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Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

I’ve been thinking lately about celebrities, and after careful consideration, I’ve decided that I’d rather be famous in Peru than in the U.S. If you’re famous in Peru, you get to have money and fine things and be upper class, BUT you don’t have to worry about people invading every corner of your life. It seems people here respect the private lives of celebrities a bit more. At least in comparison with the United States. Take for example Johanna San Miguel. She’s the funny, bubbly talk show host for the morning news program called America Espectaculo. About a week ago, she mysteriously disappeared from the news program.  Instead, the 2 news anchors, Federico Salazar and Veronica Linares, were doing her bit, which basically consists of gossiping about celebrities. Try as they did, they just didn’t compare to Johanna.

For 2 weeks I tried to figure out where she went. In vain, I typed her name into Google, trying to find some news article about her.  Was she fired? Was she sick? Did she quit? Atreyhus teased me that they fired her for being too fat (she’s a little “gordita”). I knew he was joking, but then I started to wonder…

Then one day she was back! Federico and Veronica announced her return and the camera panned over to a cheerful, notably thinner Johanna. Veronica mentioned that the reason for Johanna’s disappearance would always be a mystery. Johanna simply said that she’d done something “very intimate”.  After about 3 minutes of everyone talking about how great she looked, a strange thing happened. Actually, NOTHING happened. The show continued on like normal as Johanna relayed the top celebrity gossip of the day.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single scandalous news article about Johanna’s mysterious weight loss (ahem, Liposuction). I looked at every tabloid-like newspaper in Cusco and found nothing. The only thing I uncovered was a slight mention of it on a Peruvian blog.

I may sound like I was disappointed, but I was just in shock. If that were some celebrity in the U.S. you can bet her face would be plastered over every cheap tabloid in the country.  It was refreshing to see that no one was being malicious about it.  It made me think about when Teddy Roosevelt was president and, out of respect, no one ever took a picture of him in his wheelchair. Ok, well maybe I’m being a little dramatic but it’s a nice image.

Now, Johanna isn’t extremely famous, even by Peru standards, and maybe if someone like Magaly Medina (who everyone in Peru seems to hate, but who gets A LOT of news coverage) had gotten liposuction, it would have been a bigger deal- but I still don’t think it’d be as bad as in the states. And when it comes down to it- who cares? Is it really necessary for magazines and Internet blogs to write about every little detail and scandal that goes on in celebrities’ lives? Do we really have nothing better to do? Is it really more important than what’s going on in Iraq or Africa? Maybe the US should take a cue from Peru and BACK OFF. Of course, as long as tabloids are still selling, they’ll still exist. So I don’t hold out much hope.

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Abortion has been brought to the public’s attention in Peru, recently as political groups are proposing to legalize abortion in the case of rape, or when the fetus is severely deformed. According to an article in El Comercio, “La comisión especial revisora del Código Penal del Congreso”, or The special revisory commission of the Penal Code of Congress, recently rejected the request of reconsidering the bill to legalize abortion in those specific cases. 6 against, 5 in favor, and one in abstention. Pretty close. Apparently in December it will be sent to the president of Congress, Luis Alva Castro, to be decided. There’s certainly a lot of controversy surrounding the issue.

 The fact that this issue is even being brought to light is a sign of progression and change regarding the government and Peruvians as a whole. It’s sparked political activism, with people taking to the streets to show their support either for or against abortion. Abortion is an issue that, in my opinion, has been overlooked in Peru for a long time and it’s about time they started talking about it. Though abortion is illegal, there’s a surprising amount of women who have had them. According to the BBC website, every year hundreds of thousands of women in South America die or are seriously injured from illegal abortions.

In my experience working with rural communities surrounding Cusco and doing health campaigns, there are always a few women who have had abortions. I’ve even heard gossip of a few clinics that secretly perform abortions, even sometimes pushing women into getting them done. This is one of the problems with it being illegal. There’s no way to regulate it. Desperate women get them done, and there’s no way to be sure that the people performing them know what they’re doing, or that it’s being done in a sanitary environment. If Peru legalizes abortion perhaps there could be support groups for women who have been through it. I know it’s a long shot, but if it’s legal, more foreign NGOs might be inclined to participate in something like that.

Peru still has a lot of issues to overcome regarding abortion, and if legalized, it will probably take a few more decades. One of the issues is machismo. Peru is a country ruled by men, many of them catholic. I was reading an article on abortion in El Comercio last Saturday, and 2 men, both against abortion, were giving their opinions on the issue. I’m sorry, but listening to 2 men prattle on about how traumatic abortion is for women, and how if raped, they must keep the child (which leads me to wonder how the mother might treat said child, anyone seen the movie Turtles Can Fly??) was hard to swallow. Yes, men are allowed to have their opinions. Yes, people are allowed to be opposed to abortion. But they should at least offer another opinion in the article, like maybe from a woman’s perspective? But, I must say that this morning there was an abortion debate from people for and against it, both men and women. Another sign of hope!

Then there’s the issue of religion. Though church and state are separate in Peru, politics is still strongly influenced by religion, and the Catholic Church hasn’t been shy about expressing its opinions on abortion.

Still, I can’t help but feel like this debate is a sign that a change is gonna come. Abortion is an extremely controversial issue, even in countries like the U.S. where it’s legal in most states. It was a ballsy move to consider this issue, and I say Vive el Peru!

*Abortion is a touchy issue and I know many people feel strong about it one way or the other. What do you think about what’s happening in Peru regarding this issue?

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