The other day I went to a theater play. Not really pretending to be boujee or needing to integrate but just out of genuinely having a profound love for the arts. The play was in dutch, so standing where colonialism left me I could follow the plot. Somewhere in between the two white males in the play crack a joke about “Zuid-Americaanse vlinders” meaning South American butterflies. A joke about picking them from the streets and fucking them as they made hump motions with their hips.
The white audience laughs out loud. I look at my teacher that is sitting next to me. she looks back at me like she knew what I felt. She’s a kind dutch woman who seems to be aware of the state of the world. I tune out of the play and think of the first day of school. How a Bulgarian boy called me exotic and got defensive when I told him that wasn’t nice. How later on in class, he and more boys defended their right to use it when referring to foreign women. I think of the Turk who asked me if I was Brazilian and if I wanted to spend the night with him. I think of the German guy that compared me to a cappuccino. Of the ridiculous high sexual expectations people have from me simply because I am a Latina. Because oh, they’ve heard about us Latin women.
What’s funny is that they never seem to know about the poverty, the violence, the oppression and the desperation that very often drive poor Latin women to become those butterflies. How sometimes, our body is our only resource so its all we use for survival.
After the play, I sit down with a group of dutch students.
I wanted to start a discussion about how harmful those jokes are to women like me, but instead I say that my dutch just isn’t good enough to carry a conversation and compliment the lead actress of the play. I say she did a good job.
The male teacher asks me If I managed to understand everything. I say yes. But deep down, I frankly wish that I didn’t.