zapatista women meet the women of the world.
so we went to the third encuentro of the zapatistas. and the first one focused on women. it was in la garrucha which is a really long way like five hours from san cristobal. there for three days and it was an incredibly intense experience especially with our little daughter…tere.
left san cristobal in a combi..shared van and arrived a couple of hours later in ocosingo. from ocosingo aza and i hopped on the back of a truck with a bunch of kids from san fran state mainly chicanos and asianos. and we rode on the back of a pick up truck for 2-3 hours to la garrucha. it was a little chilly but lucky i had a friends windbreaker and aza giggled and ate cookies and breastfed and flirted. it felt like we just rode deeper into the selva–jungle and more and more stars appeared until i couldnt even see the simple common constellations like orion and cassiopea because of the utter magnitude and quantity of stars in the sky.
la garrucha is a zapatista caracol. one of five or six. and this was the site of the latest encuentro in memory of comandante ramona.
a small note of comandante ramona: a friend, xmal, told me that ramona was a woman to be looked up to because she had been in the army and that was the way that she advanced herself in the communities and in the movement even though she was a woman. and so being a comandante part of the army or part of the good government are new pathways for zapatista women to gain respect in the community. for this reason she is held in such esteem by the zap women.
we arrived in la garrucha, me probably looking a little disheveled and were taken to a corner of a room where we could lay our things down.
ah the mexican polka…mexicans and especially rancheros love to polka. and so they did. until 330 am. hundreds of people polkaing outside under the stars. the bass of the polka vibrated against the walls of our room.
the polka was sort of the connecting theme of the weekend. they play the polka when the zap women file in and file out of the tent auditorium. they play the polka in between the sessions. they play the polka.
now it is interesting as to who comes to a zap encuentro. there are the hippies. hipsters. and the punks. the indigenous families from various caracoles. of course the masked women and men from the caracoles. there was a delegation from casa atbex ache of women of color. there were activistas internationales. the are old commies. and lots of kids from san cris. a couple of other delegations of chicanos. college kids. and of course us.
i come from a womanist perspective and so while i doubt that zap women call themselves (maybe they do..) womanist i am viewing them as women of color as they share a similar history as we do –not simply as shared suffering of colonization (fuck colonization) (use fuck in the term of ‘confront’) and rupture but also that we are going through similar processes of reclamation healing the rupture of colonization and bad governments. osea that we can learn from one another how to create a post colonial community of centering justice and love. since we are both post colonial subjects women building something old something new something borrowed and a little something from a blues people.
doing it with a 8 month old was a little crazy and intense. but there are these little helping invisible hands everywhere and if i was to properly thank everyone i would nt know how to begin. it was really cool to hang out with other mamas mexican indigenous and international. everytime i meet traveling moms and their kids it makes me feel a little saner about the choices we have made. there was an italian woman with her 2 year old who sold jewelry and handcrafts. she had frizzy hair skinny legs and a great italian accent while speaking spanish. italian speaking spanish sounds great just great. like sweet ice cream on a hot cloudless day. there was a nyorker , tere, and her three year old. frizzy hair skinny legs and that ny spanish that pops the syllables even if you arent chewing gum.
but breastfeeding was a sight to behold obviously…or me breastfeeding was a sight to behold…and so men would stand around me watching me breastfeed outside. and yes everyone i tell this to says oh well, that doesnt make any sense since indigenous men are used to seeing their women breast feed. and okay indigenous men may be used to seeing breastfeeding and they dont circle around their women during the process. but i started to feel like some museum piece. look at the black woman breastfeeding the (obviously) biracial baby…
but as piece de exotique as i felt, i had nothing on the trans woman in the room
the trans woman in the room:
so we were bunkered down in the room with another family and friends group of like 5 and a couple even more interesting than the black woman and the white man and the biracial baby. yes…this couple was trans woman and her lover, a red haired humpbacked witch. the first night the couple slept in the shared room with the rest of us pitched out on the floor. the second night the moved into the backroom with a bed and privacy. the third night the family and friends group told us that we should take the bed because we have a baby. how sweet of them to think of us. except that they kicked the trans woman out of her bed and then gave it to us. they gave orders. and the couple moved their suitcases out of the room in tears and curses. saying that the other people staying in the room (and i am not sure if that includes us) had been making fun of her. and then they took away her bed. she refused to return to the room and slept in a tent and i slept in her bed that had been offered.
there were these signs that hung all over the encampamiento: men cannot participate in speaking, translating, directing the encuentro. they can clean and sweep the latrines, take care of the children, and carry firewood…
the latrines were not really that clean. i only saw a few men taking care of the children. and there were alot of men. i think there were more men than women at the encuentro. and it was a zap women meet the women of the world…
and there was a speaking tent set up, ie the auditorium, where only women were supposed to be. but there were plenty of men (esp international men) under the tent.
what i learned about zapatismo zapatistas:
not alot. it was great being in a caracol for a couple of days. getting a better visceral sense of what caracol is. hearing the women tell their personal testimonies for hours and days was interesting at first but the tent was crowded and stuffy and woman after woman told the similar stories of where they saw themselves in relation to history and the world. in other words: that the zapatista struggle transformed their lives profoundly in that they no longer need to rely on plantation owners to survive. instead had greater autonomy and decision making power.