Because of my limited access to internet these past few days and then the forgetting of my notebook at a distant center my experiences with Ixchen have all jumbled up into scattered thoughts because so much has happened. I guess I’ll start with the quote that titles the post.
On July 1st after spending the morning doing interviews and surveys at the Ixchen center in Tipitapa which is about 40 minutes away from the city I was invited to come along and help with the project Prevensida. As soon as I stepped back into the administrative office in Managua I was rushed into the car where I ate my lunch on our way over to the site. Let me backtrack; Prevensida is an one hundred percent donor funded project that allows Ixchen to go out into communities at high risk for HIV and provide tests, counseling, and condoms.Crowded in a pick-up truck we went out into neighborhoods in Managua where there were sex workers. The first group of women we approached were sitting outside under a mango tree shading themselves from the hot afternoon sun. As I followed behind Raquel, the Ixchen educator, to help with taking down basic information from the willing participants I wondered what my mom would say if she knew where I was at. I quickly brushed away the thought and Raquel proceeded to give what seemed to be her usual shpeel about Prevensida and Ixchen that turned uneasy glances to trusting strides towards the truck where the tests were to be done.
Throughout the experience I mostly felt out of place not knowing how to comfortably speak colloquially with the group of women as the Ixchen team did. I also noticed the paradoxes of the country where therapeutic abortions are illegal because of the strong Christian beliefs of those in power and yet sex work is legal. Throughout the city and beyond one finds banners and posters of the president Daniel Ortega with his slogan for Nicaragua: “Cristiana, Socialista, Solidaria”.
The, what seemed to me as, irony of ideology was no better reflected then in the second place we visited to conduct tests. The establishment that was called a bar but seemed to be a brothel (because of the sex worker waitresses and ready rooms) had a sign at the entrance that read, “Dios Bendiga Este Negocio”, and a giant painting of Jesus in a living room looking place with an adjacent altar of lit candles to multiples saints.
As I took down names, birthdays, etc of the women who would be given tests they shared their anxieties and appreciation for the service provided by Ixchen. They inquired more about what the center did and as the list was coming to a close end those who initially refused to take the test signed up as well. Once we were done there and piled ourselves back into the cramped truck the educators began sharing funny anecdotes from that day that then led to more stories from the past. There were giggles and interruptions as the driver weaved through the congested Managua streets and we munched on picos. During this time of laughter Claudia, another educator, stops and tells me that when I go back to the US I have to tell everyone that I met a group of women “que no ganan pero gozan”. Thus the title. And there lied yet another paradox: women who were dedicating their lives to helping other women legally, physically, and psychologically were ill paid.