Dignifying the Arrabal

Translated  by Katrina Hassan

Historically, in the classist and racist societies, the arrabal or the “hood” is where all the evils of the world collide. This is why, whoever comes from the hood, has to be a thief, abuser, racketeer, rapist, murderer and every other accusation that a person can think of. To be rid of these labels is a titanic feat. The stigma is part of the arrabal DNA. To be from the hood is an impediment for getting a good job, to study and to have interpersonal relationships outside of your own kind. People view those coming from the hood as dangerous delinquents. People from the arrabal are excluded from the day they are born.

Being from the arrabal is a permanent upstream battle. A battle against the system that has been violating from the peripheries. It has impoverished and excluded the people from all their rights and benefits. The system has accused people of the arrabal of being a maximum danger to the country. A prime example are the infamous red zones that are abundant in Latin America. That America that is undermined, stripped bare, humiliated and tainted courtesy of the oligarchic mafias. Those are the real danger to the population. Literally speaking, the famous favelas are a perfect example that give that reverie some romanticism.

How can people live without clean water, electricity and paved streets, no sewage systems, buses, jobs and homes? How do people live overcrowded, without basic food, medicine and health services? How does society think that a human surviving these conditions can finish even the basic levels of education, high school and university? How are parents supposed to feed their kids if they are denied the opportunities of growth and development? How are people from the arrabal supposed to have a wholesome life if they are violated by security forces on a daily basis? They live through attempts at social cleansing everyday. The young are put in jails. Jails that are more like torture centres. All this because of their origins and appearance. They might end up in jail, but the institutionalised violence forces them into criminality. 

All their life the people of the arrabal have been violated. They get to adolescence and without any self worth, without dreams and with a deep depression, anger at life, and feeling like trash. The oligarchic mafias use the arrabal kids to sell drugs that they themselves produce. They deliver and collect packages and collect debts for the rich kids that, thanks to their privilege, are untouchable. The government denies resources and opportunities to those in the arrabal. The life of an arrabal kid is like this. What is an arrabal teenager’s life worth? If they disappear, nothing ever happens. If they refuse to work for the mafias and be a delinquent, they die too. How much is a girl from the arrabal worth? They are part of the statistics of disappeared women. They end up in the bars of their country or ones abroad. They are the best kind of business investment, the most profitable: sex trafficking. What do people expect of the young people growing up to be if they are bombarded with TV series and daytime dramas about drug trafficking? The songs on the radio also help annihilate with stories about drugs and cartels. What does society expect when the government itself says “The one who screws the most people over is the triumphant one!”

What is expected of those kids’ parents? They need to work 16 to 18 hours a day to provide at least one meal a day for their kids.

To be from the arrabal is to have the world against you. It means swimming upstream, this being the usual for people from the arrabal. The only one who can dignify the arrabal is the arrabal itself. From the outside world, arrabal kids only receive exclusion, slander, rejection, abuse, belittling and injustice. This is why those that are from the arrabal have the titanic task to be the face and voice of their community. They must watch their words and actions for the same reason. They need to be the entity of change between infancy and adolescence. They have to influence the youth to see themselves as humans that can break the barriers of injustice, instead of feeling like trash. There needs to be enough influence to help make their dreams come true. This is why they have cultivated the ability to resist and swim upstream. 

To be from the hood means that you need to watch the way you walk, the way you stand, the way you talk and all other mannerisms. People are always watching the person that comes from the hood. They are looking down on them or looking up to them. To be from the hood, you need to work 10 times more than anyone else. They have to give 110% more on everything they do. The people of the hood, wake up at the crack of dawn, go to bed late, study, re-study, exercise the mind and spirit and they are active in their community. They are functional people in and out of the house, breaking the structures of patriarchy and gender roles. The boys of the arrabal  can easily wash their own clothes, do the cleaning, make the beds, clean the bathroom, do the dishes. They can use technology in their favour. They can find documentaries on culture, art, sports and inhospitable places.  They can learn about all that is not permitted within their economic circumstances and mobility. They can get together as a group to go to so and so’s house, the one with internet, to visit all the digital platforms. They do this, of course, because this is one of the responsibilities of resistance. The resource that is not found is sought after until it is found.

The arrabal itself the one that has to fight against the televised bombardment that is only looking to denigrate it. How? By having cultural programs within the community. They could be environmental, political, or sports programs. Everyone’s help is needed for this to work. Teachers, street vendors, bus drivers, parents, adults. Only the arrabal can dignify itself. It is a long road ahead, with no fast results. The results are generational, but it is work that needs to be done. There are trees to be planted to prevent erosion. We need to learn from the past. We need to learn from those that were in worse circumstances than us. Human kind is capable of accomplishing the most unthinkable.

The arrabal has the obligation to be the hotbed of analytical minds that question the system and have the guts to change it. For this to be accomplished, it needs to be nourished daily with historical memory and it needs to have a lot of willpower.

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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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