viernes, 10 de febrero de 2012

Dancer, not a prostitute.

By Zaira Cortés
Global Connect! Blogger

Nueva York.- Evangelina is standing at the door of "el Gato Verde", a bar where she works. Her black shinny dress tightly hugs her slender body. Her straight hair flutters with the wind, framing her brown face.
In her transparent heels, even though, It's cold, Eva barely covered with a light coat reveals her pronounced cleavage.
From time to time she puffs on the cigarette she shares with her colleagues. With every movement her bracelets tinkle like bells. Her rings sparkle like halos of light that mingle with the green neon lights.
Just turned 23, she is certain of what to expect in life: nothing.
It is 10pm on a Saturday on Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, and Evangelina accompanied by two young women are expected to lure customers to the bar. 
Some men look at them with interest and others with disdain. Other men will make obscene comments, but the women are oblivious to their words. Heavily made up, they only speak of trivial things and continue waiting for customers.
Evangelina dances for two dollars per song. With her pale pink lips, she comments that the bar's patrons’ are immigrants who left their wives and children back home, or are men that  cannot get a girlfriend because of long workdays.
"We heal their loneliness," said a confident Evangelina.
"I am a dancer, not a prostitute. I just listen to the men, they buy me drinks and I only dance with them. "
The clock strikes midnight and customers begin arriving.  Eva enters the bar with her friends. Inside it is dark and the music is loud.
"I can hardly hear what they think," said the young woman smiling.
The smell of sweat of some of the men is intense. That sour smell mixes with lemon-scented liquid detergent used to clean the tables.
"I am doing very well here. I earn what I want. On week nights, I take home about $ 300 if it is not a great night, but on weekends I can make up to $ 600 in a few hours. "
Not all the money is for her. Thirty percent off her earnings goes to the bar. Eva has worked at this bar for eight months. She got there by chance.
"There was a sign soliciting waitresses, but in reality they were hiring dancers. "
There are approximately 15 young women at this business. Some are sitting at tables and other talking to customers.
On the dance floor, Eva dances a salsa with her customer. After a few minutes the music stops the man pays her $ 10 and takes her to a table.
"I do not know if they pay me to dance or for me to listen to their personal problems and complaints," said Eva wearily.
Eva has her own problems and sadness, but there is nobody to listen to her. She has two young children waiting for her at home who are taken care by a nanny.
She comes home at dawn, sleeps a few hours and wakes up when her children get up. Eva prepares breakfast and gets the children ready for school.  She them clean the house and prepare meal for the children in order to spend time with them in the afternoon.
If they ask where she work, Eva replies that she cleans stores. She leaves home dressed like any other mother and changes into a dancers outfit at the bar.
"I have not lost my shame. I only do it until I get something better, “she tries to convince herself.
She arrived in New York at age nine and became pregnant at 17. She had one baby after another.
Eva knows that behind her silence there is a story or hundreds such stories. Her friends also have something to tell. One is studying nursing and pays for her schooling as a dancer.
Another has three children in Ecuador and sends money home each week.
"Some people say we like easy money, perhaps, but that does not stop us from being human."
In the city that never sleeps, there are many women like Eva that do not sleep. The activist Natalie Rubio, president of the organization Voces Latinas, confirms that in the five boroughs there are hundreds of women dancing to live. According to her the majority are Latinas.
Rubio said that it is worrisome that bars attract young women, using false job ads.
"In Queens there are many signs requesting waitresses, but in reality they are looking for dancers and prostitutes. "
Young unemployed female immigrants are very vulnerable.
"Poverty and life’s needs are determining factors that drive these young women to become dancers. Some are minor’s girls, but the community accepts it as normal.”
In my opinion, there are parts of the Big Apple that are rotten, but we prefer to turn our backs on the problem and ignore its consequences. Not only do we have a serious economic crisis but the country also suffers from grave social ills. 
When we become indifferent to each others' pain and when we begin to believe that corruption is normal it leads to abnormal tolerances. Why it is that we tolerate young women having to drink and dance for a living instead giving them better options?
Discussing the problem it is only a small contribution towards finding a solution.

     Credit: Zaira Cortés.

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario