“Come suck the rich teat, my sweet daughter.” That’s what the mom said to her infant daughter right in front of her father and all the other passengers on the combi. Being a prudish North American, I was caught between embarrassment and disbelief and expressed it through immature nervous giggling.
Now lets rewind. If you don’t know, a combi is Peru’s main form of “public transportation.” I put that in quotes because its nothing like the idea of public transit in America. Firstly, its not owned by the city. Combis are operated by small independent companies. They are usually a van about the size of an 18 passenger which they pack to the brim with people (sometimes passengers are even hanging out the door). Just about every time I get on a combi, I am reminded of how personal space here in Peru doesn’t really exist. Its something that will make you come crawling back to SEPTA asking it to forgive you for all the awful things you ever said about it.
Although I have ridden on combis countless times, had my face in funky combi armpits, and breathed the hot, sweaty, non-conditioned air of a car filled with people, Peru’s lack of personal space was never so clear to me as the day the lady pulled out her boob in front of her dad and referred to her breast as tita rica. I think the thing that shocked me most was that the woman’s father and everyone else on the combi didn’t even think twice about it.
Real talk, I have never seen so many boobs in my life before coming here. Most times I see them on public transport but you can catch them just about anywhere really — in the municipality building, in the market, in restaurants, and there are even breastfeeding competitions — some volunteers have had the honor of being judges! And if you’re real lucky you can catch my host mom whipping hers out for fun. Her personal favorite is to pull her sister-in-laws nipple out her niece’s mouth, pull hers out, and then shove it in her niece’s face to see if she’ll try to drink out of it. The last time it happened we were in the middle of dinner – yup.
See in Peru, breastfeeding isn’t something that should be shamed or done in the dark. Its something extremely natural because, well, it just is. If you would have asked me before coming here if I would find public breastfeeding shocking in any way, I would have told
you, “Of course, not!” A lot of us are often guilty of thinking we’re more open minded than we really are. But when we are finally faced with a situation our biases love to show up and out act out for company. In my case, I realized I was more puritanical than I originally thought. In that one moment of shock and embarrassment on the combi, ya’ll might as well have thrown one of them bonnets on me and sat me down somewhere to churn butter.
Now that I’ve been here for almost half a year and have seen countless boobies and I’ve joined the ranks of the Peruvians who could care less if you pull your breasts out whenever and where ever to feed your baby. And although I never really find my rides on combis pleasant, I do have to appreciate them and the mom’s that breastfeed on them for showing me that feeding your child in the most natural way possible isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
Thank you boobs on the bus, keep doing what ya’ll doin’.