Category Archive Advocacy

Healthy communities through weaving – Bebe Sachi

Bebe Sachi is unique in the babywearing world, it is a social enterprise.

What is a social enterprise? A social enterprise has at its heart the value of building community. Not by following fashion trends, not by chasing the latest concept, but by creating something strong and lasting. Bebe Sachi also places a great importance on respecting the values and traditions of the local people, and it does this by treating them as equal partners. Their goal is to preserve the tradition and skills of the artisans who use the Asian handloom. I’ve been to several of their presentations and in them, you will always here this:

“It is important to understand the glorious history of Bengal’s textile in order to appreciate the need for preserving the Asian handloom legacy.”

And that’s just it. It is a glorious history. To understand the importance of preserving this tradition, we must visit why the decline in the Bengal textile trade occurred. It happened in two waves.

“From the final decade of the eighteenth century cloth exports from South Asia had already begun to decline for a variety of reasons, including the monopsony that the English East India Company had built in Bengal and South India, which blocked manybuyers from obtaining cloth.”1

After the British take over of Bengal in 1757, they slowly squeezed out most of the foreign buyers of Bengal textiles from the region and significantly reduced Bengal’s trading links with the outside world. Divide and conquer was the goal of the British Empire. By the end of the 18th century, the British were exporting almost all of the textiles produced in the region through the East India Company and other British companies. There were few independent exporters left.

At first, when the British Empire expanded into South Asia, it provided real boost to the local handweaving industry. Many fine fabrics, including the best cottons in the world were woven here. But with the onset of the industrial revolution, it enabled the British to produce these fabrics more cheaply back home. Instead of exporting fabrics to Britain, The East India Company flooded the Bengal market with these cheaper machine made cotton goods from Britain. As the British had almost a full monopoly in the region, the impact was immediate. The Bengal textile industry declined rapidly and by around the 1850s it had almost disappeared.

From Bebe Sachi themselves: “There were hardly anything left of its past glory. These factors caused the once famous textiles industry of Bengal to demise, causing the death of the legendary fine muslin textiles. Muslin was Bengal’s finest heritage that made the region famous and attracted visitors and riches to its shores for millennia.”

The impact on South Asia was devastating.  All of a sudden, the work that was available disappeared and the impact on communities was horrible. Though brilliant for the British back home in Europe, what jobs had been created through heavy colonization was now destroyed. There was no thought to the people left behind.

The situation nowadays in countries like Bangladesh for those in the fabric and garment industry nowadays isn’t much better.

The Rana Plaza building where many of the clothes we use to dress out children collapsed April 2013 1,135 Bangladeshi garment workers and injuring 2,500 more.2 It was such a shock as Canadians to see brands like Joe Fresh in the rubble. We here in the West were, through our need for fast, cheap, affordable fashions, somewhat responsible for what happened. Not because that is what we ordered or required. But because in order to make clothes cheaply, factories act like prisons. Days are long. Bathroom breaks rare. And as we learned, workers are essentially locked into the building, with few ways to exit in case of emergency.3 This is no way to live. Our companies are still making clothes here. And conditions aren’t safe.4

Moreover, to work in these factories people must move to larger centres away from their families. It is quite common that a mom goes to work in one location, a dad goes to work in another, while their children live with family members elsewhere. In order to ensure the financial health of their family, parents no longer have the luxury of raising their own children and of creating a strong relationship with them. Can you imagine if you barely saw your parents except for briefly throughout the year? Though you may love your aunts, uncles, or grandparents, who did you want to be raised by as a child? Who do you want to raise your own children? Relatives?

Given the emphasis on attachment in babycarrying, where and how our carriers are produced should be important to us. Are we truly supporting attachment to family and to community if we do not consider how a carrier is created?

Because when a company like Bebe Sachi establishes itself in a country like Bangladesh, it creates community and encourages attachment. First, by preserving the traditions of the Asian handloom, they are valuing the work, skill and artisanry of the local people. When a weaving set up is built in a small community where people live, families can make a strong enough living, creating financial strength which enables families to stay together. Parents of the Bebe Sachi community get to be the parent. And they do what most parents do around the world, they raise their children, the take charge of their education and they raise them in the values that are important to them. As a result of the Bebe Sachi project, weaving set-ups were revived, and the looms are alive again. Their small set-up has become an exemplary model. It has created opportunities to do work such as yarn spinning, dyeing, warping, and so on. Weavers have a flexible working environment. They are able to weave and farm as needed. This means they can provide food for their families. Weavers remain with their families, they ensure that their children attend school, and the members are active in the local community.

Supporting a local enterprise is not just about buying a product, it’s about respecting the people who live abroad, creating community and supporting family cohesion. It is also about respecting the values of the people who live there. All woven items are designed and made by the local artisans and weavers. They are learning to experiment and learn how to create items that are popular and will have a lasting impact. Runs are short and there are no product lines to speak of. Each weave has its own purpose – items are woven for everything from shawls, place mats, handbags through to fabric suitable for carrying babies and much more. There is an inherent respect when you let people determine their own destinies. Moreover, Bangladesh is primarily a Muslim country. The Muslim religion does not allow images of animate beings, whether they are humans, animals or birds, and whether that is engraved, on paper or fabric. This means that every piece woven does not go against their own personal beliefs, as occurs in the larger industrial centres. Can you imagine if you were forced to make something offensive to you just because someone else will like it, or because it will sell? Bebe Sachi weavers do not have to.

Another thing is that a social enterprise can do is to respect the natural cycles. An example is based on weather. Here in Canada the one thing we can predict, is that winter will come and the snow will fly. It impacts every part of our life. In Bangladesh, the weather centres on monsoons and floods. When the rains come, they don’t just come for a day or two. They come for a whole season and flooding is quite common. A business that cannot support itself during these periods of mandatory stillness is devastating to the community. Bebe Sachi always has at its heart the goal to create strength to survive past these periods. This year has been particularly difficult in Bangladesh, the storms have been particularly hard and the flooding greater than usual. Over 1,200 people died in the region this year alone.5 When the floods come, the looms lie silent. There is no way to farm, to spin or to weave. As such, the continuous support from babywearing communities around the world plays a huge factor in ensuring their sustainability.

The long term goal of the Bebe Sachi team is to be able to expand their social enterprise to other South East Asian regions. Both women, Rita Rahayu and Azizah Attard are Malaysians and would like to be able to bring the strength they are working to build in Bangladesh to a greater number of people. Consider shopping with Bebe Sachi and help them build more communities worldwide. We are too accustomed in Canada to hearing the words “fair trade” and “social enterprise” and associating it with very high price tags that are truly far too expensive for most of us. Because there the weavers are selling directly to you, the prices of Bebe Sachi products are fairly reasonable and each run is quite unique. You can buy from them here , like them on facebook, or join their facebook community called Bebe Sachi Love to share your love of their products.

In celebration of a project like Bebe Sachi, Babywearing in Canada is sending their own Bebe Sachi wrap out travelling throughout Canada as part of International Babywearing Week.  Stay-tuned to our facebook page for more information!

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Footnotes
1. Cotton Textile Exports from the Indian Subcontinent, 1680-1780, Prasannan Parthasarathi
2. Article from CBC.ca titled Joe Fresh continuing garment business in Bangladesh in year after tragedy published April 10, 2014.
3. To learn more about the garment trade, watch this documentary by the Fifth Estate called Made in Bangladesh.
4. Article from the Globe and Mail, Four years after the crisis, are Bangladeshi workers any safer? published July 28, 2017
5. Article from the Guardian entitled South Asia floods kill 1,200 and shut 1.8 million children out of school published August 30, 2017.

Yo me quedo con mis fulares

Tuvimos una semana realmente dura en el mundo de Porteo alrededor del nombre de un fular, alrededor del diseño de una marca en particular que he usado y que todavia me pertenece. Esta dicho – es un gran lío . Encontré el ritmo de esta conversación chocante, la necesidad de saber cuáles son tus pensamientos ahora mismo, para decidir ahora mismo, actuar hoy. Inmediatamente.

No puedo hacerlo sin reflexión, y así lo he reflexionado.

Necesito hacer espacio para todos los corazones que escuché esta semana. ¿Cuál es el concepto de hacer espacio? Esta es la mejor descripción que he escuchado, ofrecida pomer la estadounidense Melissa Nightingale en su primera permiso de maternidad aquí en Canadá:

“Los canadienses tienen una expresión que yo no sabía hasta que llegué aquí. Hablan de “hacer espacio”. Y me tomó un tiempo realmente entenderlo, pero es básicamente dejar espacio en la conversación para que la otra persona pueda expresar sus ideas, pueda disentir o estar en desacuerdo. ”1

Estoy haciendo espacio para las cosas que me gustaría que hubiera sucedido en este debate:

GRACIA

“Esta situación es deplorable, tengo un consejo rápido para ti: si estás defendiendo al POC oprimido mientras oprimiendo otro POC, lo estás haciendo mal. No estas entendiendo”. – F.L.

El nivel de escuchado en Internet durante toda esta discusión fue increíble. Fui testigo de  gente:

  • Insultando sin escrupulos.
  • Hablar encima de otros.
  • Involucrandose en insensibilidad cultural por todos lados.
  • Ignorando o denigrado la experiencia personal de alguien.
  • Localizando a gente y persiguiendolos por los fulares que tienen.
  • Abusando a otras.
  • Siendo racistas.
  • Y peor aún: gente dando amenazas de muerte.

Había muy poca gracia en esta discusión. Mi principal recomendación en cualquier discusión sensible de esta naturaleza es para la civilidad.

ESCUCHANDO

Debemos escuchar a todas las voces.

Cynthia Soliz:
“Si tuviera que escoger una sola palabra de mi niñez que significaba algo feo, incivilizado, desaliñado, salvaje, o mal, era la palabra,” Indio. “De repente tuve flashbacks a Cynthia de tercer grado que estaba probando zapatos de baile y Su maestro de baile dijo en voz alta y a la clase, “Si tienes pata de Indio, estas zapatillas no te cabrán, Pero tenemos otros que podemos ordenar.) […] […]

    • ¿Cuándo no te maquillas? Cara de Indio
    • Si pasa demasiado tiempo al sol (cada vez más oscuro)? Color
    • No use sus modales en la mesa? Comer como Indio
    • ¿Ser fuerte y bullicioso? Portandote Indio “2

Angélica de la Cruz:
“Yo soy mexicana y nunca me he sentido ofendida por la palabra Indio (Incluso cuando no es el término correcto -desde el origen- ya que lo correcto sería indígena) en absoluto cuando alguien dice que soy una India que se refiere a mi origen indígena, de Ese punto de vista … Soy una “India.” Y adivina qué … Me siento orgulloso de serlo!!! Soy mexicana, mis raizes son indigenas !! Cuando alguien se siente inspirado con mi cultura me siento orgullosa y Cuando alguien tiene tanta pasión y amor para dedicar su vida y compañía a una industria de bebés llena de amor y dedicacion para que los padres tengan a sus bebés en sus brazos, veo sólo eso: ¡AMOR! ¿Cómo puede algo Con tanto significado convertirse en una campaña de odio “Didymos ayudó a propagar el porteo al mundo, muchas familias ahora están llevando a sus bebés cerca de su corazón a causa de eso y esa es la parte importante de la ecuación. Atacando a alguien cuando ya no está aquí para expresar su idea? ¿Cómo pueden hablar de los mexicanos cuando esto no fue iniciado por uno y está recién llegando a México por esta campaña? No necesitamos que los desconocidos nos digan cómo sentirnos … Los tejidos de diamantes han existido en todo el mundo, el hilo, los patrones, todo se ha utilizado por todas partes … No es una copia. Me siento ofendida, pero por la reciente descripción de la palabra Indio !!!! Me pregunto si lo han investigado en el diccionario ?? No significa nada de lo que describen. Esas palabras son racistas y ofensivas que no reflejan el tejido o el nombre de Didymos o su diseño, ¡no el camino que Didymos usó y honró la palabra para su inspiración! No veo el error … no me siento ofendida ni robada de mi cultura. ”

De Samantha Venn:
“Hay, sin embargo, otras categorías raciales y referentes al color de la piel que se invocan entre los mexicanos étnicos para marcar otras distinciones fenotípicas entre ellos mismos”, agregó Ramón A. Gutiérrez. Las categorías raciales como el negro (negro), Chino (Chino, o asiático en general), y el indio (indio) son ampliamente utilizados por los mexicanos étnicos para designar a individuos con rasgos fenotípicos africanos, asiáticos o indios. Era muy común en el mundo del sur de California en el que me crié, encontrar individuos con fuertes rasgos africanos, asiáticos o indios a quienes se referían en estos términos. Generalmente se clasificaban por debajo de los mestizos (porque eran menos blancos) y se situaban cerca del fondo de la jerarquía racial. Pero está muy claro que el término más despectivo y la categoría racial mas devaluada que se invocó fue el término Indio. Significaba el nivel más bajo de la jerarquía racial  mexicana “.

De Nancy Arlette Rodríguez Garía:
“Lo siento por mi pobre inglés pero … soy mexicana y me he sentido honrado desde que supe que este hermoso diseño fue INSPIRADO por mi Cultura. Por favor, no dejes que las personas negativas destruyan todo el amor que Didymos ha creado a través de tu trabajo. Me siento orgullosa de ser una referencia en el mundo del porteo de bebé. Estoy bastante segura de que las madres mexicanas que tienen un fular Indio como yo, nunca se han sentido ofendidas por el nombre. Siento mucho que estas lidiando con esta campaña tan desagradable “.

De Allanna Robinson:
“No dudo que Erica Hoffman pensara que era un término de cariño- ha habido algunas personas que han dicho que su familia lo usa como un cariño, es muy posible que conociera a una persona que escuchó usarlo como un cariño, Volvió a Alemania y fabrico su fular sin consultar a nadie más.

Para mí  ESCUCHAR consiste en oir acerca de todas las cosas familiares y desconocidas. Lo cómodo y lo extremadamente incómodo. No decidir de inmediato, a veces estar en el punto de consenso, para dar a las relaciones, conexiones y experiencias el momento de evolucionar. Muchos tienen experiencias muy negativas con la palabra Indio, trae destellos de dolor, experiencias que no deben volver a visitar nunca.

Pero no la experiencia de todos con la palabra Indio es negativa. ¿Significa eso que el nombre debería haber permanecido? Algunos mexicanos se sentían empoderados por ella y por este lío sólo se escuchaba una voz. Quiero un lugar donde la gente pueda compartir sus experiencias. Esto no era un debate en mi mente, pero una cosa repetida una y otra vez. Tengo amigos en ambos lados de esto y los he escuchando a todos ellos y ha sido tan duro.

Si alguien me dice que significa algo particular para ellos, esa es su verdad. ¿No podemos tener espacio para al menos escuchar? NECESITAMOS escuchar y respetar las voces que viven en México y honrarlos en su lugar en esta cultura viva y activa.

A mis queridos amigos que se sentían empoderados por este fular, que se sentían valorados. Te entiendo, pero demasiados fueron heridos por la palabra y siento que nadie tenga la oportunidad de escucharte. Había una barrera linguistica, hubieron muchos cuyas experiencias fueron negativas, esto pasó tan rápidamente desde su perspectiva que seguro tu cabeza también esta dando vueltas.

La palabra Indio ha sido ensuciada a lo largo de esta conversación. En el idioma inglés, su significado principal es ahora sólo el de una calumnia racial, cuando tiene una profundidad mucho mayor que eso. También fue utilizado como una palabra de empoderamiento entre algunos latinoamericanos para recuperar y deshacer lo negativo, este trabajo ha sido retrasado por muchos años.3

Sin embargo, esta palabra ha causado dolor y ya que el dolor también debe ser reconocido, Algo tenia que cambiar.

CAMBIO

Esto sucedió. Didymos se disculpó y el fular ahora tiene un nuevo nombre.

De la página de Facebook de Didymos – Das Babytragetuch, publicada el 2 de noviembre de 2016:

“Nosotros hemos concebido y utilizado desde siempre, la palabra “Indio” con una connotación de profundo respeto, honor y tradición. Sin embargo hemos sido informados de un nuevo tono despectivo que algunas personas le dan y éste nuevo contexto se separa completamente de la filosofía de nuestra compañía y el amor que deseamos crezca en todos.

El patrón clásico que Didymos usa para sus fulares “Indio” fue un diseño que lleva detrás, una profunda labor de empeño y amor de nuestra fundadora, madre y modelo a seguir Erika Hoffmann; su meta en la vida, era que los padres pudieran mantener a sus bebés cerca.

El patrón es un collage histórico de sentimientos que encuentran su inspiración en el primer fular que unos amigos cercanos le habían regalado y diferentes técnicas y estilos clásicos de tejido de todo el mundo. Definitivamente el patrón, es el resultado de un gran esfuerzo en conjunto de Erika Hoffmann y los maestros del tejido en Alemania, hace casi 45 años.

Debido a que el término tiene actualmente una connotación negativa, hemos decidido proceder con el cambio del mismo. Éste proceso tomará un poco de tiempo después de 40 años de tradición.

Queremos ofrecer una disculpa pública a cualquiera que hubiera podido sentirse ofendido por el nombre “Indio” de nuestro patrón, siendo que esa nunca fue la intención, y agradecemos de corazón a todos aquellos que han estado en contacto constante con nosotros de diferentes partes del mundo mostrando su apoyo y comprensión, especialmente de “Centro América” para compartir sus comentarios y sugerencias durante los pasados días-semanas.”

VALIDACIÓN

Este es cuestionablemente la cosa más difícil de hacer. Reconocer y creer cuando alguien dice que esta palabra les ofende. Para entender cuando alguien dice, “Me siento orgulloso de ser Indio” y se sienten complementados por el fular.

Cristi Adams, un aborigen canadiense:

“Como una persona indigena, de lo que estoy cansada es de los guerreros de justicia social blancos cuyas voces son más fuertes que la voz de la gente en cuestión.Parte de ser un aliado no es hablar más fuerte que la gente afectada. Estoy harta de eso siendo un POC que ha dirigido muchas, muchas foros de discucion en contra de racismo y los foros de justicia social. Tomar parte en una pelea que no es tuya y ser una voz más fuerte que la de los afectados y decirles que están equivocados, eso no es reconocer su propio privilegio .Yo soy indigena, y lo he visto una y otra vez. Una cosa es ser de apoyo, es otra muy diferente el convertirlo en una situación que gira en torno a ellos mismos. Bien por Didy por haber reconocido el dolor que la palabra trae a un grupo de personas y por el cambio del nombre. Bien por Didy por haber sido inspirado, no haber robado, y por la creación de un fular hermoso con el consejo de la comunidad.
—- Firmado – un aborigen con fular didy convertido, que ama el hecho de que la comunidad del porteo de bebes es sobre el amor y la belleza y no toda esta ira. También formo parte de una comunidad de POC que es más que capaz de hablar por sí mismos “.

En Canadá, tenemos un sistema de analizar los problemas preocupantes que necesitan ser explorados, nuestras queridas Comisiones Reales, nuestros Cuerpos Especiales, nuestras Investigaciones Publicas. Estas investigaciones son un proceso largo y sangriento que nos obliga a sacar todo a la luz y escuchamos a todas las personas afectadas por la cuestión. Estas investigaciones nos hacen profundamente incómodos, y eso es natural. Hace más de dos décadas comenzó con la Comisión Real sobre Pueblos Aborígenes. Luego tuvimos la Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación. Actualmente, tenemos la Investigación sobre Mujeres Indígenas desaparecidas asesinadas. Confía en mí cuando digo que la verdad que sale a la luz de estas investigaciones en Canada es muchas veces increíblemente fea. Pero es importante. Todas las voces deben ser escuchadas.4

A través de este proceso, hemos aprendido cómo los pueblos indígenas canadienses han tenido su cultura suprimida, robada, lazos familias rotos, y que pertenecen a un sistema que ignora sus voces. Lo más importante de todo, no han sido validados.

Durante la conferencia de babywearing en Canadá, tuvimos el privilegio de escuchar a Stephanie George, una partera aborigen y IBCLC. Cuando un miembro de la audiencia escuchaba en los Estados Unidos: “¿Qué podemos hacer?”, Su respuesta fue: “Pregúntales”.

Su respuesta fue no ir con una solución, no hablar por ellos, no tomar las decisiones en su nombre. Los Pueblos Indígenas han tenido suficiente gente hablando por ellos.

¿Qué me han contado mis amigos indígenas que viven en México?

Directamente de Angélica: “No necesitamos que los desconocidos nos digan cómo sentirnos…””

Ellos comprenden los orígenes del fular. Pueden hablar de su tejido, sus similitudes, sus diferencias.

  • Sienten  que la fundadora de la compañía de Didymos, Erika Hoffman, fue inspirada. No sienten que sea una copia del fular de indigenas.
  • Están felices de que sus tradiciones culturales hayan encontrado un punto de apoyo en el mundo.
  • Sienten que el porteo se hace con de amor, para ayudar a los padres a llevar a sus hijos.
  • Ellos querían que el nombre permaneciera.
  • Quieren que el envoltorio continuara vendiéndose.

¿Mi papel en esto como aliado? Es estar al lado de ellos. Me estoy quedando con mis fulares de Didymos, ¿qué estás haciendo tu con el tuyo?

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1. Melissa continúa así: “Hasta donde yo sé, los estadounidenses no tienen un concepto cultural equivalente. Como grupo, somos rápidos en disentir, vocal cuando no estamos de acuerdo, y no tímido acerca de expresarnos”. Lea el resto de su pieza aquí.
2. Cynthia Soliz compartió su experiencia aquí.
3. Más definiciones para Indio aquí.
4. Más información sobre las Comisiones Reales, y otras Canadiana (incluyendo nuestras peculiaridades) ubicadas aquí.

This article was translated on request by a friend to provide context to a community whose first language isn’t English.

Keep the wrap

We had a really rough week in babywearing, around the name of a wrap, around the design of a particular brand that they’ve carried and that I own. I’m calling it – it’s a hot mess. I found the pace of this conversation concussive, the need to know what your thoughts are right now, to decide right now, act today, go go go go. I can’t do this without reflection, and so I have reflected.

I need to make space for all the hearts I heard this week.

What is the concept of making space? This is the best description I’ve heard, offered by American Melissa Nightingale on her first maternity leave here in Canada:

“Canadians have an expression that I didn’t know until I got here. They talk about “making space”. And it took me awhile to get the hang of it but it’s basically leaving conversational room for the other person to express their ideas, to dissent, to disagree.”1

I’m making space for the things I wish had happened in this debate.

GRACE

“This situation is deplorable. I have a quick tip for you. If you’re defending the oppressed POC by oppressing another POC, you’re doing it wrong.” — F.L.

The level of assholery heard on the internet during this entire discussion was unbelievable. I witnessed people:

  • Issuing vile insults.
  • Talking over each other.
  • Engaging in cultural insensitivity on all sides.
  • Ignoring or outright denying someone’s personal experience.
  • Tracking people down and targetting them for the wraps they own.
  • Abusing others.
  • Being outright racists.
  • And worse of all, issuing death threats.

There was very little grace in this discussion. My foremost recommendation in any sensitive discussion of this nature is for civility.

LISTENING

We must listen to all the voices.

Cynthia Soliz:
“If I had to pick a single word from my childhood that meant ugly, uncivilized, unkempt, savage, or wrong, it was the word, “Indio.” Suddenly I had flashbacks to third-grade Cynthia who was trying on dance shoes and her dance teacher said loudly and to the class, “Si tienes pata de Indio, estos zapatos no te van a quedar y podemos ordenar otros.” (If you have Indio paws for feet, these [fine] shoes won’t fit you, but we have others we can order.)  […]

    • When you don’t put make up on?  Cara de Indio. (Indio face)
    • If you spend too much time in the sun (getting darker)? Color Indio (Indio color)
    • Don’t use your table manners? Comer como Indio (Eating like an Indio)
    • Being loud and boisterous? Portandote Indio (Act like an Indio)”2

Angélica de la Cruz:
“I am Mexican and I have never felt offended by the word Indio (Even when it is not the right term- as from origin- since the correct would be Indigenous) whatsoever when someone says I am an India referring to my indigenous background, from that point of view… I am an “India.”  And guess what… I am proud to be!!! I am Mexican, indigenous background is my root!! When someone feels inspired by my culture I feel proud and honoured not stolen from. When someone brings so much passion and love to dedicate her life and company to a babywearing industry full of love and raising awareness for parents to have their babies in their arms I see just that: LOVE!!! How can something with so much meaning can be turned into a hate campaign??? Didymos spread the babywearing word to the world, many families are now carrying their babies close to their heart because of that and that is the important part of the equation. Why is anyone attacking someone when she is no longer here to express her idea? How can they speak about Mexicans when this was not started by one and is just now arriving to Mexico because of this campaign? We do not need strangers telling us how to feel…. Diamonds patterns have existed all over the world, the thread, the patterns, everything has been used all over… It is not a copy. I feel offended but by the recent description of the word Indio!!!! I wonder if they researched it in the dictionary?? It means nothing of what they describe. Those words are racist and offensive not reflective of Didymos’ pattern or name, not their design, not theway Didymos used and honoured the word for their inspiration!!! I do not see the mistake… I just do not feel offended nor stolen from.”

From Samantha Venn:
“Never a term of endearment. Misused. From The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective By Ramon A. Gutierrez “There are, however, other racial categories and skin color referents invoked among ethnic Mexicans to mark other phenotypical distinctions made among them. Racial categories such as negro (black), Chino) (Chinese, or Asian more generally), and Indio (Indian) are widely used by ethnic Mexicans to designate individuals with African, Asian, or Indian phenotypical features. It was very common in the Southern California world in which I was raised to find individuals with strong African, Asian, or Indian features who were referred to in these terms. they were generally ranked below a mestizos (because they were less white) and place near the bottom of the racial hierarchy. But it is very clear that the most derisive term and devalued racial category invoked was the term Indio. It signified the very bottom tier of the Mexican gradational racial hierarchy.”

From Nancy Arlette Rodriguez Garìa:
“Sorry for my poor English but…I’m Mexican and I have felt honoured since I knew this beautiful design was INSPIRED by my Culture. Please, don’t let negative people destroy all the love that Didymos has created through your work. Please keep the name! I feel proud to be a reference in the babywearing world. I’m pretty sure that the Mexican moms that have an Indio like me, have never felt offended for the name. I’m sorry you are facing this disgusting campaign.”

From Allanna Robinson:
“I don’t doubt Erica Hoffman did think it was a term of endearment- there’s been a few people who’ve said their family uses it as an endearment, it’s very possible she met ONE person who she heard use it as an endearment, went back to Germany, and made her wrap without consulting anyone else.”

To me LISTENING is about hearing about all the familiar and unfamiliar things. The comfortable and the extremely uncomfortable. To not decide right away, to occasionally be at the consensus point, to give relationships, connections and experiences the time to evolve. Many have very negative experiences with the word Indio, it brings flashes of pain, experiences they should not revisit ever.

But not everyone’s experience with Indio is negative. Does that mean the name should have remained? Some Mexicans felt empowered by it and through this mess only one voice is being heard. I want a place where people can share their experiences. This was no debate in my mind’s eye, but one thing repeated over and over again. I have friends on both sides of this and I have been listening to all of them and it’s been hard as hell.

If someone tells me it means something particular to them, that is their truth. Can we not hold space to at least listen?  We NEED to listen, and respect the voices who live in Mexico and honour them in their place in this living active culture.

To my dear friends who felt empowered by this carrier, who felt valued. I understand, but too many were hurt by it and I am sorry that no one got a chance to hear you. There was a language barrier, there were many whose experiences were negative, this happened so quickly from your perspective that you also must still be reeling.

The word Indio has been sullied throughout this conversation. In the English language, its primary meaning is now only that of a racial slur, when it has much greater depth than that. It was also being used as a word of empowerment among some latino Americans to take back and undo the negative, this work has been put back years.3

However, this word has caused pain and since that pain needs to also be recognized, it must be changed.

CHANGE

This did happen. Didy apologized and the wrap now has a new name.

From the Didymos – Das Babytragetuch facebook page, published November 2, 2016:

“Dear online community,
We are writing to inform you all about a change that is happening here at DIDYMOS. We have thought long and hard, have researched extensively and as a result, are issuing the following statement.

It is a sad day when a term of endearment changes with the times to be used as a racial or derogatory slur. We at DIDYMOS have always known the word “Indio” as a term of endearment but since there is now a negative association with the word for some people, this offensive meaning is not in keeping with our company philosophy and the love we wish to spread. As a result, effective immediately, we have decided to move forward and substitute the name “Indio” for a new name. This new name will be announced soon.

The pattern itself was a labour of love from our company founder, mother and role model, Erika Hoffmann, whose life goal was for parents to keep their babies close. It is a montage of historical weaves inspired by the first shawl Mrs. Hoffmann was given by friends and by classic weaving patterns or European tradition. The final pattern was achieved through the collaborative efforts of Erika Hoffmann herself and the master weavers at the mill in Germany, almost 45 years ago, using the weaving techniques and technologies readily available at the time.

This change will take some time to put into effect but we are working hard on it all. We apologise to anyone who was hurt by our use of the word “Indio”. We very much would like to thank those who have been in close contact with us from all around the world, especially from within America, discussing this matter quite intently these past days and weeks.”

VALIDATION

This one is questionably the very hardest thing to do. To acknowledge and believe it when someone says this word was ugly to them. To believe when someone says, “I am proud to be Indio” and are complemented by the carrier.

Cristi Adams, an Aboriginal Canadian:

“Are you even a poc? As an aboriginal what I’m tired of is white social justice warriors speaking louder than the folks in question. Part of being an ally is not speaking louder than the people impacted. So sick of dealing with that as a POC who has run many, many anti racism and social justice boards.  To take over a fight that isn’t yours and run with it and be louder than those impacted and to tell the people impacted that they are wrong, that is not recognizing your own privilege either.  I’m aboriginal, and I’ve seen this time and time again. It is one thing to be supportive it is quite another to turn it into a situation that revolves around you. Good on Didy for recognizing the slur and changing the name. Good on Didy for being inspired, not stealing, and creating a beautiful wrap with input from the community.
—-Signed – an aboriginal with a didy wrap conversion, who loves that the babywearing community is about LOVE and beauty and not all this anger. Also part of a strong kick ass POC community who are more than capable of speaking for themselves.”

In Canada, we have a system of taking a very deep look at troubling issues that need to be explored, our beloved Royal Commissions, our Task Forces, our Inquiries. These investigations are a long, gory process that requires us to pull everything out into the open and we hear from every person affected on the issue. These investigations make us deeply uncomfortable, and they are supposed to. More than two decades ago, it started with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Then we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Currently, we have the Inquiry into Murdered Missing Indigenous Women. Trust me when I say, the light these investigations shine into our world here in Canada is sometimes incredibly ugly. But it is important. For all the voices need to be heard.4

Through this process, we have learned how Canadian Indigenous people have had their culture suppressed, stolen, families broken, and belong to a system that ignores their voices. Most importantly of all, they have not been validated.

During the Babywearing in Canada Conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Stephanie George, an Aboriginal midwife and IBCLC. When asked by an audience member listening abroad in the United States, “What can we do?” her answer was this: “Ask them.”

Her answer was not to go in with a solution, not to talk for them, not to make the decisions on their behalf. Indigenous Peoples have had enough of others talking for them.

What have my Indigenous friends living in Mexico told me?

Directly from Angélica: “We do not need strangers telling us how to feel….”

They understand the origins of the wrap. They can talk about its weave, its similarities, its differences.

  • They feels Didymos’ company founder, Erika Hoffman, was inspired. They do not feel it was a copy.
  • They are happy their cultural traditions have found a foothold in the wider world.
  • They feel this is done from a place of love, to help parents carry their children.
  • They wanted the name to stay.
  • They want the wrap to continue to be sold.

My role in this as an ally? It is to stand by them. I’m keeping my Didymos wraps, what are you doing with yours?

_________________________
1. Melissa continues as follows: “As far as I know, Americans don’t have an equivalent cultural concept. As a group, we are quick to dissent, vocal when we disagree, and not shy about expressing ourselves.” Read the rest of her piece here.
2. Cynthia Soliz shared her experience here.
3. More definitions for Indio here.
4. More about Royal Commissions, and other Canadiana (including our quirks) located here.
5. All other quotes were pulled from the public Didymos announcement on their Facebook business page. See the post here
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