“Under segregation, black women were so rigidly excluded from good jobs that 60% of those who were employed in 1940 worked as maids.” The Economist, 30/08/14. Picture fromthe Help (2011)

 Wednesdays are special days. On Wednesday afternoons I can never find the phone charger, a bottle opener, and it took three weeks and a CSI unit before I found the tampons. This is because Wednesdays mornings Doña Lucha comes to clean our home. I can’t begin to tell you how often the single mother management consultant version of me in London, was dreaming of a doña lucha.

It is therefore very fitting that now that I’m doing nothing, I have a doña lucha here to help me allocate my precious time better. I’m therefore living like most women over the poverty line live in Peru. Except that most would have a live-in maid and a nanny plus additional garnish of your choice (gardener/chef/driver etc). We have really gone for the diet option. On the other hand, the one kind of help that’s been my lifeline in the past six years, a babysitter, is a completely foreign concept in Peru. I’ve found myself explaining over and over again that I don’t want someone wearing an apron and plaits, who calls me a señora and who sleeps in our bike shed. Oh, you mean a ‘cama afuera nana’ (live-out nanny)? No-one seem to understand the idea of a cash-strapped student who’s happy to sit on your couch for five hours doing course work/check Facebook/watch bad TV while your precious offspring sleeps/does graffiti/watches bad TV. This, I think, is because generally cash-strapped people don’t study in Peru. And generally those who study don’t do minimum wage jobs.

The Economist had an article on domestic servants yesterday: “In 1935, six out of ten urban white families above the poverty line in the South had a full-time domestic servant, compared with under 20% in the North. Now hardly anyone does. People who want help with the housework typically hire cleaners (also called maids) for a few hours a week, not as live-in flunkeys with whom they pretend to have a warm relationship”

Welcome to Peru in 2014, bringing you ceviche, Macchu Picchu, llamas and an environment where you can still pretend to have a warm relationship with your brown live-in flunkey! If your vision is not clouded by Lima’s wintery fog, it is clear as day that this warm relationship is rooted in slavery and colonialism. This spill over effects are everywhere: the boys pushing your shopping trolley all the way to your front door. It’s not the same as home delivery as you’re not saving any time. It’s a power display. That or a management consultant doing the field work part of a leadership workshop.

20140822_180322“Keep up, boy. The turkey is defrosting”

The whole economy seems to be based on servitude. Innovation management consultants – don’t even bother. There is no need to come up with products that would help me be more efficient in my daily tasks because someone spending their whole day doing a job for me inefficiently is cheap as chips. And makes me the high man on the totem pole. People who work as domestics often can’t have a family themselves and if they do, who do we think serve them and other low wage people? Anything to do with the fact that at least 6% of children in Peru work in domestic services.

If wages were more equal this would obviously diminish. (And not coming last in OECD education rankings might help). If this blog was by a clever economist right now there’d be a chart that shows that income inequality correlates with domestic servitude. I’m no longer a management consultant so I don’t need to pretend I’m smart.

But I can still offer my opinion. Peruvians, you’re big boys and girls now – emerging economy… OECD… All really exciting, can-barely-keep-your-pants-on stuff, but keep it in your privacy and you don’t need, ahem, a hand from the help. Expat Americans: that segregation in the U.S was kind of abolished like, sixty years ago, does not like give you a reason to boss brown people in South America. Hipster backpackers: why is it cool and eco and sustainable to pay a local ten times less than you’d pay in Shoreditch? And the rest, Europeans, ex management consultants and especially bloggers who’ve assumed a moral higher ground because you’d never use domestic slavery… Well, forget it. This blog is not about sock factories in Bangladesh, anyway.

We found a babysitter. She studies bar tending and mixes amazing pisco sours. According to DD anyway. We tip generously.

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4 thoughts on “Help

  1. alison says:

    Ooh I’ll come and babysit! I could also leave my teenage monster with U, very helpful to other people he us! Ali xx

  2. dubmandeep says:

    Hi Dulce, Kieran here. My mum is a friend of Alison and emailed you before I travelled to Peru recently. I think this post is very interesting and resonates some of what I felt about Lima and Peru in general. I didn’t notice the servitude aspect that you focus on but I definitely noticed a split between white and brown people, it was hard not to. A very distinct gap between the two. I personally wasn’t a fan of Lima, but for different reasons. I hope the summer in Lima is better for you than the overcast winter!

    • Hi Kieran – Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoyed your time in Peru and I’d be curious to read about your take on Lima, so I’m eagerly following your blog now! My experience of living here is quite different from when I came here on a holiday a year ago. I find it hard to concern myself over drivers, maids, chefs and nannies (or lack of them) that it feels women (supposedly) of my ‘social strata’ are mainly preoccupied with. So I quite ashamedly spend my time and money in a German wifi cafe surrounded by more like minded globe trotters, while trying to think of some positives to blog about. There are some – and I’m sure once I get to see more of Peru, I can do a bit more justice to this part of the world. All the best with your adventures!

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