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Published: January 15th 2020
The culture is so different here in Ecuador, and although I'm not surprised that there are differences, it is still surprising to see certain differences. The past few days have been very interesting on a relational level, especially between Matt and I and our host family.
The main difference here in Ecuador is what they call "Machismo," which is really just the existence of a very patriarchal society. At least in our household, Fernando is to be respected and can basically do what he wants. He spoils the grandchildren, he chooses food that he wants to eat, and has the choice to buy what he wants to. The women are forced to live their lives and account for what he is doing, rather than working together or reaching compromise. In the morning session today (survival Spanish), we talked about how, in Ecuador, the women have become more progressive by finding their own jobs, but they still don't demand the respect of the men and therefore the men don't change. The woman is able to work, but still is responsible for taking care of the children and keeping up with housework, and often not getting a lot of affirmation for the amount of work they put in. Fernando, despite his joking comments that all women are witches, expressed a few days ago that he really appreciates women in the workforce because of their organizational abilities and their ability to multitask. Just from what I've seen in the household and from what we talked about in the session, I don't think there's anything stopping women from becoming more independent except for the fact that the men don't help them much, and the women don't ask for help because that's just the expectation in society. It's very interesting to see the way they're progressing within the area of women's equality as an outsider. When I see the women just sort of accepting what the men do, it really makes me want to stand up for the woman and simply say that, "Hey, maybe you should think about how this affects your wife." I don't do anything, because there are a lot of social norms and it's really not my place to be rude to our hosts, but it really does make me want to do something. I think that once I return to the United States, I'll be a little more aware of this kind of inequality in my daily life, because I have seen it at a more extreme level.
A second social difference that I've seen that I think is significant is simply the way that everyone lives as a community within their families. In our household, especially last weekend, it wasn't uncommon to have four generations in the house for lunch and most of the afternoons. This is very different from the Nuclear style family that we are used to in the states, and so I asked Ximena (our host mom) to talk a little more about it. A lot of the reason they are closer is because of the way they support each other economically. Although now they have a social security system, traditionally the children help their parents and grandparents to live once they are too old to work. The father, however, pays for college, which better allows their kids to be able to support them. In addition to economy, I think there is more respect for elders here in Ecuador. In the US, I think that once people reach an age where they can't support their own living, their children are very glad if they can get into a retirement community. If they are in a retirement community, then no one else needs to provide extra for them and only need to visit them occasionally. Here, the people have their parents living in their homes, or at least having them over in order to care for them. The familial system makes them very glad for each other and so they care without complaint. Looking at their family system, I feel a little jealous of the bond they have as a family. It's very genuine and, despite some interesting male/female dynamics, there's something fantastic about the way they live. I am definitely much happier to live on my own and not have as strong of ties to family. I see family as much more of a responsibility than an enjoyment, and so while I'm glad to see that Ecuador is different, I could not exist in their system with my current mindset. It's just not quite my cup of tea.
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