3 step piropo education process

It didn’t take me a long time in country to come to hate the act of receiving piropos; however, it’s taken me the better part of the past year and a half in country to polish my response. During training I remember mostly hearing the advice that carrying on with my business and ignoring it was best, but that never set well with me. After trying many things (most of which only made people laugh at me), I’ve devised the 3 step pioropo education process.

But first, the pre-step: deciding whether or not to say something. Talking to big groups, drunk people, or people in cars has never gotten me anywhere. To best illustrate my thought process, I’ve created the following tree:
Alright—so we have a safe feeling situation of a small group of sober, stationary men (or women) that may or may not be students. Now what do I do?

Step 1: Establish myself… as a teacher, as a member of their community, as a person who deserves the same respect as anyone else.
What do I say? Buenos días, mucho gusto soy Alba. Soy una profesora aquí en la comunidad, y soy una persona que merece el mismo respeto de todas las personas.
Step 2: Establish why what they said is wrong… because I don’t like it, it bothers me; because verbal abuse is illegal in this country; and because the law protects foreigners as well as Nicas.
What do I say? Lo que usted/ustedes me dijo/dijeron ahorita no me agrada, me molesta. Y realmente es considerado acoso verbal en su país. (If they protest I add y la ley 779 protege a todas las mujeres no importa de dónde sean)
**Note: I find it particularly important to mention that I do not like what they said because a comment I commonly here from men and women both about cat-calls is that women enjoy it and take it as a compliment.
Step 3: Establish an alternative and make an exit
What do I say? Me gusta conocer a la gente, pero si me quiere hablar, me puede llamar profe, me puede llamar teacher, o me puede decir ‘adiós, que le vaya bien, que tenga buen día,’ pero lo que dijo antes no vale. ¿Entendido? Bueno, que le vaya bien.
The monologue varies sometimes—when it’s students I highlight the inappropriate nature of saying that to a teacher, when I’m not in my community I tend to not say my name, when it’s a person in uniform (police, for example) I emphasize the example they should be setting for the community. Details differ, but the structure holds, and honestly in just a few months it’s made a huge difference in my experience walking through town.
Along the way, I made lots of mistakes so here are some responses that did NOT help…
1.      Yelling, using obscenities, giving the finger, or showing any extreme emotion
This is a great thing to do if what you really want is to entertain the members of your community because people tend to find a riled up gringa hilarious!A little anger and emphasis might help scare off some particularly young chavalos, but usually doesn’t get the point across.

2.      Commenting “My name is NOT amor /chelita bonita/princesa/etc.”
I hate being called something I’m not and used to tell people that; however, it was mainly seen as an invitation to talk to me and ask me what my name actually is (with that awful tone of voice. Gross). I quickly abandoned this strategy.

3.      Responding in English
Felt good to fully be in control of what I said, but no one else understood me and I only looked crazy.
I have no misconceptions that my response to cat-callers in my community is going to change their behavior with other women or even make them more enlightened people, but I can change my reality and my daily experience. I can do something to make a difference in my mental health, which in turns lets me do my other work well, and that’s worth it.
—Alba, TEFL volunteer in Madriz

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