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Panel discusses gender and politics in the Andes

| Monday, April 10, 2017

Subject of the documentaries Soy Andina and Soy Andina II: The Return, Nelida Silva spoke alongside associate producer of both films, Doris Loayza, and associate political science professor Guillermo Trejo in a panel discussion that examined local politics and gender in rural Peru.

Silva said she was born and raised in the rural Andean town of Llamellin, Peru but moved to New York when she was young and lived there for 20 years. In New York, Silva said she worked as an accountant before eventually returning to her hometown.

“I decided to back to my village to teach women, so they could earn some money,” she said.

Silva said she was proposed as a candidate for mayor of Llamellin, though she initially struggled to decide whether or not to run for office.

“I wasn’t sure,” she said. “Candidates are seen as corrupt people.”

The documentary “Soy Andina II: The Return” details Silva’s campaign to be mayor. Silva said she ran on a platform of economic development and ultimately lost the election.

Traditional gender roles often deter women from becoming involved in politics, but her candidacy demonstrates womens capabilities, Silva said.

“Despite the macho system, which is dominated by males, there is more space for women,” she said. However, there were more receptive young people — some men, too, but not those who had a [stake] in politics.”

Loayza said producing a movie featuring Silvas political campaign was an arduous task that presented constant challenges, especially in terms of objectivity.

“My role was not easy,” Loayza said. “We had to be objective.”

Loayza said making two films about the same place brought about some challenges, especially concerning the locals’ perceptions of the documentaries.

“The townspeople were developing the idea that the footage from the town was going to be big and disseminated internationally, which made it hard,” she said.

Trejo said the film almost never discusses the country of Peru at large because Peruvian politics has a “more local dimension.”

“There’s this idea that you leave but you never leave,” he said, “We are living in a reality with the question of universal citizenship. We are not trees. You don’t belong to one place.”

According to Trejo, Silva’s gender played an integral role in the success of her campaign.

“[Silva] was facing two enemies: political machines and the question of gender,” Trejo said. “It was interesting and infuriating. It is hard for a woman to be heard — not to speak up, because she was, but the audience wasn’t listening. It doesn’t matter if you have the [microphone].”

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