By: Isaín Mandujano
TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, Chiapas (apro) – Today, the Zapatista Captain Erika welcomed thousands of women that arrived from all the Caracols, as well as from other states and countries, and urged them to compete to see who is “the best (más chingona), prettiest or most revolutionary,” where nobody wins, or, “to agree to fight together, as different as we are, against the patriarchal capitalist system that is what is doing violence to us and murdering us.”
The masked woman, who sometimes worked as a servant in the city, where she suffered scorn and discrimination for being indigenous to later enroll in the ranks of the Zapatista movement, told attendees at the First International Political, Artistic, Sports and Cultural Gathering, of Women that Struggle what they have had to contend with, even among the ranks of the EZLN to gain the respect of the men.
Erika dedicated the event and sent words of solidarity to the family of Eloísa Vega Castro, the activist of the network of support for the Indigenous Government Council (CIG, its initials in Spanish), who died in the accident involving the independent presidential aspirant María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, last February 14 in Baja California.
“We waited until today to salute the memory of Eloísa, so that our embrace would be the biggest and would manage to reach far, to the other side of Mexico. And this embrace and this salute are large because you are all Zapatistas and from all the Zapatistas on this March 8, for that woman that struggled and now we miss: Eloísa Vega Castro. Our regrets go out to her family,” Erika said.
No man was permitted access to this event. The only men that are there are the Zapatista men that now do the jobs that women often do, like making food for all the attendees.
She also said that for these three days there would be uniformed Zapatistas women making rounds in the event. “Our work is going to be taking care of this place so that it’s only women and not let any man get in because we know that they are tricky.”
Then she told how difficult it has been to be in the struggle, since before the armed uprising and the 24 years of struggle they have already waged. She also told how before (the uprising) they had seen “little boys and girls, young people, adults and the elderly dying of curable diseases due to a lack of medical attention, good nutrition and education. But they also died because they were women and they died more.”
She shared that after working as a servant in the city, she knew that there was an organization that was fighting in the Lacandón Jungle, and that was how she began to participate as a support base, when she went out at night to study and returned at dawn, because at that time nobody knew about the struggle that the Zapatistas were making “because it was all clandestine.”
“But also I was born and grew up after the start of the War,” Erika said.
“I was born and grew up with military patrols surrounding our communities and roads, listening to the soldiers saying insults to the women just because they were armed men and we were are women,” she indicated.
She also remembered that they organized themselves as Zapatista women to struggle, because while they didn’t have education, they did have a lot of rage, “a lot of courage from all the insults they gave to us.”
According to her, she experienced the scorn, humiliation, mocking, violence, beatings and deaths because of being a woman, because of being indigenous, because of being poor and now because of being Zapatista.
And it wasn’t always a man who was exploiting her, robbing her, humiliating her, beating her, scorning her or killing her. There were also many times women that did it and still do it to other women.
That’s why, she added, they invited “everyone to talk to each other, to listen to each other and to stop gazing at each other and to celebrate.”
And in the context of this event, she said, you have two options: “We can choose to compete to see who is the best, who has the best word, who is the most revolutionary, who is most thoughtful, who is most radical, who is most well behaved, who is most liberated, who is the prettiest, who is the best, who dances the best, who paints the best, who sings well, who is more woman, who wins at sports and who struggles the most.”
Or, she said, “you can also all listen and speak with respect as women of struggle that give each other dance, music, film, video, painting, poetry, theater, sculpture, fun, knowledge, and that way feed your struggles that all of us have where we are.”
In other words, you have two paths: “We can compete among ourselves and at the end of the gathering, when we go back to our worlds, we’re going to realize that nobody won, or we can agree to struggle together, as different as we are, against the patriarchal capitalist system, which is doing violence to us and murdering us.”
Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee