Dorothee Sölle’s “On the Swings of La Paz”

The following excerpt is from Dorothee Sölle’s Stations of the Cross: A Latin American Pilgrimage (Fortress Press, 1993. p. 108).

A cholita (a woman from the country, in traditional Indian costume) comes to the playground with her small child. They go to the swings, where just then two other women dressed in city clothes are letting their children climb into the metal swings. The women with lighter skin stand behind their children and push them vigorously so that they will fly high. They cheer chem on to fly far and high.

The dark-skinned woman stands in front of her child, pulls it close to her and lets it fly to her. The child gains impetus through closeness to her. It can see its mother the whole time. It learns the unending game of relationship: close and far, ‘I am with you’ and ‘I will never come back,’ the closer, the farther. It learns to smile and to play with smiles. It learns to flirt; it hides itself by closing its eyes at the highest point, and then lets itself be found.

The two other children, one blond, the other brunette, learn to accomplish something. They are praised, not enticed. They fly to the world, for they are supposed to conquer it. Their ‘again, again’ is a demand, not a plea. Their mothers can be replaced by other persons. The relationship is secondary; the l-it triumphs over the l-Thou. With eyes open they rush through the air. The bashful charm of the children of Indian culture is of no value; white children are weaned all too early.

But they do in fact swing higher.

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