Saturday, January 19, 2013
In a corner of the apartment, next to the kitchen and beside the dining room, there is a small room with a computer and a love seat. It's the smallest room in the house. I've claimed it as my office space while I am here, but I found it curious that there was such a tiny little room here.
For a split second, I thought--was it storage space? And then I realized that the bathroom next door to it is the only one in the apartment that is small and plain--all the others are spacious and fancy. And then it came to me, though not as quickly as it ought to have given that I've lived in Ecuador many times: it's potentially the room for the live-in maid. Since the condo owner uses this apartment only for vacation and rents it out to tourists most of the time, it's not used that way. But most houses, and many large apartments, have tiny little accommodations like this for a maid.
There is a long history of domestic servitude here, as there is in most areas of the world, and it is not a pretty one. A maid's employer might have called her "part of the family," but gave her little more than a closet to sleep in. She was kept close at hand not out of love, but out of convenience: she was on call virtually all hours.
This is one of the groups I am most interested in finding in the archives on this trip, for this book on domesticity, if I can, in order to bring these usually anonymous people to life. Although one can find such stories in other world regions, I suppose I notice and feel it here the most in Ecuador because I am always in a position of such privilege here. This is in contrast with my blue-collar upbringing in the U.S. One of my grandmothers, in fact, was a maid before she married (late, in her 30s).
Rooms like this remind me of how conflictive (and contradictory) my current life situation is.
What spaces or circumstances make you face the contradictions in your life?