These photos have made their rounds on the interwebs a few times now, but they never really lose their relevance do they?
Muxes (what we would probably call trans women) are biologically male people who dress and act as women within the Zapotec communities of Mexico. Unlike in many other cultures where trans people suffer enormous discrimination, according to this Feature Shoot piece, muxes are venerated as “good luck” (not to fetishize trans people or anything). Continue Reading →
I’m trying to bring back my Latinas Feministas series, and expand it a bit. Today’s Feminista is from Mexico. Who you want to hear about next?
The Zapatistas are a pretty controversial movement. Originating in Chiapas, Mexico they have been fighting for indigenous rights since 1994, using primarily (but not entirely) non-violent tactics. Most of the violence that the Zapatistas (Also known as the EZLN) have used has been in self-defense against military and paramilitary attacks on their land, resources and people. Some argue that they are too violent, that a true fight for social justice is meant to be peaceful.
The one thing that is largely undisputed is the Zapatista’s feminism, which brings me to Comandante Ramona, a critical member of the initial EZLN uprising. Comandante Ramona worked as an advocate for women within the movement, and traveled extensively working to concientizar people about the injustices indigenous women faced. According to this Bitch Magazine post:
As a Tzotzil Mayan woman, “Ramona” left her home in search of work. She experienced the disparities between the rural communities and the larger towns. And, seeing that life was unjustly different for Indian women, she joined the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) to make life better for rural people, especially women.
Comandante Ramona also helped to integrate women’s interests within the EZLN’s first list of demands, including demands for: birth clinics, childcare centers, spaces for women’s artisanal work and selling, as well as access to education and family planning resources for indigenous women. Her struggle was very intersectional: challenging traditional gender norms within rural Chiapas communities and at the same time pushing for indigenous rights within a larger country context.
She participated in various actions with the EZLN, including the National Indigenous Forum, The First National Congress of Indigenous Women in Oaxaca and pushing for the San Andrés accords. She died at 47 years old from kidney failure.
And just for fun, here are two of the photos I took while visiting a Zapatista community this summer.
I’ve been posting a lot about being white, and being a person of color, and being mixed and being confused. Being an activist and being an ally. Being privileged and being oppressed.
Mostly that’s because I can’t stop thinking about it. And after having written about it the first time, I can’t stop jumping for joy when someone else has “comes out” as racially confused. Because it means I’m not alone, and we’re all still trying to figure this out, and we’re all still doing our best.
So here’s another great post about being biracial, but looking more like one parent than the other. My favorite quotes (though I almost just pasted the whole article):
“…And the biracial experience? Can’t say I understand that entirely, either. Depends on what we look like, on what we’re mixed with, on how we identify. I love this aspect of being biracial, but it’s also what makes it alienating. My sister has had a completely different biracial experience than I’ve had. We share the same parents—the same blood—and our experiences are disparate. Growing up, we had different friends, different hobbies. And it wasn’t a coincidence. Biracial people are largely invisible as a group; we get tossed into whatever category we resemble most. We’re expected to choose black or white (or Indian, or Chinese, or whatever traits dominate). But lots of us don’t want to quietly “Circle One.” Some things aren’t black or white. Like human beings.”
“It’s witnessing one of the most exciting conversations about race since the civil rights movement, and wondering whether you’re the white voice that should shut up and listen, or the black voice that should speak out, or the mixed voice that should ???. It’s the feeling that you belong nowhere, and not knowing what to do about that, and not knowing who to ask.”
Photo translation: “The father was dispatched, he couldn’t accompany me, couldn’t stay in the door. Cruelly, they didn’t give him an option and, if he kept insisting, the security was right there.”
Maternal health in Brazil operates on varying levels of privilege, oppression, access and choice. I’ve written before about how just like in the U.S., for many Brazilian women (particularly low-income women of color), there is very little “choice” within their reproductive lives. Institutionalized barriers exist between them and safe and comfortable maternal health services.
Instead, many women are forced to give birth within public hospitals where they experience what Brazilian feminists are calling “Obstetric Violence.” This doesn’t always mean physical violence, but structural violence, a phrase that was originally coined by Johan Galtung. Wikipedia defines structural violence as such: Continue Reading →
I love these images from photographer Sam Comen. According to Latino Voices, Comen photographed migrant workers living in California’s Central Valley.
“…To highlight the disparity between dream and actuality, Comen creates photos that resemble glossy magazine images. The photographer casts a dreamlike glow over the harsh realities of Lost Hills life, using a hyper-saturated palette and penetrating light. The space between the photos’ physical appearance and reality mirrors the daily experiences of so many workers, echoing the idea that the American dream can be a much more complex ideal….”
Who really gets access to the American Dream? Continue Reading →
If you follow me here or on Feministing, you probably heard something about an On Air Google Hangout about color within the Latin@ community that I hosted. You might have read some of the criticism that it inspired, and my subsequent explanation and apology. However, I want to make sure that you also hear another person’s defense of one of the goals of the Hangout: to discuss what it’s like to live at a complicated intersection between privilege and oppression. That is, what it’s like to be a white Latina.
Aya de Leon could not have put my thoughts into more eloquent words. Please check out her entire post, but here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“If and when folks don’t intentionally take the time to discuss their experiences, they will sometimes find themselves unintentionally taking the time, as in having their privilege issues take over a space that has not been specifically set aside for that purpose.
Granted, whiteskinned Latinas get plenty of airtime overall, just look at Univision, but I’m not talking about women being objectified in media, I’m talking about Latinas engaging in substantive conversations about social justice, cultural criticism, and political transformation…..”
“….However, whiteskinned POC who don’t want to be seen as white can’t always run around wearing a T-shirt that says “I am a person of color,” and the experience of being mis-identified is a significant stressor. Those of us who are dark, are identifiably of color, experience the harshness of being targeted, but we also have the solace of being able to see and turn to each other for comfort against racism. We don’t get told we look like “the enemy.”
As an AfroLatina, I support whiteskinned Latinas in having a greater knowledge of self and an opportunity to acknowledge what is privileged and also what is hard about that identity. I support whiteskinned Latinas in unapologetically exploring the particular ways that they have been impacted by racism, and by deconstructing the specific brand of racism they face. I support them because all of us need a space to give language to our particular experience, and because I believe that by doing this, white Latinas can be stronger fighters in the battle against white supremacy and more effective in ending racism overall…..”
Read the whole post here.
The beautiful photo above is of Aya’s mother, taken from the original post.
A few weeks ago I hosted an On Air Google Hangout titled “Coloring Latinidad.” It was advertised as a panel about “colorism within Latin@ feminism.” We had three wonderful panelists come and talk, and after a lot of work, the Hangout felt like a success.
But, soon after the Hangout went live and the recording was made available, we started to get a lot of criticism on Twitter concerning how we titled the Hangout, the diversity of the panelists we invited, and the topics we chose to cover. A lot of people felt that for what was supposed to be a panel on colorism, we sure had a lot of white girls not talking about racism. And they were right.
My original hope for the hangout was to host a conversation about how our skin color shapes how people treat us and, in turn, how/whether we identify as Latin@. The discussion was meant to explore the idea that Latin@s are expected to only look one particular way: neither white, nor black, but a “perfect” in-between. It was inspired by pieces written by two of our panelists on what it means to be white and Latina, and how oppression and privilege come together to make for a complicated activism. Whiteness was a big part of the discussion that we planned, that is the truth.
We made a mistake in how we advertised the Hangout and misrepresented its focus. By using the word “colorism,” we suggested that we would be discussing how Latin@s experience racism from other Latin@s due to their skin color. That was not the case. For a panel on colorism, the panel certainly didn’t include the voices it should have nor focus enough on the the often life-threatening racism and marginalization that Afro-Latin@s and indigenous Latin@s face, and we’re sorry for that.
I also think there was room for improvement in the conversation that we did have. Looking back, I think the group really lacked a voice who could speak to the linguistic and environmental marginalization that so many indigenous Latin@s face each day. Looking back, I wish we had dug deeper into how White Latin@s can use their privilege to challenge racism within their own community, and how privilege–whether it be class, skin color, language or education–can divide us and make us blind to the suffering of others. It can even make us perpetuate oppression without knowing it. Looking back, I see lots of room for improvement.
If we are going to practice intersectional feminism, part of that means considering the intersection of traditionally oppressed identities with traditionally privileged identities. I want to widen our understanding of Latinidad to include Afro-Latin@s, indigenous Latin@s, Asian Latin@s, and white Latin@s, all of whom experience different and overlapping forms of marginalization and privilege.
This Hangout was an attempt at that, and I hope that in spite of its many flaws, we can create space for that conversation to continue.
In order to do so, we are using this platform to highlight the work and voices of some badass Latin@ feminists. Last week, Suzanna interviewed Juana Rosa Cavero, director of the Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles, and this week she’ll be posting an interview with two members of the LatinNegr@s Project, Bianca Laureano and Jessica Marie Johnson. We’ve got a few other incredible activists coming up, so stay tuned!