Central/South AmericaTravel

Morena, Morena — Catcalling in Nicaragua

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“Morena, morena”, he whispers insistently. It is approximately 10 am on a Sunday morning and you have strolled farther than you intended. Ironically, you are standing on the steps of one of the five cathedrals in the city, enjoying the sounds of the church bell ringing, when you hear him again…closer it seems, more insistent–

“morena, morena”

You feel a flicker of irritation. You know the word itself is not necessarily offensive; it’s the delivery — it’s sexual, it’s aggressive, it’s UNWANTED.

If you were at home, you would react with a smart remark, maybe take their photo. Scream in the street. Here, though? Here you have been warned that you will be catcalled, it’s not frowned upon. Despite the warnings, you don’t expect the frequency…you give up on pictures, turn around and head in what, you hope, is the right direction. You start to wonder if it’s the way you’re dressed — is your t-shirt too tight, are your shorts too short, did you bring this on yourself?? This is not your fault, yet insecurity and doubt creep in. In the midst of it, you hear footsteps and the whisper is right behind you now…

“morena, morena”

He is following you now. You walk faster and look for the first open business — a store, a hotel, anything. Looking back, you see him grinning and this, this, erases all fear. Rage now fills you to the point where you are shaking. This is YOUR vacation; you’re here to appreciate the beauty of Nicaragua, to find peace of mind, all the while celebrating another year around the sun. How dare this man–

“moren–“

“NO”, you turn around and shout, “NO”.

Everything stops for a moment, both of you frozen; you because you wait, daring him to say it again. He freezes because he did not expect you to turn around and stand up for yourself. Standing in your fury, you continue to wait him out only for him to turn around and RUN.

HE RUNS.

There’s a whoosh as you realize he has no power. Finally, you close your eyes and relish this small but important victory and, as the church bells continue to chime, you walk on.

–Granada, Nicaragua – June 2015

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