakutic party, possible candidate for the presidency, Ximena Bohorquez, Congresswoman and the first lady of Ecuador.
As written by Doris Solis Carrion, the first female vice mayor of the city of Cuenca; “Ecuador [Cuenca] is giving its full support to women's empowerment and to the realization of their rights and aspirations. By doing so, it is building a more democratic society which can serve as an example for other regions…"
Not only was the comment by Mr. Zambrano a racial and gender stereotype, it is also untrue. Ecuador has historically led the way in Latin America in the area of women's rights and civil liberties.

Natalie E. Flores

Mujeres y poder politico en Latino America, International IDEA, 2002, Mala N. Htun

Women in power: from tokenism to critical mass., Foreign Policy, Jaquette, Jane S.,; Fall 1997, n108, p23(15)
The Politics of Exclusion, Ecuador's Glorious May Revolution of 1944 , Assistant Professor of History, Truman State University, Marc Becker
The 50 Most Important Hispanics in Technology & Business: Pushing to the Top in American Industry, Hispanic Engineer
The political participation of Indigenous woman in the Ecuadorian Congress, Nina Pacari
Creating Laws to Combat Violence Against Women, Doris Solis Carrion