Washing Clothes in the River   6 comments

It was around 1:00pm when my niece Carmen and I went to wash clothes at the river. I put a load of laundry into a shallow bucket called a guacal, this one about 2 feet in diameter. Carmen grabbed a guacal full of her own clothes and we trotted down to the river, passing several neighbors homes, then making our way down the steep hill of rock that brings us to the water. We chose a spot upstream from our usual place, as it was full of post-holiday swimmers, walking along jagged rocks, balancing here, hopping there. Our spot only had one good rock, which wobbled some until we shimmed it with another underneath. Carmen recruited the teenage boy (called a “bicho” in El Salvadoran Spanish) chatting with us nearby to help her build up a pile of rocks and make another washing slab. But I quickly told them to quit it, as we’d waste an hour to do it. and they were making a muddy mess of the water we were washing in. Carmen worked on the smaller rock next to mine while I fumbled along on the larger one – I needed all the help I could get.

My husband says I should wear a tank top and shorts at the river, so folks here don’t stare so much. I can’t get used to all that wet heavy stuff so I wear a two piece bikini and let them look all they want. With women pulling their entire breast out from under a shirt to breast feed just about anywhere and in front of anyone, I don’t understand the shock factor of a woman in a bikini by the river.

We finished the clothes and I washed myself with shampoo and soap, as does everyone here, before leaving. We packed up the guacal and trekked back along the river. Carmen wound her towel up, formed it into a circle, put it in on her head. Then she placed the 2 foot size guacal on top, and climbed up the steep rocky incline. Twenty+ pounds of wet clothes in the guacal, Carmen skipped along like a goat on the mountainside, as if nothing were perched on her head.

Here is a photo and comment from a man of Salvadoran descent I found when searching for photos of women washing clothes.


washing clothes in a stream - Santa Rosa de Lima

Si eres mujer y crees que tienes una vida dificil por que tienes que lavar y planchar, mira lo rudo que tiene que hacer una de mis tias para tener ropa limpia, y por cierto cuando esta quebrada no tiene agua en invierno debe caminar un par de kilómetros o sacar agua de un pozo para poder lavar.

Translated to English:  “If you are a woman and think you have a tough life because you have to wash and iron, look at the rough work one of my aunts has to do in order to have clean clothes; and in addition, when this stream doesn’t have water she must walk a couple kilometers or take water out of a well to wash clothes”

See more of Wilber Calderón’s photos here on Panoramio:   Wilber Calderón photos

6 responses to “Washing Clothes in the River

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  1. This is a great post! I know what you mean about the bikini thing. I’ve been to the beach a couple times and I’ve never worn a swimsuit; always shorts and a tank top. I don’t even have a swimsuit here.

    As for the breasts, I’ve seen more than I care to imagine. Breasts at meetings, in the park, at festivals, at a health clinic, etc. And it usually is the whole breast pulled out of the shirt. The breastfeeding doesn’t bother me and I think it’s a woman’s right. But I’m confused as to why a bikini or even short skirts are such a big deal when men here obviously see breasts all the time. Maybe it has something to do with the child. A child eating somehow makes that particular woman’s breast less desirable?

  2. Yes, considering the amount of ‘modesty’ women have in other ways the breast-feeding is odd. Some guys do get excited when they see it, at least from a few comments I have heard. oh well, web of contradictions, huh?

  3. I especially think it’s weird that a bikini is considered so provocative considering that I have seen more than my fair share of women who wear white tshirts while swimming at the beach here…with nothing underneath! Now which outfit is showing more! 🙂

  4. You all must be western women. Bikinis are NOT the norm in those communities!! Anything that is not the norm (i.e. different) will get people to stare. Breast feeding has been done for thousands of years in those cultures so…why am I wasting my time. If you like the attention, which is pretty clear you do, keep wearing that bikini.

    • Yes, Alda, bikinis will get stares. From an outside observers perspective (imagine an alien visiting from Mars), a bikini that covers the breast being more provocative > showing the entire breast with breastfeeding seems ironic. Coming back to the U.S. it is comical to see all the ways women try to hide their breasts while breastfeeding, so it seems we have the opposite problem – tiny bikinis everywhere, yet hiding under a blanket to feed your baby. I compromised on the bathing suit. Kept wearing the bikini top, which was really a haltar shape, but wore shorts with it, so not to stand out.

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