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ruthless compassion
21 May 2004 @ 08:50 am
One of the interesting things here in Guatemala is the question of beauty. There are two really strong tracks running through the culture. One is the modern one, where people have been exposed to modern western ideas of beauty and everyone wants to lose weight and be tall and white. The other is the more deeply rooted Mayan perspective where bigger is more beautiful and a common, polite greeting/compliment is, "Look how fat you are!" And pretty much everyone I talk to has some mix of the above ideas.

This leads to funny conversations in my homestay family where, on the one hand, the women are commenting on how they need to lose weight and are taking crazy diet pills that wire them up with caffiene, and on the other hand, comment on how great and healthy I look.

One of the cool things that leads out of all this is that there's none of the shame around being fat that there is in the US. In the US, people whisper the word "fat" like it's some dreaded disease, but here it's just another aspect of someone's looks, and depending on the context, it's good or bad or indifferent.

Of course, it probably comes from it being a culture where most people don't get enough to eat, so being fat is a sign of wealth and relative ease of life, and it's easy to see why that would be idealized.