The viral conversation in TED of Argentina Mayra Arena about poverty

"It is a lie that the poor are poor because they want to live, that life is natural because it is the only one that knows it."

Who makes this claim is Mayra Arena, a 26-year-old Argentinian, who is described as a collector of all prejudices about the"arm": she is the daughter of a single mother, she does not know her father, she has many brothers who do not have a father, she left school at the age of 13 and became a mother at the age of 14.

"If I can change the vision (about poverty) of a person, I am satisfied", he tells BBC Mundo in a telephone conversation.

"What do the poor have in their heads?"

The story of the Mayra Arena became known after a TED lecture in late August in Bahía Blanca, a city in the south of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she spoke about poverty from a different perspective.

"What do the poor have in their heads? They probably never heard anyone ask. They ask him when they see that we have many children, when they see us as violent, when they see us wearing shoes that have been brought from another planet, but especially when they see that the poor are still poor"says Arena at the start of his lecture, which went viral within a few days and had already reached half a million reproductions at the time of publication of this article.

Mayra Arena reflects further the prejudices from which she tends to look at poverty and he shares his own experience of growing up in Villa Caracol, one of the most modest neighborhoods in Bahía Blanca, and how he came out of that reality.

"One begins to realize that he is poor when he enters the school system, and violence is beginning to be a way to take revenge on others for everything they have and not one", describes Arena in the conversation.

"We mistakenly accept the idea that if we are violent, we have another respect. Because when you start to become violent, they no longer ask you why you broke shoes, why your rucksack is so old, why you never bring what the teacher (teacher) asks for … ", she says.

Poverty in numbers

The story of Mayra Arena was already known in a letter she had published on Facebook last March under the title "The advantage of being poor"in Argentina, that had 72,000 responses and was shared more than 57,000 times.

There the young woman tells about her youth in the village in the midst of poverty and marginality.

"From the pibas, my old marginal we asked every day, we went to the bakeries because they are the ones who give the best things, and with what we came back to eat," says Arena in the Facebook post.

"When they did not give us the neighborhood, we opened more and more until we reached the center, so I never shared the philosophy of not giving money to the child that asks: the only thing you achieve is that you have to walk more, because that boy does not go home empty handed, "he adds.

In Argentina, aors 13 million people live in poverty, who represents a 30% of the populationaccording to measurements from the Observatory of the Argentinean social debt of the Argentine Catholic University (UCA).

A family of two adults with two children of school age who have a home must have an income of more than 21,176.61 pesos (about US $ 536) per month to prevent them falling into poverty, according to the latest measurement of July of the Institute of Statistics and Statistics. Census of the country (Indec).

And to not & # 39; needy & # 39; to be, the same type of family needs $ 8,538.95 per month (about $ 216).

This data does not reflect the strong devaluation that the country has experienced over the past two weeks.

Compared with 18 Latin American countries, measured by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Argentina is ranked according to the poverty rate that is lower than that of Honduras (65.7%), Mexico (50, 6%) and El Salvador (32.7%), according to the 2016 data.

The number of poor people in Latin America reached 186 million in 2016, or 30.7% of the population, while extreme poverty affects 10% of the population, equivalent to 61 million people, reported the Cepal.


Currently, Arena, a Political Science student at the National University of Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, is defined as "Classless".

"I am nowhere, I will never be middle class because of my origins and I feel low in the classroom, but in a way I am not of the lower class because I had access to university education and a lot of other things that lower class are much more degraded, "he tells BBC World.

For Arena it is easiest for people who are poor to gather resentment.

"I had people who opened the doors of their house and thanks to that I realized that I was poor and that what I was living was not good," he says.

"So instead of continue to hold grudges for people who have more than meI think I should deposit that energy into it Awarenesstizar that no one chooses where to be born"he says.

According to the young woman, the solution of the poverty problem is not only a responsibility of the state, but must come from every corner of society.

"Society must look at the poor with less contempt, because if you look at it with less contempt, that poor person will be less angry.", reflects.

"If I am where I am now, thanks to the solidarity of my neighbors and many people who have given me opportunities, I would like to see many more neighbors like mine," he concludes.

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