The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


March 3, 2021/ This week’s issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Shoes left in México City’s Zocalo, part of a 2020 protest against the brutal murder of Ingrid Escamilla.

When Terror Turns Ordinary

Snug in the bosom of a loving family, I used to read about people living under the constant threat of terror and wonder how they could possibly carry on their daily lives. In Haiti under Duvalier, for instance, a macoute might randomly break down your door and kill you with a machete. But then violence entered my own life, via someone who supposedly loved me. I didn’t know when or where I might be choked, kidnapped, or shoved out of a moving car. I faced a violence that could erupt at any moment, while I was cooking or driving to work or just sleeping: performing the mundane functions of an ordinary life.


In México, one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a woman since the drug wars began, the threat of violence can come from almost anywhere. You can be beaten, raped, or killed for saying yes or for saying no, for speaking the truth or for telling a lie, for being trans or for simply being a woman, a disposable object to be used and discarded.


This sort of disregard for women’s lives has ancient roots. So does the resistance to this oppression. As organized movements, this resistance comes in waves — and from different sources of outrage. In mid-19th century México, higher-status women demanded the right to an education. In the 1930s, women teachers led an upsurge of peasants and demanded the right to vote and a right to land. In the 1970s, reproductive rights became paramount. Today, as we learn in this week’s issue from Mexican feminist Heather Dashner, the epidemic of violence against women has galvanized a new generation of activists.


Look around you. One of every three women you see has known the dread of wondering what violence a new day may bring. That fear stalks as close as the woman you pass in the parking lot or find sitting in the next room. As close as you. As close as me. A thought for International Women’s Day: Resistance can’t be optional so long as terror remains ordinary.


Heather Dashner has been a socialist activist since the 1970s. But she always disagreed with the prevailing thinking that women's liberation should wait until after the revolution. Recognizing women as an oppressed group based on gender, Dashner joined the feminist movement and has been part of every struggle for women's liberation in Mexico since then. She currently participates in the Feminists with the Voice of Corn collective.


Many countries have seen a class divide between self-defined feminists and working-class women. Has that been the case in México as well?


Heather Dashner: Let’s say the two tracks in women’s organizing have overlapped and sometimes joined together. In the 1970s, university-educated women came together in consciousness-raising and study groups. At the end of that decade, they joined with union, student, and left party militant women to propose legislation on a woman’s right to choose.


In the 1980s, working and peasant women formed community organizations in response to a worsening economy. Their issues focused on the tasks women perform at home: “There’s no running water!” “We need electricity!” And seamstresses organized — and won a major union recognition victory — after the 1985 earthquake when garment shop owners came to rescue the sewing machines, but did nothing to help their workers.


Women have taken to the streets again in recent years. How did the current wave of the women’s movement begin?


In the 1990s, the women’s movement hit a downturn and became institutionalized in NGOs, academia, and within the PRI government. Some gains did come in the 2000s, on the right to abortion and same-sex marriage in Mexico City and with a national law establishing the right to a life without violence.


But then in 2008 the right wing went on the offensive, introducing right-to-life legislation. Suddenly, lobbying wasn’t working. We needed a social movement again. Droves of young women, newly outraged by the dangers women face, hit the streets with women of all ages. More than 100,000 marched in a landmark April 2016 demonstration in Mexico City.


Organized relatives of the victims of femicide increased pressure on the government, asserting that femicide is a family issue,” and many well-publicized cases have triggered new waves of outrage, including the 2017 strangulation of a woman student with a telephone cord, a murder initially ruled a suicide. Just this last month, a doctor who had reported sexual harassment in the little town where she was doing public service was found strangled in her room.


A national, decentralized grassroots movement has been sparked that continues to burn. The main demand today: end the violence against women.


Has the AMLO government responded by prioritizing women’s lives?


No, and the demonstrations have continued, using many different tactics. In one creative action, activists covered a government spokesperson who came to negotiate with demonstrators with pink glitter. Facebook pages all over the country suddenly erupted covered in glitter!


Aren’t other AMLO policies improving women’s lives?


Certainly, some new anti-poverty social benefits do that. But AMLO still doesn’t recognize women as an oppressed group. This means that some of his reforms hurt women. For example, in cutting government waste, he proposed defunding women’s shelters and childcare centers and giving money instead to women as individuals. Yes, we need to eliminate waste and excise corruption, but AMLO’s using a machete when he needs a scalpel! Child care? AMLO has said, “Let grandma do it!” Women’s oppression will not be overcome with a call for “family values”!


With elections coming up, will feminists vote for Morena candidates?


So far, that prospect doesn’t look great: Morena and AMLO insisted on running a major figure for a governor’s seat who’s been accused of raping three different women, and the investigations into these rapes have been shelved. Feminists, even many in Morena, have led the outcry: “Say no to the patriarchal pact!” and “No rapist will be governor!” [See the Clicks section below for the latest developments in this struggle.]


We women have to strengthen our movement and keep pushing the government from the left, continuing to educate, demonstrate, and organize!


Mexican Feminism, 17th-Century Style

Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillano, born in 1648 southeast of Mexico City in the small town of San Miguel Nepantla, had the good fortune of having an extensive library at the family hacienda. By age three, she had taught herself to read. By age eight, she was writing. Sor Juana would go to spurn marriage proposals and chose the life of a nun, one of the few opportunities then available for a woman passionate for the intellectual life. She soon became widely known for her poetry, written in Spanish, Latin, and Náhuatl. But her ideas skirted the boundaries of the acceptable — for a woman — and neither her fame nor the cloistered life could protect her from church strictures. Religious authorities eventually forced Sor Juana to stop writing and do penance for her heretical notions about the intellectual parity of men and women. She would spend the rest of her life on charitable works.


Sor Juana has become a beloved figure in México, revered as a ground-breaker, and her image appeared for many years on the 200 peso bill. Scholars today consider Sor Juana a proto-feminist,” for both her defense of womens intellectual capacities and her work legitimizing qualities traditionally dismissed as feminine. She made no effort to masculinize her voice and still expected readers to take her seriously.


Male intellectuals of Sor Juana's time separated mind from body. She saw physical activity and thought as connected. One example: Sor Juana reframed cooking, something seen as feminine and distinctly un-intellectual, as a philosophical practice. She treated cooking as a science that kept her intellectually engaged. As she once coyly noted: Had Aristotle cooked, he would have written a great deal more.” Sor Juana’s brilliance, her life and work suggests, came not in spite of her gender, but in many ways because of it. She passed in 1695, but her writing still speaks to us. We share two excerpts here.

From You Foolish Men


You foolish men who lay

the guilt on women,

not seeing you're the cause

of the very thing you blame;


What kind of mind is odder

than his who mists

a mirror and then complains

that it's not clear.


No woman wins esteem of you:

the most modest is ungrateful

if she refuses to admit you;

yet if she does, she's loose.


You always are so foolish

your censure is unfair;

one you blame for cruelty,

the other for being easy.


Who is more to blame,

though either should do wrong?

She who sins for pay

or he who pays to sin?


From Respuesta a Sor Filotea


Who has forbidden women to engage in private and individual studies? Have they not a rational soul as men do? ...I have this inclination to study and if it is evil, I am not the one who formed me thus — I was born with it and with it I shall die.


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


Morena to reopen candidate selection process after outcry over rape allegations, México News Daily. Facing intense pressure to dump an alleged rapist as its candidate for governor in Guerrero, Morena has announced a new selection process.


Ana Laura Magaloni Kerpel, Salgado y las morenas, Reforma. La candidatura de Salgado Macedonio a la gubernatura de Guerrero no es un conflicto menor al interior de Morena. Postular a un candidato al que dos mujeres acusan de haberlas violado es una bomba de tiempo en este momento político.


Meaghan Beatley, Hunting the men who kill women: Mexico’s femicide detective, Guardian. For the past five years, journalist Frida Guerrera  has devoted nearly every waking hour to searching for disappeared women and memorialising the victims of femicide.


Nacha Cattan and Max De Haldevang, Biden Voiced Openness on Migration to AMLO, Mexico Officials Say, Bloomberg. AMLO had said before Monday’s call that he would seek to have Biden massively expand work visas for all types of jobs to help regulate migration flows from Mexico and Central America.


Kevin Sieff and Paulina Villegas, Mexico is vaccinating its poorest citizens first — against the advice of health experts, Washington Post. With debate raging worldwide about who should be vaccinated first, Mexico has come up with its own approach. President López Obrador, who campaigned on the slogan “First, the poor,” is prioritizing the country’s most disadvantaged, using the vaccine as reparations of sorts for years of marginalization.


Mexico: Lawmakers to Decide on Safe Abortion in Quintana Roo, Telesur. The state could become the third subnational government to decriminalize abortion, along with Mexico City and Oaxaca.


Víctor Quintana S., México: Inmunes a la Cuarta Transformación, America Latina en Movimiento. A pesar de críticas y errores, hay importantes efectos positivos de la Cuarta Transformación que ya se pueden apreciar.


AMLO tiene en la mira un millonario plan para generar energía solar en la CFE, Polemón. El Gobierno de López Obrador está armando un plan para promover la generación de energía solar respaldada por el Estado, el cual beneficiaría a comunidades locales.


Timothy Wise, Mexico to Ban Glyphosate, GM Corn, Inter Press Service. Mexican president López Obrador has quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his decree phasing out the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn.


Los elementos de una economía democrática, The Next System Project. Hemos sido testigo de una explosión de interés en la experimentación práctica con una variedad de instituciones y modelos económicos alternativos, desde las cooperativas de trabajadores a los bancos públicos y las instituciones financieras de desarrollo comunitario.


Por cambio climático y deforestación, México registró 26% menos de población de mariposas monarca, Infobae. Las variaciones climáticas al sur de Estados Unidos no permitió que las mariposas completaran su periodo reproductivo lo que generó una generación migrante menor, por lo que los bosques mexicanos recibieron menos ejemplares.


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: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati. We welcome your suggestions and feedback. Interested in getting involved? Drop us an email!


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