The Rough Journey to AIDS 2008: It's Rougher for Some Than for Others
August 6, 2008
Yesterday morning I navigated the wonderful Mexico City subways (the trains come within seconds! there's a section of platform reserved for women and children! there are community bulletin boards and bright colors everywhere!) with three kind and friendly women of African descent from the South American nation of Guyana, who are staying in my hostel.
On the half hour shuttle bus ride after the subway, one of them told me a bit about their country, which lies between the Caribbean and Brazil. The women work for YWCA, but paid their own way here because they want to learn how to incorporate HIV services into their work to better serve their communities.
After I joked about how convenient it was for me that the Brits colonized so much of the planet, so I can meet up with so many conference attendees who also speak English, she told me more about their travels. Each of the women paid about 2,000 US dollars for their plane tickets. It would have been $900 if they could have flown through Miami, but the US embassy denied their visa applications to do so. She said, "The worker told us to put down the name of a person we could stay with in Miami, just in case. But I think that having given that name made them think we might stay in the U.S." Not something my country wanted to see.
The women were thus set back by an additional $100+ each for the application fees, which the embassy kept. The women borrowed extensively from friends and family. "My credit card is exhausted," my new friend said.
"You know," I told her, "I didn't even have to apply for a visa to enter Mexico. I just got on the plane and said I was a tourist." And my ticket was $500.
Its always jarring to be faced with the reality of institutionalized racism, xenophobia, and exploitation of people from Global South countries. But yeah, it's also good for my health to get a reality check about my white privilege...
This article was provided by Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project.