By Annalisa Enrile
April 12, 2020
The first thing I thought about when the news started pouring in about COVID19 (then still referred to as the Corona Virus) was a small town in Italy where I spent the third day of my honeymoon outside of Milan. Dennis and I were about to get married when one of our kasamas (comrades) asked us if we would not mind meeting with a group of domestic workers that they were trying to organize in Italy. Short sidenote: Italy is one the main destinations for Pilipino migrant workers especially in the area of caregivers, nannies or domestic workers. Of course, we agreed quickly, wanting to have the opportunity to help wherever we could.
It was August in Italy and it was hot. A dry heat that left us slipping into posh stores and cafes waiting to meet our contact. He found us and over the best cup of espresso I ever had, explained the town of Bergamo and the five workers that we would be meeting with in the lower city. Mostly, he wanted me to talk to the women about vulnerabilities they were experiencing in terms of gender violence- though that wasn’t how he put it. I think he said something more like- ask them how they are doing working in their boss’ homes. Do they ever feel scared? Ask them about how much they make so that you can tell them how much they should be making. After planning, we took a long walk around Milan and said ciao until the next day.
Keepingit100.Solutions is built by strong women and our allies. It is a manifestation of our dreams, our needs, our struggles and our triumphs. It will be a place where we can share resources, construct our own marketplace, join live events and experiences, and tell our stories.
Bergamo still is composed of Città Alta, or Upper Town encircled by massive defensive systems making it a UNESCO World Heritage site. We met in the lower part of the city, in a small villa that housed all of the workers we were meeting with. When they explained that they didn’t need a big place because they were in-home caregivers or domestic workers, I thought about my aunts who were nurses in San Jose living with 7 or 8 women in rotation because they picked up so much overtime or worked in different hospitals. It was a warm gathering where they celebrated our marriage with champagne and chicken adobo while we talked about workers’ rights, asylum, politics and social structures. We talked until late into the night and I was reminded that I could find my community wherever I went.
Fast forward 18 years later and I wondered how they were doing- they meaning the migrants in Italy; the ones that never made the news. I wondered about those Pilipinos, about the Nigerians selling fake purses in the streets and the Chinese garment workers in the fashion districts of Milan. In the midst of stories about how the country was not prepared and images of military trucks taking away piles of bodies, I wondered how many were brown and black bodies of people who lived and worked in a country that would continue to not count them as their own.
Here, an ocean and a continent away, I had similar thoughts about the vulnerable and marginalized. Being a social worker and teaching social workers, as the world changed, all I could think of were those who did not have my privilege- those who could not work from home or those who didn’t even have a home. As I watched schools close, I wondered at how parents would cope to care for their children, much less be able to sufficiently homeschool them. When nonessential businesses shut down, I started to count how many colleagues, friends and family members I had that relied on hourly wage work, owned a small business or survived in the gig economy.
For a moment, I was overwhelmed. I felt something that I am not used to feeling- I felt helpless. And, then, I began to notice that undeniable building of connection. People will find ways to be there for each other. I saw the ingenuity that people engaged in and the innovation to make a real impact. I saw the creativity and beauty that was being put out into this new, strange world. I was reminded about the resilience that we are all capable of. So, I shook off all those overwhelming emotions like fear and anxiety and stress and I did what I am good at- I looked found community and I rose up with them.
This website is a testament to the resilience and strength of people, especially the women out there who are doing their best to thrive. I have always put my faith in the power of sisterhood and this website comes out of that. Keepingit100.Solutions is built by strong women and our allies. It is a manifestation of our dreams, our needs, our struggles and our triumphs. It will be a place where we can share resources, construct our own marketplace, join live events and experiences, and tell our stories. I hope that people come here just as we would enter each other’s spaces and find safety, kindness, art, diversion, joy and connection. That’s my simple hope during these very complex times…. because, I am in Los Angeles, but in my soul, there will always be Bergamo.