Protected: THEM AND US. VII. – The Smallest Ones 3. The Compañeras – The very long path of the Zapatista women.
THEM AND US
VII. – The Smallest Ones 3.
3. – Las Compañeras – The very long path of the Zapatista women.
NOTA: We continue with some fragments from the sharing of the Zapatista women, the same ones that make up part of the notebook of text entitled “Participation of women in autonomous government.“ In these fragments, the compañeras talk about how they see their own history of struggle as women and, on the way, bring down some of the sexist, racist and anti-Zapatista ideas that, in all of the political specter, there are about women, about indigenous women and about the Zapatistas.
Good morning, everyone. My name is Guadalupe. My town is Galilea in the Monterrey Region. As you heard, there are regions that don’t have an autonomous municipio. I come from a region where there is no autonomous municipio. My position is education promoter and I represent Caracol II “Resistance and Rebelliousness for Humanity” in the Los Altos Zone of Chiapas. To begin I am going to present a small introduction so that we are able to enter the theme.
We know that from the beginning of life women had a very important role in society, in the peoples, en las tribes. Women didn’t live like we live now. They were respected; they were most important for the family’s preservation. They were respected because they give life just like we now respect the Mother Earth that gives us life. In that time the woman had a very important role but with history and with the arrival of private property that was changing.
Upon the arrival of private property the woman was relegated, passed to another level and what we call “patriarchy” arrived with the plunder of women’s rights, with the plunder of land. It was then with the arrival of private property that the men began to command. We know that with this arrival of private property three great evils were presented, which are the exploitation of everyone, men and women, but more the women, as women are also exploited by this neoliberal system We also know that with it came the oppression of men towards women for being women and we also suffer as women at this time discrimination for being indigenous. Then we have these three great evils. There are others but right now we aren’t talking about that.
We inside the organization, with such a lack of rights as women, saw it necessary to struggle for the equality of rights between men and women. It was how our Women’s Revolutionary Law was decided. We know that we here in the Altos Zone perhaps have not had big advances. The advances have been small; they are slow but we are advancing, compañeras and compañeros.
Here we are going to say in the Altos Zone how it is that we have advanced with the different levels, in the different areas, in the different places where we work. We are also going to tell how in the revolutionary law we have seen, we have analyzed, before coming here, between men and women analyzed how we are in each one of these points of the Women’s Revolutionary Law. That is what we are going to say; because it is very important that not only women will participate in this analysis; the men also need to participate to listen to what we think, what we say. Because if we are talking about a revolutionary struggle, we don’t make a revolutionary struggle only with the men or only with the women; it is the task of everyone, it is the task of the people and as people we have boys, girls, men, women, young men, young women, adult males, adult females, elderly men and elderly women. We all have a place in this struggle and therefore we all must participate in this analysis and in the tasks that we have pending.
Compañeros, compañeras, my name is Eloisa, from the town called Alemania, San Pedro Michoacán municipio. I was a member of the Good Government Junta, of Caracol I “Mother of the Caracols. Sea of Our Dreams.” It’s up to us to talk a little about the theme of the compañeras and it’s up to me to talk a little about how it is what the participation of the compañeras was before ‘94 and a little about how we were advancing after ‘94.
As we talk in our zone, we as compañeras did not participate from the beginning. Our compañeras from earlier did not have that idea that we as compañeras are able to participate. We had that thinking or that idea that we as women are only useful for the home or caring for the children, making the food. Perhaps it will be because of the same ignorance of capitalism that that is what we had in our heads. But we also as women felt that fear of not being able to do things outside the home, just as we also did not have that space at the side of the compañeros.
Like we didn’t have that freedom of participating, of speaking, as it was thought that the men were more than us. When we were under the domination of our fathers, our fathers did not give us that freedom to go out because there was a lot of machismo that existed before. Perhaps with the compañeros it’s not because they wanted to do it but rather because they had the idea that the same capitalism or the same system didn’t penetrate into our heads. Also because the compañero is not accustomed to doing the work inside the home, caring for the children, washing the clothes, making the food and that it’s difficult for the compañero to do the work inside the home so its hard for him to take care of the children so that the compañera can leave to do her work.
As I said before, the compañeras that lived under the dominion of our fathers or that still lived with our parents, as we have a respect that when we are with our parents, our parents say whether we are able to do the work, because we’re going away to where we do the work. But if our parents, at times tell us no you are not going to go, it’s that at time a we respect it, also at times we have in our head we respect our parents. Then there are times that our parents don’t take us out. It has also happened that they think that by taking us out of our houses as daughters we are not going to the work that corresponds to us but rather that we are going to do other things and then we involve our parents in problems and our parents already occupy that space to settle our different problems that we have as women. Also at times that is the idea of our parents or of our husbands, those that are already couples, in other words, sometimes the compañeros (men) also have that idea.
Compañeros and compañeras, a very good afternoon to all of you present here today. My name is Andrea, my town is San Manuel, my municipio is Francisco Gómez of Caracol III “La Garrucha.” We came representing ourselves as compañeras from the zone of Garrucha. We manage to express ourselves because we don’t bring so many words. The majority there speaks Tzeltal.
I am going to begin first with that we knew before ‘94 that the compañeras had suffered a lot. There were humiliations, mistreatment, rapes, but that wasn’t important to the government, its work is only to destroy us as women. It wasn’t important if there is a woman that was sick or if you ask for help or aid; that is not important.
But we as women, now, no longer can permit than, we must continue forward. We suffered as women in those times, as the compañeras have commented. In those times I said that there were a lot of humiliations that the bad government did and also the finqueros (estate owners). What did they do at that time? It’s that they weren’t taking the compañeras into account.
What did those finqueros do? They had the compañeros in peonage (near slavery). The compañeras were getting up very early to work and it’s still that way. The poor women continued working alongside the men. There was much slavery, but the compañeros, now no longer want that. That’s how it is that our participation as compañeras appeared. At that time there was no participation. They had us as if we were blind, without being able to speak. But what we want right now is that our autonomy functions. Now we want to participate as women, that we are no longer left behind. We will continue forward so that the bad government may see that we no longer let ourselves be exploited as it did with our ancestors. We no longer want that.
It wasn’t until 1994 that we had our Women’s Law. That’s good, compañeros, that now we can participate. Starting with that year they have gone to demonstrations, it has now been seen that the compañeras have participated. For example, the women also went to the National Consultation; they participated. I was also present at that time. I was 14 years old and I was present in the National Consultation. I did not know how to participate or speak, but I got to where I could do it, compañeros.
Women have struggled, have demonstrated their ability to struggle, and the government now realizes that women won’t give up; we will keep going. And now, as I said, we want our autonomy to function. Now that we have rights as women, what we are going to do is build, do our work; it is now our obligation, as they say, to keep going.
So a question for those of us who are present here, maybe for one of the compañeras that follows me: do you know who made the Revolutionary Law? If someone wants to answer they can, because someone fought for this law and defended us. Who was it that fought for us compañeras? It was Comandanta Ramona, she made this effort for us. She didn’t know how to read or write, nor did she speak Spanish. So why don’t we, compañeras, make this same effort? She, who already made this effort, is our example. She is the example that we are going to follow going forward in our work, to demonstrate what we know in our organization.
It is my job to represent the compañeras who are going to participate on the subject of women, there are 5 compañeras who are going to participate. Good afternoon to everyone. My name is Claudia and I come from the Caracol IV of Morelia. I am one of the bases of support from the pueblo Alemania, region Independencia, autonomous municipality “17 de Noviembre”. I am going to read a short introduction before entering our sub-themes. I am going to read the text, because if I just say it, being up here in front, I’m going to forget what I want to say.
Before, a long time ago, we suffered mistreatment, discrimination, and inequality in the home and in the community. We always suffered. They told us that we were mere objects, that we weren’t good for anything, because that is what our grandmothers had taught us. They only taught us to work in the house, in the field, to take care of the children and the animals, and to serve our husbands.
We did not have the opportunity to go to school, that’s why we do not know how to read or write, much less speak Spanish. They told us that women do not have the right to participate or to complain. We didn’t know how to defend ourselves, nor did we know what rights were. That’s how the bosses, who were the ranchers, educated our grandmothers.
Some of us still today have this idea that we must only work in the house, because that suffering has continued to imprison us in that idea even now, But after December of 1994, the autonomous municipalities were formed and there is where we began to participate, to learn how to do this work, thanks to our organization which gave us a space for our participation as compañeras, but also thanks to our compañeros, to our parents who began to understand that we have a right to do this kind of work.
Compañera Ana. It is our turn again, the Zona Norte, the participants who are going to speak on the themes that we analyzed in our Caracol are here. I am going to begin with an introduction.
Many years ago there was equality between men and women, because there wasn’t one who was more important than the other. Inequality began little by little with the division of labor, when the men became those who went to the field to cultivate food, went hunting to complement our food supply, and women stayed in the house to do domestic work, as well as the weaving and spinning of clothes and the making of kitchen utensils like pots, glasses, clay plates. Later another division of work arose when some people began to work in livestock. Cattle began to serve as a form of money. They were used as exchange. With time this activity became the most important, even more so when the bourgeoisie arose, who dedicated themselves to buying and selling in order to accumulate profits. The men did all of this work and that is why it’s men who rule the family, because only the man earned money for family expenses, and the work of women was not recognized as important. That’s why women were viewed as less, weak, incapable of work.
That was the custom, the way of life the Spanish brought when they came to conquer our peoples, as we said before, it was the friars who educated and instructed us in their customs and knowledge. From that point on they taught us that women had to serve men and pay attention to their orders, that women must cover their heads with a veil when they go to church, and that a woman shouldn’t let her gaze wander just anywhere, she must keep her head down. It was believed that it was women who made men sin, and that is why the church did not permit women to go to school, much less occupy positions of responsibility (cargos).
We as indigenous peoples adopted as a culture the way that the Spanish treated their women, that is why inequality between men and women arose in our communities and continues to this day. These are examples:
Women were not allowed to go to school, and if a young girl left to study somewhere she was looked upon badly by the people in the communities. Little girls weren’t allowed to play with little boys, or to touch their toys. The only work women were to do was in the kitchen and raising children. Young single women did not have the freedom even to walk around the community or in the city, they had to be shut up in their house, and when they got married they were exchanged for alcohol or other goods without even giving their word as to if they were in agreement or not, because they did not have the right to choose their spouse. Once they were married they could not go anywhere alone or talk to other people, especially men. Their own husbands mistreated women and there was no concern for justice, this kind of mistreatment happened mostly when men were drinking. Women had to live their whole lives like that, in suffering and abuse.
Another thing that mothers did was instruct their daughters how to serve food to their brothers, so that later on they would live well with their husband and not be mistreated. It was believed that the reason for mistreatment was that the woman did not learn to serve her husband and do everything he said.
But our grandfathers and grandmothers also had good customs that we continue to practice today. They did not worry much when someone was sick, because they knew medicinal plants and they knew how to take care of their health. They didn’t worry about lack of money because they grew everything they needed to feed themselves. That’s why women were strong, they were workers, they made their own clothes, cal [lime], and even though they didn’t know their rights, they could go forward.
(To be continued…)
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, February 2013.
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Watch and listen to the videos that accompany this text:
As this is about women, here Violeta Parra sings “Arauco tiene una pena.” 50 years after this voice, the Mapuche People continue to resist and transform this shame into rage.
Audios and Images from the gathering “La Comandanta Ramona and the Zapatistas,” celebrated in Zapatistas lands in December of 2007. In one part, our compañera Comandanta Susana remembers Comandanta Ramona, deceased in January of 2006.
Message from the Zapatista compañeras to the compañeras of the world, in December of 2006. At minute 2:22 the compañera says, “We don’t need a professional to come tell us how we should live.”