Cheryl Bear is currently touring Canada with CBM.
Visit shematters.cbmin.org to learn more.
Of course we couldn’t have a singer come visit without having a few concerts! Pairing stories with her music, Cheryl was able to unpack some of the prevalent challenges facing both indigenous people and women. Her stage was also shared with local artists who brought their own passion and experiences. For the first concert, our survival skills were tested as we drove along hair-raising roads to an isolated location, hiked down an escarpment and across a river, finally arriving at the event. We were able to arrange transportation for people from 8 different local communities with whom we have relationships, and after traveling hours to attend Cheryl played to a packed house.
The two main Indigenous groups that Cheryl was able to connect with were the Quechua and Aymara. As is often the case, the cultural exchanges involved a lot of laughing and a lot of eating! In Cochabamba the Quechua women’s association modeled clothing from around Bolivia and prepared a typical dish from each region. After traveling to the Lake Titicaca region, members of the Aymaran women’s association invited us to participate in a tradition meal called an “Aptapi” where they lay cloth on the ground and spread the food out like a picnic buffet.
As much fun as sharing food and dress is, the real connecting happed when stories were shared. One of the highlights of the trip was when Cheryl had time to sit down with the mothers from the Casa de la Amistad program. These women deal with the double stigma of being indigenous and also having their spouses serving jail time. As soon as Cheryl started recounting some of her experiences, the heads of all the women began to nod in agreement. They too shared about how difficult it can be for indigenous women to get work, how they feel misunderstood and excluded by society, and they shared their own experiences of suffering discrimination and violence. Different parts of the world, different languages, same story.
Many women shared that the most encouraging part of Cheryl’s visit was knowing that they were not alone in their struggle; they had already found strength in each other and now they have another sister from the other side of the world who walks this road with them. They journey together in sorrow, but also in hope.