Desnudas in Times Square

Desnudas in Times Square a valid business for Latinas or sexual objectification

Desnudas in Times Square

Desnudas in Times Square

By now, you have probably heard of the commotion caused by some Latinas in New York City posing as “Desnudas,” a practice that has been increasingly profitable and apparently popular since 2013: women who parade the Times Square pedestrian plaza topless and covered in body paint to model for photos in exchange for tips.

Living in the New Jersey/New York region for now over 25 years, I would have not paid attention to the matter if it was not because Latinas were involved. Little that happens in the Big Apple neither gets your attention nor surprises you anymore. However, somehow it bothered me that the story in the New York Times mentioned specifically Latinas, and given the name of the act, I assume they must have started it.

As a disclosure, I need to say that I’m a girl of the sixties, not afraid of the sexual revolution, and a moderate feminist. Moreover, for about 10 years, I practiced nudism way back when I was not that well-known in the business environment. I even briefly lived in a nudist community in Florida –it was not as hot as you imagine.

I have told publicly the story that, when I starting doing online research to start, it was very discouraging to see that the first positions on a Google search for the word “Latinas” would be related to “hot Latinas” or “meet Latinas escorts” and all kinds of similar services offered. I decided it was my challenge to then try to contribute to change that image, knowing how much accomplishment is rampant in our community with Hispanic women making strides in all industries and walks of life. Unfortunately, still very less promoted by mainstream media than, of course, the “Desnudas.”

“The earliest sighting of a desnuda seems to date to the summer of 2013, according to posts on social media. But this summer, on any given day, there are at least a dozen young women, primarily Latinas, of all heights and body shapes, strolling through the pedestrian plazas, trying to capitalize on this suggestive performance art,” says the article on the New York Times.

But is this really performance art?

Andy Golub's Body Paint Art

Artist Andy Golub’s Body Paint Art – NYC Body Painting Day

Body painting is not a new artistic expression; moreover, it was practiced in the majority of tribalist cultures around the world from ancient to recent times. From the arrest of Max Factor, Sr. in 1933 at the World’s Fair in Chicago for painting a nude model to the sixties movement of body art and personal mythologies, body painting has been used as a way to gain public attention in political demonstrations, or to express freedom of speech thus protected by the First Amendment.

“If the nudity is the only way to express a certain concept or idea or viewpoint, yes, most likely it would be considered protected speech under the First Amendment. Or if the person ‘speaking’ by nudity had no other means of expression, yes, most likely it would be considered protected speech under the First Amendment. Factors such as the location where the nudity took place, who witnessed the nudity (those who expected to see such a display or those who would have likely not expected such a display in the given setting) would come into play as well in a court decision, but likely a case could be made for the viewpoint expressed or the necessity of the method used, that is, being nude to make one’s point,” says, an organization that promotes naturism as a way of life.

So what are these Latinas really expressing with their act?

Ms. Ovalles, who is from Venezuela, had been living in Miami and working as a waitress at a Colombian restaurant when a cousin, Charly Santos, asked if she would like to work with his wife, Paola Peña, in Times Square. He explained the job. Ms. Ovalles was open to the idea but wondered how much money she could make. After Mr. Santos showed her videos of the desnudas on YouTube, she succumbed to the allure of adventure and moved to New York in April.

“Her daily income varies, she said, but it averages about $300 — around $100 more than she was making in Miami. She said she gets anywhere from $5 to $20 in tips for each photo.

“’I don’t do nothing bad because the people like it,’ Ms. Ovalles said. ‘It’s like any other job in another place.’”

The “performers” accept that the Desnudas act entitles an exchange of money for some sort of service provided, in this case, posing for pictures taken with by-passers. And I believe that is the point that keeps me itching: I don’t know if their activity qualifies as public pornography but in my view it does come very close.

And again, I’m no Christian fundamentalist or easily disturbed by sexual expressions but do not shovel it up my nose. Consenting adults that engage in any kind of private encounter can do as much and go as far as the law allows –in order to protect them to harm each other.

Chilean artist Jeampiere Dinamarca Poque's body paint

Chilean artist Jeampiere Dinamarca Poque’s body paint

Which brings me to the point of my rumblings here: as it is, our Latina community is perceived as a community that is daring and sexual, a community that is better known for its examples of sex divas than its Nobel prices. This pressure causes a great harm in every aspect of our lives and that of our daughters.

Sexual objectification of the body is a strain in women’s fight for equality. “When women and girls are targets of objectification, they begin seeing themselves through others’ perceptions,” says Deanna Michalopoulos, writer at Bustle. “Self-objectification breeds shame and anxiety, draining mental resources, and even compromising physical abilities… Overcoming ‘wage gaps’ and ‘confidence gaps’ requires a massive surge of mental energy. Throwing in a minimal preoccupation with ‘thigh gaps’ isn’t exactly creating a culture conducive to women ‘leaning in,’” she brilliantly states.

In my view, by throwing paint on their bodies for money Desnudas are tinting a whole community of Latinas that are working hard at changing stereotypes and gaining the reputation of accomplished women we very well deserve. What is your take on the topic?



Elections and small business

How your 2014 vote affects your small business

Elections and small business

My book “¡Hola, amigos! A plan for Latino Outreach” was published at the end of 2010 when Latinos had just helped elect President Obama. The country was trying to recover from a hard recession, and comprehensive immigration reform was one of the urgent topics Latinos were ready to see happening. I, on the other hand, was ready to thrive with my book and my business.

However, a hard-line Republican House opposed the bill and since then, comprehensive immigration reform is still waiting in the sidelines. Do you think that affected my business? You bet!

A record 25.2 million Latinos or 11 percent of all voters are eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, says a report from the Pew Hispanic Center. However, it is believed that less than five percent are eligible to vote in states with close Senate or gubernatorial races, and turnout is usually very low at mid-term elections.

Are these important considerations for your business?  Do you work hard at your business? Well, I do and most of my main clients depend on government subsidies and grants in order to hire my services. In addition, I provide training and staff development to organizations that want to reach out and attract Latinos to their services. Comprehensive immigration reform is an important issue for these organizations because federal and state subsidies and grants do not allow those services to be offered to undocumented immigrants in many cases. So who wins the Senate or the House or the local offices is a very crucial issue for my business, regardless of my political convictions.

Access to capital and government resources, taxes and programs for small businesses and even translation of those documents into Spanish are all areas in which your small business might be affected by the people who are elected to implement policies and procedures and will impact your livelihood and your future.

Now, you make decisions for your business every day, right? You decide who you hire, who works for you, what they need to do to improve your business and help you achieve success. However, when it comes to government, we let other people make those same decisions for us by not showing up to vote. We complaint about how busy we are, how we cannot leave the office or the store, or justify why we cannot take a couple of hours off from our hectic schedule.

Government officials, despite they might believe they are a special “class,” are really our employees, the People’s employees. We hire them by voting, we decide what job they are better suited to do by electing them to different offices and we even decide how much we pay them –well, in the case of this Congress, they have that prerogative and I believe they really deserve a demotion!

So for me, it is really hard to understand why people, and especially small business owners, do not get out and vote. They are leaving the most important decision of their businesses in other people hands; people who do not have their best interest, and certainly have theirs in mind.

Are taxes a big issue for your company? Are you looking to obtain a grant or subsidy next year to grow your business? Is your state offering programs to companies expanding globally? Are you offering benefits such as 401K plans and health insurance to your employees to motivate retention and reduce turnover? Are your employees getting paid enough to become your best customers?2014 elections

All these considerations should be on your drafting board when elections’ time come; not only what Party better represents your human and civil rights but also, who represents your economic interest and who will work with you to provide the best policies and programs to help you sustain and succeed in your business. Remember it when November 4th comes!


Rebecca Garcia, co-founder, CoderDojo NYC

RebeccaGarcia_Geek Rebecca Garcia, 23, developer evangelist at Squarespace, and co-founder at CoderDojo NYC  became the youngest person ever to receive a White House Champion of Change Award for Tech Inclusion last year.

A self-taught web developer, Garcia started at web development and social good at Do Something, a social cause marketing organization working on cause campaigns ranging from arts education to homelessness.

She is now the Developer Evangelist at Squarespace and co-founder of CoderDojo NYC, a non-profit dedicated to improve the lives of young children and teens by teaching them web, game and app development. She is the former CTO of Greatist, a health fitness and wellness media startup.

In 2013, Garcia received the U.S. White House Champion of Change for ‘Tech Inclusion’ award for her efforts to bring STEM education to underrepresented communities and for publishing ‘The Next Generation of Creators in Tech’.

Her journey into technology began through front-end web development, and interest in HTML & CSS and strategy video games. During middle school, her sister sponsored her to attend a summer program at MIT where she learned her side passion–making websites. Garcia then went on to teach at that same summer program at MIT, where she was inspired to start CoderDojo NYC.

“Our mission at CoderDojo NYC is to make technology education free and open to youth, as part of the larger CoderDojo movement that began in Ireland. Currently there are over 300 chapters in 30 countries around the globe. This led me to consulting remotely for the Hello World Foundation in Ireland to help provide resources to empower youth in becoming creators not consumers through tech.”

Read a complete interview with Rebecca Garcia at Geekettes



domestic violence, purple purse

Finances the ugly trap in domestic violence, my story

domestic violence, purple purseSomething I don’t talk about often: I was in a marriage that started great and went wrong, very wrong. I had no control over money, and I had to ask for it even to buy the minimum grocery shopping.

I was a college professor in Argentina, had a large network of family and friends who supported and cared for me, and an independent career as professional architect. My life was looking up after a bad divorce: I had finally found a companion for the rest of my life.

But after a couple of years, he started complaining there was no opportunity in Argentina, a claim that can be truth at any given time in a country with a rocky economy. Although I was at the pinnacle of my career, teaching at the university and making excellent money with job security, we decided to emigrate.

He left with a promise of a job and landed in New Jersey. I stayed behind to sell all our belongings. The kids were excited, a new life in a promising country.

Just several months after we landed…

As a hard worker, he had found two excellent positions and started making good money. I was sustaining the house, the children’s adaptation, and helping him build a business. I had no career of my own, but I thought it was fine to sacrifice a little for someone who was giving me so much.

Soon this wonderful man started changing, his moods and his manners altered, he was either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Nothing was satisfying enough, he became jealous and demanding; the children bothered him; we all started walking on egg shells.

In a new situation and a new country, I had very few people I could trust. Although I’m easy to make friends and I spoke good English, there were cultural barriers, and the adaptation was exhausting. My sixth sense advised me I had to do something for myself: I went back to grad school.

Money was coming in but I had no control over credit cards or checking accounts, having to ask for it to buy even the minimum grocery shopping. I kept thinking his mood swings were related to work pressure but soon, the yelling, the fights and the violence started to escalate. Luckily, I was never physically harmed but not because he didn’t try.

Through a friend, I found a women’s organization with support groups in New Jersey. I felt ashamed and thought it was my fault. I met a judge and a teacher in the group, which told me domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money or education.

Through my friend’s husband, I told him he had to leave or I would ask for a restraining order – which I never did. I was terrified he was going to take vengeance on me or the kids.

Slowly, I started a new life with my children. I got a job, and new friends that brought to my life great joy and support. I found a room-mate who kept an eye on the children while I was at work –they were already teens. Happiness came back into the house and I never looked back.

I have become a successful business woman, with a great career and a group of friends and colleagues that are there for me every time I need them. Yes, there were other relationships in my life but I never gave up my economic independence, ever again. Learning to make my own decisions have been the biggest lesson I have ever attained.

Don’t be afraid, make the call and ask for help!

National Domestic Violence Hotline Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and information about shelters, legal advocacy, health care centers, and counseling.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)     1-800-787-3224 (TDD)


According to the National Latin@ Network – a project of Casa Esperanza:

  • About 20-25 percent of Latinas will experience intimate partner violence or IPV during their lifetime
  • This rate is approximately the same as for women from other racial/ethnic groups. In fact, a recent study found no significant difference across racial groups once socioeconomic status was taken into consideration.
  • Reported rates of IPV were lower for Mexican immigrants (13.4%) than for women of Mexican descent born in the United States (16.7%).
  • Immigrant women (including Latinas) who are married are more likely to experience IPV than unmarried women.
  • A study that included 2,000 Latinas found 63.1 percent of women who identified being victimized in their lifetime (i.e., interpersonal victimization such as, stalking, physical assaults, weapon assaults, physical assaults in childhood, threats, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, etc) reported having experienced more than one victimization, with a 2.56 times average.
  • In a sample of over 300 pregnant Latinas, IPV during pregnancy was reported at 10% for physical abuse and 19% for emotional abuse.

Seeking help:

  • Latinas reported seeking access to shelters less than women from other ethnic/racial groups; this is especially true for immigrant Latina survivors.
  • Of the Latinas who experience abuse, about half of them never report the abuse to authorities.
  • Latinas prefer to tell family members, female friends, or neighbors about IPV and utilize informal resources for help while non-Latinas may be more likely to tell health care workers or clergy
  • Nearly half of Latinas in one study did not report abuse to authorities, possibly due to a variety of reasons, including fear and lack of confidence in the police, shame, guilt, loyalty and/or fear of partners, fear of deportation, and previous experience with childhood victimization.
  • Low-acculturated Latinas (both abused and non-abused) are less likely to seek and use formal social services than their more acculturated counterparts.

The National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities is a project of Casa de Esperanza that builds bridges and connections among research, practice and policy to advance effective responses to eliminate domestic violence and to promote healthy relationships within Latin@ families and communities.

For donations, go to Purple Purse Foundation