Swirling Rumors in Expat Village of Split: Stories from a Woman Business Owner

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I wanted to start this article with seven Spanish curse words that can easily describe what it is like to be a female business owner in Split, but I’ll leave the profanity to the gossip corner.  Lord knows they are half of the problem. That’s how I felt forced to write this article: pure gossip. So, before you lend your ear to those with the colorful stories about people’s lives, and how they should be punished for them, I ask you to hear me out.

It is no secret being a female business owner is hard. Pair that with a small town, and then add an even smaller foreigner community, and you have a recipe that would send even the strongest person running away from this city.  A friend of mine said the expat community can sometimes be the ‘selo within the selo’. She nailed it this time.

I was born and raised in a small town in Honduras, and I am no stranger to small-town gossip, or tactics. In my country, you settle things the old-fashioned way, face-to-face, or with a machete. I am kidding, most of us carry guns ;). 

Open a business as a woman and be ready to constantly get asked to ‘go get the big boss’, when I speak to vendors or people interested in doing business with me, which means: go get the man in charge. You need to explain yourself that even though you are a female that you are the big boss.  I smile, give them the short version, turn around, and roll my eyes. 

When someone cheats you and you demand an explanation for why, they call you hysterical (or when you look like me, ‘a crazy Latina’).  When you demand to get paid for your graphic design work and they only give you 25% of your agreed-upon price, they call you names and even threaten your legal immigration status, because you are willing to fight for what you have earned. Although things like this happen all too often, you are never prepared for the meaner, ill-spirited people and rumors that come from your own community. 

I have played the part of crazy Latina, uneducated immigrant, helpless woman, among others, but in my most recent and cruelest role, the battered wife.  Yes, this time, they have made me out to be the victim of a domestic abuse situation, spread this horrible rumor to the expat community in town, and then went ahead and attempted to punish me and my business as the battered wife. 

I am part owner (with a British gentleman) of a small Mexican restaurant in Split called To Je Tako, and I was surprised to find out a group of foreigners boycotted my restaurant.  When speaking to one of the digital nomads in town, we found out the boycott was put in place to punish the ”American owner” based on an embellished tale about a past owner and myself.  Ironically, I am the victim in the tale and the boycott is punishing me, the supposed victim.  Victimizing me, shaming me, aiming to destroy my hard-worked business.  Is it because I am a woman? My gut tells me yes. The times of #metoo & #girlpower, are outshined by the ever so classic Split foreigner gossip

Marvin Gaye said, ‘believe half of what you see son, and none of what you hear’. Maybe Marvin spent a couple of days in Split back in the day.

How do you react to something like this? I won’t lie to you and tell you I laughed this off and felt above it. No, I am not ashamed to say I cried. I screamed. I cursed in three languages. And when the dust settled, I did what is ever so familiar to us women, I found I had to explain myself by writing this piece.

I did not write this article to be able to explain my personal actions, my life, my decisions, or the fact that this rumor is not true. We are not friends, I’m not twelve, and this is not my diary. I am writing this article because at the end of the day, I am a business owner with responsibilities to my staff, to my landlord, to my vendors, and my business partner.  I need to explain that none of them need to be punished because of this rumor.


I have been doing business in Split since 2014. I opened a tiny bar doing pretty great things at the time. We did charities for the homeless, animals, an orphanage, art exhibits with young local artists, and became the first stage to a lot of the small duets and bands you listen around in Split now. We pushed gay rights, supported local businesses, hosted famous karaoke nights and Monday quizzes, and even closed it down one Saturday evening to celebrate the civil union of two girls in love (only the seventh such ceremony in Croatia at that time).

Today, I buy my table linens from an organization in Honduras that promotes women workers, cook for local soup kitchens, support animal charities, and hire local artists. Our staff is racially diverse, LBTQ-inclusive, loyal to the bone, and I would have nothing without them. 

Why do I feel the need to tell you all this? Because actions speak louder than words. 

Writing this article was not pleasant. The first version looked like a ransom note. But ultimately, I wrote it to let people know how boycotts often affect the wrong people (especially in this case, being it a malicious lie). You punished my staff, my vendors, and my business partner—but never an “American wife-beater”. It took me one day to figure out who started this rumor, and realized how personal it was.  To the group of men that started this, pick on someone your own size. The people behind To Je Tako deserve none of this.  If you know me, or any other woman in this situation: back off, because we will go down swinging.  It is time to let sleeping dogs lie.

In the domestic violence rumor, I am the battered wife.  The boycott does not affect the non-existent American owner, but me—the battered wife owner.  If the rumor were true, the people saying the rumor would be re-victimizing me—the battered wife.  Everyone knows that there is no American involved anymore in my business.  They know every lie they tell, every time they laugh about proliferating the lie, their goal is more than to affect my business, but to hurt me as a supposed battered wife.  Imagine if this were true how every Kuna I lost I also had another band-aid ripped off the wound.  This boycott is more savage than monetary and does not even hurt the person they are told it would hurt.  So why do you keep listening to it?


If you find yourself lending an ear to local gossip, take a second to see who is trying to entertain you with it, and consider the effect of your actions after listening to it.  In the meantime, we will be the ones next to the Temple of Jupiter, selling good food, and listening to none of it.

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