22 de Mayo: Ni amante, ni amigo
In general, I make an effort to highlight new issues in the blog, and not write in detail about themes I have covered previously. That is, until reality forces me to. Last Saturday night, a young Bolivian man named Víctor Avendaño killed his “friend” Betty Condori by hitting her over the head with a bottle. Once she was dead, Avendaño carried Condori’s body around the city–first to pick up some plastic bags at a garbage heap, and then to leave some items of the woman’s clothing at his parents’ home, where he lived–before dousing the body with kerosene and setting it on fire on a La Paz city street. During his confession to police, Avendaño said in his own defense, “‘My only crime was to love a woman that did not pay attention to me.'” (As always, all translations are my own.)
But clearly, Avendaño is mistaken. Even before he murdered this young woman and then burnt her body on a street corner, Avendaño had committed other crimes. First, he recorded and downloaded Condori’s private cell phone conversations with a young man in another city. Sometime in the last few weeks, Avendaño reports that he begged Condori to at least be his friend—a proposal that the young woman allegedly accepted. Then, last Saturday night, Avendaño bludgeoned his “friend” over the head with a bottle. Adding insult and disrespect to death, the murderer then stole some of Condori’s clothing—the article does not tell us which garments he took, but we can imagine—and then desecrated her body by setting it on fire.
Although feminicides such as this one occur frequently in Bolivia, my first reaction is always, “how is this possible?” And by this, I do not simply mean the murder. I mean, how can it be that so many men in Bolivia believe that any of these actions against women—harassment, spying, murder—are acceptable? How can so many men have it in them to commit these crimes, and to hold the ideas about women that they must have to in order to make these crimes possible?
Last Thursday night, after a few beers at a pub across town, my friend “Alicia” and I decided to enjoy the crisp night air of La Paz and walk the 20 minutes to our homes. The constant, and often violently themed, catcalls that we received on our walk, plus this article on yet another murder of a young woman in La Paz, sparked much reflection.
As I have mentioned before, I do not believe that Bolivian men’s frequent alcohol abuse is a cause for high rates of sexual and physical violence in the country. However, what alcohol does do, is lower inhibitions. That’s why people all over the world go out to bars, grab a few drinks, and end up hooking up with someone at the next table—it’s a natural part of life that often facilitates lasting romance. But when drunk men on a La Paz street comment on women’s bodies as if they are something to be consumed, and even reach out a hand to see what they can grab on a passer-by, that is not the alcohol. When drunk men go home and beat their wives and children, that is not the alcohol. That is the man.
I do not mean to imply that every drunk man in La Paz that catcalls women on the street could end up committing rape or murder. What I do mean to say is this: if he’s doing it drunk, he could do it sober. If—drunk or sober—your partner, or any man you know, is taping your cell phone conversations, threatening you, or showing way too much interest in your relationships with other men, then this man is not your friend. He’s not your friend, and he does not deserve to be your lover. And he might just try to kill you.
Si usted cree que podría estar en riesgo de violencia de su pareja o de cualquier otra persona, comuníquese con CIDEM al 249-0358 (La Paz), o al 281-0041 (El Alto). If you believe that you might be at risk of violence by your partner or by any other person, call CIDEM in La Paz or El Alto at the above telephone numbers.