No Bunnies Were Killed in the Making of this Blog Post

August 30, 2007


In my work, I had an interesting contact with a young Peruvian woman who attended graduate school in industrial engineering in the United States.

When I met her, she introduced herself as “Mary.”

Thinking she was over-anglicizing her name, I addressed her as “Maria.”

“No, my name is ‘Mary,’” she politely insisted.

I’m polite in person even though not on the Internet, so I addressed her as Mary from then on. However, as I get older, I’ve become less worried about offending people by asking stupid questions, so I recently asked her why a woman from Peru would be named “Mary.”

“My father loves American movies,” she replied. “For example, his favorite movie is Gone with the Wind, so one of my sisters is named ‘Vivian.’” (I forget what American “Mary” movie star she is named after.)

When she meets other Hispanic people, they are equally befuddled when she introduces herself, “Hola, I am Mary from Peru.”

I asked her what caused her to become an engineer. (Higher education for women is a tradition in her family. One sister is a psychiatrist specializing in working with children. Another sister is working on her doctorate in linguistics in Spain. A brother is a BMW mechanic in Brazil.)

“When I was in school [in Peru] my guidance counselor suggested as I was good in math I should become an accountant as that was a suitable career for a woman. I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be an accountant, so I became an engineer.’


After she received her undergraduate engineering degree in Peru, she applied for graduate school in the United States and was accepted. When I first met her, she was just starting school. To work herself through school, she got a job at a nursing home. She looks like someone from a poster about the Incas, and while her English is good, she speaks with a strong Hispanic accent. I imagine someone might have looked at her taking care of bed pans and the like and thought, “Oh, my gosh, another illegal immigrant taking jobs away from Americans.”

She graduated with a Masters degree in industrial engineering and now works for an American utility company. Although she is soft-spoken and very polite, she is obviously a person with a lot of determination and an ability to stand up for herself. She said when she started her job and would be introduced at a meeting; she had to point out from time to time that she wasn’t an “exchange student” or an “intern,” but a person with a Masters degree in engineering. (Also, I am sure she was “legal” during her entire time in the United States.)

As I also have become less reticent about asking people personal questions, I asked her whether she is a Catholic. Yes, she said, though the rather “PC” way she described her beliefs made me think of what I describe as “low agnosticism.” However, I try not to bore people to death in person as I do on the Internet (as it’s more difficult to “scroll by” in person), I did not explain to her about radical agnosticism.

However, I did ask her about attitudes toward homosexuals in Peru. She described something like a cultural “Don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude—if you don’t bother other people with your life style they won’t bother you. Sometimes I suspect the Peru she describes to me is a little idealized, but I generally avoid telling people from countries where I’ve never been about their own country, so I mostly listen to what she has to tell me.


One Response to “No Bunnies Were Killed in the Making of this Blog Post”

  1. teaspoon Says:

    I know that the way she describes her culture’s attitude towards homosexual is quite different from the attitude in Ecuador, which is nearby and culturally similar in many respects. But I think that telling people about their own countries is probably not the best idea as well. I have gotten quite a bit of that while traveling, and while I mostly have agreed with their assessments, it hasn’t always led to enjoyable discussions.

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