jueves, 28 de abril de 2011

Luz y Libertad – Knowledge and Independence from a Base Christian Community

We’ve just concluded our week of vacation during Semana Santa, and it’s hard to believe that we have just three weeks left of our semester in Cuernavaca!

On Friday, May 15th, the Migration & Globalization students and the Social Work students visited an organization called Luz y Libertad, a 17-year-old group that strives to educate, support and serve women in theological, domestic and emotional capacities. As a Base Christian Community, one the organization’s primary functions is to provide Bible study and discussion through the lens of personal experience. Additionally, the group (comprised of four different women) provides classes that range from crafting, healthy and inexpensive vegetarian cooking, and self-esteem workshops. These classes are geared towards providing women with the knowledge of how to create their own cottage industries (and the ability to generate their own income), how to cook healthfully on a budget, and how to perceive and deal with the social inequalities between men and women in daily life. The organization asks that anyone attending the classes pay 10 pesos, but if that isn’t possible, they welcome patrons in with open arms anyway.

While the organization is full of good intent, there are struggles to be faced, mainly that the community has mixed feelings about their purpose. One of the speakers told us that as she was giving an announcement about a Luz y Libertad function after mass, a man approached her and told her angrily that the organization would be to blame for the divorce he would inevitably have in the future. Also, many of the classes will start out with plenty of members, but membership will decline as the class wears on. Why is this happening? It is quite clear that machismo prevails today in Mexico: Luz y Libertad is nowhere near being a radical feminist group (as they are providing basic skills, knowledge and emotional support to women), but they are still accused of radicalism and blamed for things they should not be blamed for. Providing women with the tools they need to be more independent is not a threat to a social structure which has been in place for so long, and yet may women are still afraid to commit to the organization or the classes. 
After our discussion, the ladies of the organization served us an incredible lunch made of the various soy, wheat germ and gluten dishes they teach in their cooking classes. The visit was very enlightening, and the existence of organizations such as these helps to prove that feminism is not monolithic – it can be religious and domestic, and it can still help women to be liberated. The next step is to fight the machismo that keeps women from taking advantage of the opportunities Luz y Libertad presents.

-Ashley Lopez (Mount Holyoke College ´12)
Photos by Alex Palomino

miércoles, 13 de abril de 2011

"No vamos a dejar de luchar" / "We´re not going to stop fighting" (Rosario Ibarra)

This past week, the Migration/Globalization students had very unique opportunities to meet with individuals and communities involved in social struggles here in México. As the politics class moves into its study of social movements, it was especially relevant to hear from people who live and breathe what could have just stayed on the pages of the class´s books. 

Senate of the Mexican Republic in Mexico City
First, we met with Doña Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, a Senator who represents the Federal District of México City. The meeting took place in the Senate of México, which was an exciting opportunity in it of itself for the group. However, the real honor was when we met with the Senator and she shared her story of why she became involved in politics in the first place. As she told us, she was living a happy “normal” life as a housewife and mother in Monterrey 36 years ago when her son was disappeared by the Mexican military and government. The term “disappeared” is used in many countries where this illegal process of kidnapping, torture and detainment is used. Individuals may or may not die in custody, but without a body it is impossible to say either way. As a result of her experience, Ms. Ibarra organized with other family members and friends, primarily mothers, of these disappeared people to pressure the government and international institutions. What they wanted was information regarding their loved ones, their release, and justice for those responsible. Although her groups have managed successes, she is still working to get her son back and to see those involved pay for their crimes. Now she represents many Mexicans on their Commission for Human Rights and continues to fight for the love of her son, her family, and the people of México.

Students listening to community members
The following day, we travelled to Atenco, a town in the state of México, which found more success in their social struggle – although the need to “fight” was also caused by the government´s actions. One day in 2001, Atenco woke up to a governmental decree saying that the majority of their ejido or community farmland was being expropriated to build an airport and industrial zone for a price of 7 pesos a square meter. In response, the community organized and told the government, “Atenco no se vende!” – Atenco is not for sale! The MG students accompanied community members to their land – which was successfully saved – and were able to see the beauty, history and importance of the land in the culture of the community. In 2006, after their victory, Atenco suffered a brutal and violent repression from the Mexican government, and the last political prisoners weren´t released until last summer in 2010. The ability to speak with some of these community leaders and people who had been directly affected by the violence made reality tangible and relevant. I personally took to heart their struggle and movement, which they have expanded to include land rights all over México, and found hope in their successes.
Photos of Atenco´s social struggle
To meet people like Senator Ibarra and the community of Atenco who use what is a terrible, horrible experience and turn that into something positive and a way to reach out to others and defend themselves is inspiring. I think we all have something to learn in what is both ordinary and extraordinary about them and their stories. To know that we all have the capacity to do what similar things to what they have done, and the fact that it doesn´t need to take a tragedy to get you on the path, either.

-Anna Loizeaux (International Resident Assistant/Teaching Assistant/Intern)