Cholita by Susana Raab
Cholo. This loaded term is first recorded in th 17th century in the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega's Commentarios Reales de los Incas and is used to identify the offspring of native and black parents. The original meaning signifies a dog of disreputable origin, and was used by the colonial Spaniards as an insult. Today in Peru cholo, or its masculine or feminine diminutive (cholito/cholita) is a common phrase with positive and negative connotations depending on the context of the situation, and reflects the complex but unstated socio-economic rules by which modern day Peru continues to abide.
I began this work in-progress as an anthropological look at Peru, starting on the coast, to dispel the common stereotype of the country as a quaint locale filled with poncho-wearing natives leading llamas down mountain paths and to find my own place within it. I also wanted to give voice to this Peruvian under-class the cholos sin plata, whose representation in modern society is often portrayed as dirty and disreputable, and to broaden my own understanding of my country of origin - to find how, if at all, I relate to this master puzzle.
"We are two Perus," a friend of mine often says. My face is white, but I feel more comfortable around the cholos sin plata, who are sometimes more open and embracing of me. As a cholita gringa I cannot reconcile myself to the two Perus. We are all cholita, half-breeds sprung from an original Ur-mother. Yes, cholita es bonita.
Susana Raab lives and works in Washington, DC.
To view more of Susana's work, please visit her website.