A group of students who visited momentous locations and historical sites in Mexico last summer presented their views on feminism, women’s roles in the country’s economy and their struggle for social and political change Nov. 15 in the Whitsett Room.
A documentary was screened and the students spoke about their own personal experiences with indigenous peoples, who voluntarily shared their life stories with them.
Lara Medina, an associate Chicano/a Studies professor who teaches a “Social Movements and Popular Resistance in Mexico,” class introduced the native language and political institute of Cuernavaca, Mexico called “Cetlalic,” a school founded in 1987.
“(Cetlalic is) about social justice,” Medina said. “Its focus is on women and their social movement in Mexico.”
CSUN students Rebekah Villafaña, Blanca Reyes, Alessandra Vasquez and other students were among the excursionists who, according to Medina, were in and contact with the area’s inhabitants and garnered an accurate understanding of the conditions of they lived in.
“It was a tremendous educational experience (for the girls),” Medina said.
The girls had to spend three hours each morning to learn Spanish and later discuss Mexico’s political issues, she said.
“They would cook together, eat meals together and share spaces as if they were family,” Medina said.
Vasquez spoke of feminism and how Mexico’s economy is affecting the line’s of women’s today.
“We’re not categorized as people that exist,” she said.
She said all men were raised thinking they are dominant over women and superior to them. The term for this, she said, is “machista.”
“The world doesn’t even know you exist if you’re a woman, let alone indigenous,” Vasquez said. “When we’re pregnant, that’s considered disabled.”
She also indicated that a woman can not have an abortion in Mexico unless it was proven she was raped. All women are viewed by men as “The Virgin Mary,” she said.
According to Vasquez, facts show that about 400 women have been abducted in the Chihuahua Desert over the past decade. Thus far, nothing has been done to increase vigilance and prevent abductions, and perpetrators have not been stopped, she said.
“About half of the population is involved in corruption and destitution,” she said. “Mexico lives off of credit loans from the bank, drug trafficking, petroleum oil, etc.”
She also said that Mexico is secretly being ripped off for its petroleum.
Among the president’s three initial proposals when he was running for office, as addressed by Villafaña were to increase employment from 250,000 to 1 million, to create economic improvement by kicking the minimum wage up a notch, perhaps 5 percent or more, and to change forms of government participation.
Today women are still suffering in the workforce partly because of their lack of education. Medina said women are still seen as domestic workers, servants, vendors and sometimes as prostitutes.
The students also visited a geographical region called Las Barrancas. The region is not visible on the map of Mexico they said so they had a difficult time tracking it down.
“It’s hidden from the world and the government denies its existence because it’s a poverty-stricken location, and it’s all thanks to the political economy of Mexico,” Villafaña said .
Villafaña shared the story of an indigenous woman named Elena. She was 27 and had four children.
Elena welcomed Villafaña and the others into her two foot-by-four foot home, with an aluminum roof. Elena said she was fortunate to even have the luxury of electricity.
Her husband had left her and her kids, and Elena is a striving single parent, who irons for three different families for a living.
“That’s how she lives and affords food,” Villafaña said.
Villafaña said she felt crushed to see Elena even offer them each a glass of soda from a liter. She said inhabitants like Elena were kind and generous people who would share what they have even if it meant not eating for a day or two.
“She was very humble and I was touched,” Villafaña said.
In terms of her kids’ education, kindergarten was hard enough as it was, Elena said.
Villafaña said the school required Elena to get hold of proper documents, such as a birth certificate, to turn in for enrollment of her youngest daughter who was only kindergarten.
Although the education was free, supplies for school needed to be bought, Villafaña said.
“There was a list of school supplies,” she said. “If you don’t have them, you’re suspended from school for however long it takes you to get them.”
Villafaña said Elena also said that she had walk 40 minutes everyday to get transportation to go to work. She said since Las Barrancas is a very steep hillside neighborhood, it took time and effort just to climb back and forth.
“It was very tiring,” Villafaña said of Elena’s testimony.
Jelly Mae Jadraque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.