The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


March 8, 2023/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

Photo: Meizhu Lui

Mexican Women: ‘Not One Femicide More!’

Last week, in Oaxaca City, I saw a young indigenous woman and her daughter sitting by a wall. Above them, painted on that wall, a rallying cry that read simply: “Not one femicide more in our streets!” 


In Oaxaca, on whatever street you walk, you’ll see pictures of known murderers with pleas for information about the perpetrators’ whereabouts. You’ll see photos of missing women and epitaphs declaring “We will never forget” and a particular dead woman’s name. The pain, the rage, the desire for justice, all palpable, a beating heart beneath the aloof azure sky, on a stone pavement peopled with oblivious tourists.


The right to life requires control over our own bodies, and that right has been driving feminist activism for decades. Our interviewee this week, Heather Dashner, has been fighting for women’s freedom since the 1970s. In México, as in the United States, the women’s movement began with women talking to each other around kitchen tables. At that time, under our patriarchal, individualistic capitalist regime, we strove to look happy in public. To admit to a less-than-made-in-heaven marriage would have been shameful. 


That cultural norm gave comfort and cover to male partners who could be condescending at best and brutal at worst. Even men with revolutionary politics didn’t want to give up patriarchy. As we women talked about all this, our isolation evaporated: The personal became political and exploded into movement.


In México, a half-century later, some things have changed. Abortion has been decriminalized. Women’s marches draw gigantic turnouts. And the demand for gender equality has broadened beyond women, with the lesbian and trans communities now organized and recognized.


And yet the murders of women simply for being women continue to go on. We remain unsafe on the streets and even at home. But we will not give up until we live in societies with “not one femicide more.”


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Women Decide, Society Respects, the State Guarantees

Heather Dashner has been a socialist activist since the 1970s, but she always disagreed with male leaders in the movement who believed that women's liberation should wait until after the working class took power. Women, Dashner continues to recognize, remain an oppressed group based on their gender, and she’s been at the forefront of every struggle for women's equality in México. Dashner has edited two books where she and her fellow women comrades tell their stories, Feministas Trotskistas in 2019 and last years Rebeldes y Transgresoras: Feministas Trotskistas, testimonios 1974-1992.


The 1970s saw an upsurge in women’s organizing and in socialist politics. How did you become a feminist/Trotskyist?

In a word, I got shat on a lot!


I came of age in the United States during the student movement, and we were all exploring how to become revolutionary activists. In my early days, I considered myself an anarchist. But then, in 1973, I was in Chile when the democratically elected Marxist president Salvador Allende was assassinated and his supporters brutally slaughtered. For me, a moment of terrible clarity: We need more than mass organizations. The people need a political instrument. 


I moved to México in 1974 and became — and remain — a member of a Trotskyist group. My husband at the time wrote an article on the importance of the 1975 UN International Women’s Year Conference held in México. He asked if I would sign the article with another woman, to make it seem like women wrote it. That gives you a sense of gender dynamics back then! I agreed with his article totally, but its publication would set off a firestorm within our organization. Many comrades argued that gender equality didn’t rate as “a proletarian issue.” We’ll deal with it, they said, “only after the revolution!”


Over time, I would gain the confidence and the experience to become a leader in my own right, but my socialism could not exist together with women’s oppression! My closest comrades and I faced an ongoing struggle. Men would give us underhanded compliments. How unfortunate, they would say, that our most capable women leaders focus on women’s issues. But we persisted and won leadership positions in a women’s movement that included women of all classes and political orientations.

Can you describe the women’s movement in those early 1970s days?


It was not a mass movement. We began with small groups of women talking with each other and analyzing our experiences as women. Our oppression at home and in society still remained things not talked about publicly. So just saying out loud what was happening and what we were feeling — and getting validation from other women having the same experiences — became really important.


The main issues back then? Bodily autonomy basically: freedom of maternity, the right to decide whether to become mothers and when, rape, domestic violence.Women’s caucuses also proliferated within existing organizations. As a teacher, I organized a women’s group in my school. People organized politically independent unions in women-dominated fields, among teachers and telephone workers, for instance. 

“Women decide, society respects, the state guarantees, the church doesn’t intervene”
Women’s Rights in Mexico: A Brief History

Another major phenomenon: Wives and family members of union members formed committees to support worker struggles, much like the women’s committee that organized strike support for the historic 1936 auto worker sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan.


In 1976, a Mexican feminist coalition for the first time called for abortion on demand. Working class women added “free!” to that demand, and non-socialist women accepted that as well. In 1979, peasants, teachers, and feminist groups came together with urban community organizations to form a national coordinating committee. But by 1981 the movement slumped. We had just worn ourselves out!

Did the 1985 México City  earthquake prove a pivotal moment in México’s feminism?


Yes! Two existing movements came together to re-invigorate feminists. At that time, many small garment shops employed women under terrible conditions. Many of these women worked in criminally neglected buildings that collapsed on the seamstresses working inside, with the doors locked. The owners saved machines, not workers.

The deaths of so many women galvanized national attention. Workers at 80 different shops formed a coalition to negotiate with shop owners for severance pay. Five shop owners refused to negotiate. The owners all happened to be Jewish, and anti-Semitic sentiment began to grow. A Jewish comrade then went to the local Jewish organization. You better get those owners to negotiate with the workers, he urged, to prevent a generalized rage against Jews. The owners came to the table the next day.


The earthquake left many families homeless, and a mass movement of the homeless with mothers in the forefront soon formed. These two sections of grassroots women pushing from below re-energized women from all social classes. After that, we saw national meetings of peasant women, urban community women, and union women. In México, unlike the United States, women largely organized around issues facing working class women.

Peter Menzel/Science Photo Library

The issue of abortion rights has risen to the top for women in the Americas. What has been the history of that legislative fight in México?


From the beginning, we’ve had internal disagreements about what to demand from the state. How many months after conception, for instance, should abortion be legal? Three months? Six? No limit? Should having an abortion after a limit make you a criminal?


Under México’s penal code, stealing a cow rated as a more serious crime than raping a woman. And if you terminated a pregnancy, you were committing a crime. We had to decide how much we should ask for, how much progress we could realistically make. After much debate, we agreed that we would avoid the language of criminalization. 

Until 1980, no legislator would touch the abortion issue. Only the Communist Party deputies ended up willing to propose a law allowing abortion. And that legislation didn’t just not get to the floor of Congress. The CP women who proposed the legislation found themselves under attack. So later, in 2021, we felt we had won a huge victory when lawmakers finally decriminalized abortion at the federal level. Abortion rights still vary from state to state, but a woman’s right to control her own body has taken a big step forward.

Photo: Heather Dashner

You helped lead the feminist movement from the 1970s to the 1990s and you continue to be active. How would you describe the status of women and the feminist movement in México today?


Confronting something as old and ingrained as male supremacy will never be smooth sailing. Despite some important institutional advances, women still lead lives steeped in sexism. But a whole new generation of young women has joined the fight, above all around the issues of violence against women and the impact of neoliberal economic policies.

And just as we’ve had in the past our periods of upsurge and slump, just as we’ve argued over strategies and tactics, just as we’ve unified and split, all these dynamics continue today. But the basic determination of women to keep fighting also continues — and won’t stop until we achieve gender equality, our human right.

Photo: Nuestro Sur, Boletín Mensual de la Coordinación Internacional
del Instituto de Formación Política de Morena, November 2022


Muxes: The Amazing Third Gender Zapotecs

Muxes, now available on HBO, offers up a different kind of documentary. No huge title page, no big list of sponsors, not a gazillion production tricks. What this documentary does have: a glimpse into the lives of five Zapotec men who live as women, for at least some part of their days, in Juchitan de Zaragoza in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

This documentary came as a surprise to me. It’s appearing on HBO, after all. But after an initial change of expectation, I settled into watching this history of muxes in Oaxacan indigenous communities. That history turns out to have important lessons for the rest of the world, and this film makes a good start to getting that history known.

The Zapotec identity has always been central to muxe self-identification. The men, both accepted and rejected by their communities, live with joy and sparkle, strength and confidence. Adversity has clearly not beaten them down. They find support and love from each other, their families, and friends and neighbors, albeit uneven, with huge support in some cases from their mothers.

This visually stunning film, with embroidery the star of the show all on its own, gives us glimpses into everyday life in a Zapotec town. On display at a vela, the muxes wear great costumes, showing off their artfulness, dancing, and strutting, loving themselves all the while. Great make-up, great flowers, great fabric.

This film offering will not meet everyone’s expectations.  You have to read between the lines a bit. Not everything gets spelled out. But I felt as if I had been dropped into a world that I could not have seen on my own.  Just use your imagination and engage with these five beautiful, inspiring third-gender muxes. You’ll be glad you did.

Mexican muxes take part in a traditional procession during the 2018
Muxes Festival in Juchitán, Mexico. Photo: Jan Sochor, Getty Images

For more on México’s muxes, check this article on the film, in the original Spanish and the Google translation English. Also check this Catalyst analysis.

Activist Vicky Hamlin is a retired tradeswoman,
shop steward, and painter. In her painting and
in this column, she shines the light on the lives
of working people and the world they live in.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


Kurt Hackbarth, No, AMLO Is Not Undermining Mexican Democracy, Jacobin. The international press is again bludgeoning Andrés Manuel López Obrador, accusing him of attacking the country’s democratic institutions, a baseless charge intended to undermine a government that refuses total obedience to US hegemony.


Alonso Urrutia y Néstor Jiménez, AMLO: el injerencismo electoral de EU, contrario a lo que piensa Biden, La Jornada. El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador dijo que hay más democracia en México que en Estados Unidos y rechazó el respaldo tácito del Departamento de Estado a la concentración en el Zócalo contra la reforma electoral.


José Luis Granados Ceja, Protests Against AMLO’s Reforms Reveal the Strongholds of Mexico’s Ancien Régime, The Nation. The so-called “defense of the INE” has become the rallying cry of an opposition incapable of winning broad public support.


Fabrizio Mejía Madrid, La marcha de los gringos, Sin Embargo. Tomando el pigmento del INE, los manifestantes de la élite portan un uniforme que no es de sus partidos. Escogen el color rosado y llaman a eso “ola rosa”.  Es un método que Claudio X. González se ha seguido en todas esos golpes de Estado patrocinados por la Fundación Nacional para la Democracia, la NED por sus siglas en inglés, una organización que construyó Ronald Reagan en 1983.


Vita Dadoo,  Mexican expats are trumpeting the ruling party’s message and getting out the vote, coda. Mexican immigrants in the US are supporting AMLO’s “Fourth Transformation” that imagines a future in where government officials no longer abuse their power to enrich themselves and protect their allies.


Jaime Martínez Luna, Herencia Zapatista, La Coperacha. Aunque no sea Zapata el símbolo que integra nuestra visión Comunal, es de reconocerse que el levantamiento Zapatista de 1994 alimentó seriamente la lucha por la defensa de lo Comunal, de lo propio.


Mexico’s president hits out at implicit criticism from US, Al Jazeera. Instead of commenting on México, says AMLO, Washington should deal with what’s happening in Peru where the US has supported coup plotters who trampled on freedoms and democracy.


María Fernanda Navarro, Tesla expandirá a la industria automotriz mexicana con su arribo, Indigo. La producción de autos en México ya es robusta, pero con la llegada de la planta de auto electricos propiedad de Elon Musk este sector podría robustecerse.


México’s former public security chief convicted in U.S. drug case, PBS News Hour. A former Mexican cabinet member in the administration of Mexican ex-president Felipe Calderón has been convicted in the US of taking massive bribes to protect the violent drug cartels he was tasked with combating.


Correos electrónicos muestran cómo se fraguó desfalco a CFE, Aristegui. Nuevos documentos obtenidos muestran cómo operó un mecanismo de corrupción durante el gobierno de Peña Nieto.


México president to launch anti-inflation plan with Latin American counterparts, Reuters. AMLO and the presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Colombia may be joining forces in a plan that seeks to remove tariffs to reduce the price of food items.


Urbano Barrera, Poder Judicial, corrupto y en decadencia: AMLO, ContraLínea. El Poder Judicial está plagado de corrupción y en decadencia, lamenta el presidente de la República.



The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: