Translated by Katrina Hassan
When the land lots were made and the dust was still in the air on the brand new streets of Ciudad Peronia, a family arrived and opened a tortilla shop and a bike rental business. To have those two businesses in a shanty town like this, full of poverty, these people had wealth. They had three indigenous employees that had three tortilla making shifts. The men of the house ran the bike rental business. They had dozens of bicycles. This was the beginning of the 90s.
Nobody in the neighbourhood had money to rent a bike by themselves. What we did was pool our money between all of us, five cents here and there. We got money from anywhere we could, even from under the rocks. Our favourite job was collecting garbage, door to door, to take it down to the cliff, our official dump.
Depending on the amount of garbage, we got paid a maximum of ten cents. The price to rent a bike was fifty cents for half an hour. In that half hour we touched the sky with our hands. We were 16 kids, each in line to ride the bike. We were punctual to return the bike. If you were late even one minute they charged us for it. We always got the BMX with pegs, so the turns in line would be faster, riding two at a time. One would drive and another would ride on the back.
We didn’t have any sports fields or recreational areas. We had to make our own entertainment. The cliffs were our spaces of exploration and the bike and football our catalysts. Those of us wishing for a bicycle saw it as an impossible dream in poverty. I was the only girl in the group. As a whole, the group was one for all and all for one. At home, they saw how I wished for a bike. My parents would say they would buy me one if I passed to the next grade at school. I finished primary school and it still didn’t happen. That bicycle never came and my heart broke at the end of every school year. One day my uncle brought home a shabby broken bike, that didn’t even work, and he gave it to me. It was a Californian, I named it Goat Horns because of it’s handles. A friend of mine and I fixed it. We painted it, fixed the brakes and tires. It was like brand new. All 16 of us took turns on it. We put pegs on the back and then we could ride three at a time. We enjoyed it for only a year. My uncle came by and saw how nice my bike looked and he took it without telling me one day while I was at school. When I got home, my Californian was nowhere to be found and my heart broke again. There were two things I always wished for, a bike and a photographic camera.
When I graduated as a teacher of Physical Education, I kept a promise to myself that with my first wages I would buy myself a mountain bike. I got it on a payment plan. It was top of the range and it had suspension. I myself had made my childhood dream come true. I was so happy that day leaving the shop with the bike in my hands. I went on to celebrate with a coffee and a piece of cake. I took off the band-aids that were on my broken heart so it could feel the adrenaline of riding a bike again. It wasn’t the bicycle itself. It was the healing my heart after all those broken promises. I was demonstrating to myself that I AM somebody in life and that if I wanted something, I had to fight to get it myself. I didn’t expect anything from anyone. It was keeping a promise I made myself as a child to get myself a bike. Since I was a little girl, I learned not to get my hopes up and not to believe everyone’s promises. I knew I was alone, and alone I would get ahead in life. The bicycle incident was a lesson in life at a very young age.
When I emigrated, I had to leave my bike behind. It was like leaving a part of me. It wasn’t an object, it was an extension of myself. I went abroad at the end of autumn and being winter without a car, I got myself a cheap bicycle. It was so I could go to and from work. I used it even in the snow. I didn’t care about the cold because it was my childhood dream to be riding my own bike. That bicycle took me to find my rented forest reserve. The joy was short lived because my bike got stolen soon after. It was not just an object, but one of my great loves. I let some time pass and I saved bit by bit. I finally saved enough to buy the bicycle of my dreams. Half mountain half racer. With this I could go out in the wild or on the street.
Up until now, this is the bike that accompanies me. Each spring I myself give it maintenance. At the slightest sign of breaking down it almost gives me a heart attack. I take so much care of it, as if it is part of my body. We are one, my bike and I. It accompanies me to far away and unknown places. It is part of my joy, my discoveries, my heartbeat, and my emancipation as a woman. A lot of times, we think that a book emancipates a woman. I believe that the real emancipator is a bicycle because it permits mobility. You can discover new places and routes, be at one with yourself, and consolidate self confidence. It can be part of our instinct because it give us the liberty of choice. Today I might take this route, and maybe tomorrow a different one. This is how you get to know different places. It might rain or be foggy or maybe the sun hugs our wishful thoughts.
I would tell everyone, especially women, that if you have a childhood dream, or an emotional injury, that it is possible to heal. There are some things that stay with us forever and have no cure. I say that buying that object of your childhood dreams, that thing you wished for so much, can help heal you. You have to wish for it with all your might. I know it is hard when one is a blue collar worker and can’t afford it. It is not important how long it takes to save for it, but by saving little by little, one day that object will come. The item can be like a reparation, like a caress to the soul. This can be a way to demonstrate to ourselves that us women, even though we are on our own, we can do what ever we like on our own. Nobody will do it for us. We can use this as a historical reparation. For our ancestors, the women before us, for ourselves and for the coming generations. The courier pass to repair and join together the generations of our gender. Our emancipation is a daily struggle.
Some other day, I will tell you the story of how I made my dream come true of buying a photographic camera. It was impossible in my life because of my budget, but I prioritised it. This is the question we should ask ourselves. What is my priority?
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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado