By Erin Perry
GUEST BLOGGER When my engineer-husband said: “We may have to move to Brazil for my next assignment,” the journalist in me bombarded him with questions. “Who? What? When? Where? Can the dog go?”
The dog’s flights were covered, so I told my husband I needed a new bikini. A life abroad on a global company’s dime often comes with perks to offset the hardships that may include terrible roads, blazing heat, and to be frank, roaches. My favorite bonus was the maid. I adored her – not just because she cooked and cleaned, though I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy that. Having a maid was a blessing in another, more significant way. She taught me more in my 18 months in Brazil (near Salvador) than I envisioned I would learn.
In Brazil, maid is not a disparaging title. It is a noble career. The moral people in this line of work take great pride in establishing and preserving everyday order for families. Lecia was a single mother in her early 30s (a few years older than me), and she had been a maid since age 11. She took classes at night until she earned her diploma at age 20. College never was an option; for the daughter of a farmer and a homemaker, it was just too expensive. She considers herself as mixed race, as does about 43% of Brazil’s population. Lecia is among the 90% of literate people in Brazil. We often exchanged stories in the kitchen about our lives I learned just how unaware she was of the disparities in opportunities that continue to plague Northeast Brazil as well as women, and black, mixed race and indigenous populations throughout that country. She was oblivious to the unfairness that allowed my husband and I to sit in a restaurant in our neighborhood and be the only non-white people in the establishment who were not on the clock. (For context, Brazil has more than 202 million people, and non-whit