The 99 Percent

In a story for the Associated Press, Eva Vergara reports on a maid in a suburb of Santiago, Chile whose pedestrian adventures have set the country atwitter.

No better first paragraphs can be imagined.

CHICUREO, Chile — Felicita Pinto arrived early at the gates of the luxurious community where she labors as a maid, but the minibus to her employer’s home was late. So she decided to walk six blocks to work, on streets lined with broad lawns and imposing homes.

Security guards quickly chased her down and forced the 57-year-old widow back to the gate. Pinto’s employer protested, as he had before, against the community bylaws that forbid servants to move at will.

You see, people on foot are a hazard. The Washington Post presents it as a civil rights issue, but perambulation has to be a human right. While there is some disagreement about whether man’s defining characteristic is speech, using tools or walking on his hind legs, surely the exercise of these functions are human rights.

But, people are funny. One of the neighbors in the gated community was moved to opine:

“Can you imagine what it would be like here if all the maids were walking outside, all the workers walking in the street and their children on bicycles?” neighbor Ines Perez told a local television channel.


I don’t actually have to imagine. I know it’s no way to live–not just for the maids, but for the people who insist on locking themselves away. I know how her employer, Bruce Taylor, feels and why he’s brought suit against the “Administration” of El Algarrobal II to overturn the bylaws prohibiting servants from walking in the community. Who wants to live in a prison?

When I was thirteen, my mother took me to Santiago because some of her friends, one of whom actually spoke Spanish, had decided one could live better for less there. That “better” involved renting a two story villa with maid quarters and hiring a maid and a cook (one for each little sleeping room), neither of which ever stayed very long.

Not that I blamed them. Not only was the garden gated and locked, but every door, cupboard, chest of drawers and storage space (including the refrigerator) was outfitted with a key. So, anything that was to be used by anyone, had to be first unlocked. I knew that was no way to live even before I was recruited to play maid, when the ones that had been hired up and left. Moreover, when I took on the part, I discovered that, regardless who’s carrying it out, the treatment goes with the job. I, too, could attest that

“I suffered hunger, they counted every piece of fruit and bread, they made special food for themselves and forgot about the maid.”

Oh, and my hair fell out.

I suppose that was the first time I decided that “enough is enough” and insisted we book passage back to the States.

Now there are protesters at the gates, carrying not pitchforks but dressed as zombies in maid uniforms, sending the same message about respect for human rights that Occupy spreads. People who have to get around on cages with wheels are not free.

Read the whole story and then have another look at the Front Page report on what our Hispanic cousins are experiencing in New York.

While I don’t think perambulating where one likes (even the steps of the SCOTUS) is a civil right, the protesters in Chile have certainly been civil. And disobedience is definitely central to the culture of obedience which, for some reason, people, who obviously need to be served, seek to enforce. One wonders if the impulse to dominate seeks to compensate for the insecurity that comes from not being able to do for oneself.

Photo by Empezar de Cero / Ariel Cruz via Wikimedia Commons.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."