Entertainment Music

A Nanny Obtained 15 Minutes of Fame. An Trade Stays within the Shadows.

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The story of Liliana Melgar, a Bolivian migrant who left for Spain 15 years ago, mirrors the trajectory of thousands and thousands of home staff like her who clear, wash, cook dinner and deal with youngsters in households world wide.

Besides that Ms. Melgar occurs to work within the house of Shakira, the Colombian famous person.

Shakira’s latest music video, “El Jefe” (“The Boss”), that includes the Mexican band Fuerza Regida, portrays the lifetime of poor immigrants with huge desires, who’re caught working for unhealthy employers who make a number of cash that by no means trickles down. Towards the tip of the three-minute clip, Ms. Melgar makes a cameo look as Shakira sings, “Lili Melgar, this music is for you since you have been by no means paid severance.”

The video has thrust Ms. Melgar — who was reportedly fired by Shakira’s former accomplice Gerard Pique, a Spanish soccer participant, earlier than being rehired by Shakira — into an sudden highlight and raised the profile of the roughly 76 million home staff world wide.

The New York Occasions tried to achieve Shakira, who now lives in South Florida, and Ms. Melgar, however acquired no response. An agent who represents Mr. Pique didn’t reply to a request for a remark.

Home staff play a very essential position in households throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the place about 1 in 5 employed women are domestic workers, based on the Worldwide Labor Group, the second highest price on the planet after the Center East.

Ms. Melgar’s cameo within the video, which has been streamed more than 57 million times on YouTube, is a type of vindication following the lack of her job — lifted up by a well-known and rich feminine boss. However her case is an exception to how home employee have fared lately.

Earlier than the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020, home staff in most Latin American and Caribbean nations had gained new rights that set caps on weekly work hours, established minimal wages, created incentives for employers to signal labor contracts and imposed age limits.

However the pandemic, which cratered economies throughout the area, pummeled home staff, inflicting lots of them to lose their jobs. The business has not totally recovered.

“To us, it seems like we’re nonetheless residing by way of Covid-19,” mentioned Ernestina Ochoa, 53, a home employee in Lima, Peru, who helped discovered the Nationwide Union for Home Staff, an advocacy group. “In the event you had your wage lowered, you by no means had it elevated once more.”

Most of the rights that home staff had gained earlier than the pandemic have been rooted in an early wave of legislation in Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay and Colombia that was spearheaded by staff who organized labor unions.

“​​Essentially, paid home work is a job that exists in societies with excessive financial inequality,” mentioned Merike Blofield, a political science professor on the College of Hamburg, in Germany, and an knowledgeable on home staff in Latin America.

Entry to home work is a given “for those who’re born right into a better-off class,” she added.

Whereas most governments within the area have ratified international agreements making certain labor rights for home staff, advocates say the pandemic weakened accountability for employers who violated legal guidelines. In some circumstances, housekeepers were prevented from leaving homes they labored in over fears that they might catch Covid and unfold it to their employers’ households.

The charges of staff who work underneath a signed contract and are eligible for presidency advantages and safety — a course of generally known as formalization — is uneven throughout the area.

A 2020 examine by the Worldwide Labor Group discovered that whereas Uruguay had a 70 % formalization price amongst home staff, the speed in lots of Central American and Caribbean nations was lower than 10 %.

Ms. Ochoa, who has labored as a nanny, an grownup caretaker and a housekeeper, has been a home employee in Lima, the Peruvian capital, since she was 11. Ms. Ochoa’s mom, following a well-recognized path for a lot of home staff, moved to Lima from a rural space to work as a moist nurse for a rich white household, in addition to to scrub different houses.

“Again then, we have been younger ladies,” Ms. Ochoa mentioned, “however we might do the work of adults.”

In 2020, a regulation handed in Peru that requires home staff to be no less than 18, however Ms. Ochoa mentioned the federal government had proven little curiosity in implementing the statute.

“Proper now, we nonetheless have ladies working, we nonetheless have teenagers working,” she mentioned. “The federal government doesn’t see what’s taking place. There’s no various for fogeys to say, ‘OK, my daughters gained’t should work as a result of the federal government will assist them.’”

The difficult relationship between Latin American households and the employees they depend upon has change into extra overtly mentioned lately, partly as a result of depictions in common tradition, together with in music and movies, have helped focus consideration on a largely invisible work pressure.

The Oscar-winning film “Roma,” set in Mexico within the Seventies, featured an Indigenous nanny who took care of a white household in Mexico Metropolis and have become enmeshed of their day by day dramas. The film, which was launched in late 2018, spurred conversations about how Latin Individuals think about home staff a part of their households, whilst they’re underpaid, exploited or abused.

And in 2011, {a photograph} was revealed in a Colombian journal that featured a rich white household sitting on an opulent terrace whereas two Black maids held silver trays within the background, setting off an uproar and highlighting the racial divisions that exist amongst many home staff and their employers.

Nonetheless, historical past was made final yr in Colombia when the nation elected its first Black vp, Francia Márquez, who had labored as a housekeeper.

Santiago Canevaro, an Argentine sociologist who has written in regards to the relationships between home staff and their employers, mentioned home work was so frequent in Latin America as a result of there was much less entry to personal or government-funded providers, like baby care facilities or nursing houses, than in additional developed areas.

As extra girls have entered the work pressure, households have change into extra depending on nannies and housekeepers, lots of whom should not essentially conscious of their authorized rights.

“The worker is handled as a type of object,” Dr. Canevaro mentioned. “In actual fact, when marriages collapse, one of many choices they make is what to do with the home worker.”

And since discrimination towards marginalized teams remains to be prevalent in Latin America, many Indigenous and Black girls flip to home work as the one viable strategy to help themselves and their households and are sometimes abused, advocates mentioned.

“It’s a relentless battle to advocate for your self in your office,” Ms. Ochoa mentioned, “and say issues like: ‘No, ma’am. My ethnicity and my pores and skin colour are Black, however I’ve a reputation. My identify is Ernestina.’”