First International Political, Artistic, Sports and Cultural Convening of Women Against Capitalist Patriarchy
Several years ago my family learned that we were decedents of indigenous communities in Chile. That radically transformed my perspective on life.
My interest in connecting more with communities that subsist in an autonomous way, that respect Mother Earth and find themselves at the margins of our oppressive capitalist system has been growing particularly since I became involved in the world of cooperatives.
On one of my visits to Mexico, I learned about this convening that has become an eye opener for me and the more than 8,000 women who arrived from around the globe.
During the four days of workshops, talks, ceremonies, art, music, dance, rituals, theater, soccer, basquetball, volleyball, food and forums, the Zapatista women showed us that it is possible to create a different world that is reachable by all.
In all types of spaces they showed us that the success of the Zapatista community resides in its discipline and respect for decisions taken collectively and in the power of organization.
For 30 years indigenous campesinos (farmworkers) that form part of the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista Liberador Nacional) have lived autonomously from the Mexican government and they have opted for a society that co-exists in parallel with the one that is under national regime. That is to say that some families are Zapatistas and others are members of political parties and farmworker organizations.
The Zapatistas have their own government known as Junta del Buen Gobierno (Good Government Committee) whereby high level officials are conformed of women. Their structure consists of technical commissions like for example health, education, justice, technology and agricultural production.
This convening was called for by the indigenous women leaders and feminists who, through their experience, alert us about the increase in femicides and brutality that women have and continue to suffer across the globe.
At the end of this convening, after listening to each other, looking into each others eyes and learning from one another, we agreed first to stay alive so we could bring this message to the women in our communities, according to our own capacities, timeframes and magnitudes.
The Prospera team is part of my community of women who fight to improve the living conditions of many Latinas and their families and I am very excited to become a bridge to expand this struggle to the many indigenous women, today in Oakland and the Bay Area, and, hopefully, in the future in Latin America.
Things I liked and Things That Surprised Me at the Convening
To begin with, only 800 participants were expected at this event. But that afternoon, evening and dawn, the buses kept arriving. A total of 8,000 women from all over the world arrived to Caracol Morelia, the grounds that were set up with sheds of dining halls and meeting spaces where the Good Government meetings are held weekly.
The countless workshops, classes, talks and activities that took place all day starting at 6 A.M. made it possible for us to share our fears, our frustrations, our joys and hopes.
I was mesmerized by the display of nearly three thousand Zapatista insurgents and the way they demonstrated it to us! These are women who are hard working, disciplined, and respectful, with a great sense of humor and love for mother earth.
At our arrival big banners were welcoming us, with the words “Welcome Women of the World!” and “Men are prohibited from entering.” But the men were there, almost invisible, in a camp surrounding the grounds cooking, chopping wood and guarding the surrounding areas. Other men stayed home caring for the children so that the women could attend the convening.
“Make yourself invisible to be seen” is the moto behind the mask that the Zapatista men and women wear at ALL times. And it makes sense because historically since the colonization indigenous people throughout Latin America have been ignored, not listened to and run over but today this mask helps us appreciate strength of unity and the clear message that we are all equal, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, language, age or culture.
Finally, my personal reaction came with the realization that we suffer twice as much in this capitalist system for being women, for being poor and for being indigenous; that for generations we have been under the subjugation of the white man that corrupts our cultures, our men and women. A rebirth of consciousness reaffirms my commitment to just forms of subsistence, practices of equity and collaboration with those who most need it.
I had the opportunity to attend, participate, watch and listen several workshops and lectures and without a doubt the most meaningful it was to learn about The Seven Principles for the Good Government. In that, I learned that by adopting these ethical guidelines that the Zapatistas men and women exercise; it is possible for us to organize ourselves for the wellbeing of the entire community.
7 Zapatistas Principles for the Good Organization
Serve Do Not be Served: Never use your power for personal gain. On the contrary, use this power or position for the common good. For example: remove yourself from voting if a decision could benefit you individually.
Represent Do Not Replace: promote the words “we/us” and take into account the members who have not expressed themselves. In the case of organizations with a larger number of members it is beneficial to create a committee or commission highly specialized to make day-to-day decisions.
Construct Do Not Destroy:create an atmosphere of trust and connection among the members, vote NO if you think that the decision will be a detriment to the organization, identify and discuss issues that are causing conflict and don’t avoid them. Name your role and make an effort to grow and improve your abilities and fulfillment of your roles for the betterment of the community.
Obey Do Not Command:Create a manual or book with instructions and rules to govern the organization. Be responsible for learning the rules and agreements in order to act and make decisions collectively. Always return to the mission and review the agreements about how you are going to work together.
Propose Do Not Impose: Encourage a positive culture, inclusive communication either in conversation or through a voting system. It is important to remember that one of the basic cooperative principles is to make democratic decisions where you will always have a voice but not necessarily get things done your way.
Convince Do Not Defeat:To accomplish consensus is to consider the opinions of all members resulting in a decision that benefits all members. Even though at times we think our idea is the better one, it is transcendent to allow decisions made collectively to move forward unless they are detrimental to the organization.
Step Down Do Not Step Up:In this principle we recognize human diversity because it demands a place for each person without undermining anyone. “One next to the other, not one on top of the others.” Furthermore, to discern power and privilege is part of being a conscientious member of the community.
What you read is my interpretation of what I learned and experience in Chiapas, but you can find your own meaning and take what applies to your own world, time and mode.
I am honoring my commitment against the capitalist patriarchy by staying alive, which seems to be a challenge for women around the globe these days, and sharing the knowledge that is helping the Zapatistas to thrive.
I really wish more and more people would know about these principles, live them and share them. I also wish that no woman regardless of her world, color or size, regardless of her age, language or culture never again feels fear or pain, so our next convening be to celebrate life and peace.