“Aye! How nice it’s to fly, aye sweet momma!” The first words from “La Bruja” come to mind as I write this note from Veracruz, Mexico, the place where the song was born.
It is just a few hours flight from San Francisco, but what a great and healthy gulf opens up for my perceptions. From this distance, issues and feelings can be seen from different angles. And there is so much going on in our world today. The world-wide struggles of women is one. A virus going viral is another.
First of all, the day I write this is March 8, International Women’s Day. A day that, more than a celebration, is a commemoration of a long struggle for gender, economic and social justice for women, something that has eluded them, the world over. Never mind that they number way over 50 percent of the population of the planet.
Here in Mexico, a big march is taking place in Mexico City. One of the central issues is the protest against gender violence, resulting in an obscene number of femicides. In 2019, close to 4,000 women were murdered in Mexico, many of them by relatives, partners or men they actually knew. Those large numbers are the official numbers…and we all know that “official” and “true” are generally quite different concepts.
All over the American continent, women are gathering in a spirited example of international unity.
I checked social media and saw the amazing number of women that occupied many cities all over Chile. In Santiago, the capital, the organizers declared that the participants reached almost 2,000,000 people, mostly women. The videos and photographs seem to back that assertion, which would be a new mark in the long political history of that country. Regardless, the “official” count was slightly over 110,000 people. A number put forth by the “Carabineros,” that is the Police forces of Chile. The “carabineros” are a heavily armed institution, whose job seems “to serve and protect” some people above others. They respond, first, to those who are indeed above everyone else in the country. The historical owners of all hold power over them. They are not going to let go of their power very easily. And the cops faithfully obey.
The women’s march, which has been loud yet peaceful, was followed by a call for a National Strike, also led by women. I bet that, on March 9, “carabineros” were doing more than just miscounting the numbers of participants and that their repression was violent.
In Veracruz, Mexico, accompanied by Azucena (my partner) we attended a few events that focused on the struggle of women of Mexico. We were lucky to catch a “conversatorio” (a public conversation and discussion) that featured five women: a poet, a theater director, a photographer and two representatives of a beautiful cultural center.
To me, it was interesting to observe how there is a reluctancy to embrace the term “feminist.”
All the participants were clear examples of awesome artistry and most of their work exhibited a clear interest to represent females, but only one of them—the youngest one—declared herself a feminist.
It seemed to me, (and I raised that inquiry in the aftermath of the event) that in Mexico, as it also happens in Chile—and even in San Francisco—the weight of an unfair and untrue equivalency between “machismo” and “feminism” still holds a lot of power.
But, as the younger moderator—the one who embraced the term “feminist”—expressed at the end of the “conversatorio”: “Every woman has her own path, marked by her own generation. Our self-definition belongs to us!”
Nevertheless, it is clear that the massive response against patriarchal neoliberalism, all over the world, is being led, Hallelujah, by younger women…and men.
As far as the Coronavirus is concerned, as we check social media, around the world, including the news from the San Francisco Bay Area, Mexico seems a far more relaxed space to be.
Hand-shaking still prevails, people gather in large numbers and they dance and kiss with abandonment, health officials are actually allowed to address the masses, unlike what goes on in the Empire up north, where official petulance seem to plant fear and panic in the population.
Personally, I have been more worried about that old curse, popularly known as “Moctezuma’s revenge,” which has indeed caused havoc with the soft intestines of so many visitors from “the Land of the Free.”
Finally, I cannot keep from mentioning another event, which also happened in Chile. In the middle of last week, two famous and beloved theater artists died. They were Alejandro Sieveking—a writer and actor—and Bélgica Castro, a beloved actress. They had been married for over 60 years and they met when Alejandro was a 22-year old student in Bélgica’s acting class, when she was 36. He had written many plays with her in mind and they had collaborated with Víctor Jara, the singer and theater artist, in a company called “Teatro del Angel.”
They were perhaps the best known couple in the history of the Chilean theater.
On March 5, Alejandro died first. He was 85. On March 6, as if determined by the writer of their shared love story, Bélgica followed him. She was 99 years old.
Life, death, struggle, love, always intermingling, as I end sharing my view from next door.