Black Females at Power

Who many black females are vice-president in Latin America?

Shirlene Green Newball

This past June, presidential election was held in Colombia, a South American country. It marks a milestone in Colombia because it is the first time the leftist party is in power, and the first time a black woman became the vice-president. Her name is Francia Márquez Mina. 

Francia Márques is from the Cauca region, which is in the southwestern part of Colombia. She is 40 years old and comes from a humble background. Márques was a maid, lawyer, environmental activist and Afro-rights activist.  Márques stressed on many occasions that she was running for the presidential office “because our governments have turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace”  (New York Times, 21.06.2022).

Before becoming the vice president of Colombia, Márquez was as aforementioned, an energetic environmental activist in her region. In 2014, her community was jeopardized by illegal mining and the construction of a dam in the Cauca region over the primary river named Las Ovejas, thus she was the leader to inspire and mobilize 80 women from La Toma to march to Bogota to protest in front of Congress over both projects. In the end, the government was forced to meet with the community and later agreed on abolishing illegal mining. Marquéz and the group of women’s action ignited awareness among the population in other regions of the country where illegal mining was also an issue. 

In 2018, she was awarded the Golmad Environmental Prize 2018 for her work in the community and the environment. This same prize was received by Berta Cáseres 2015, who was a Honduran environmental activist, a year after she was murdered. 

Even though Colombia has a large percentage of Afro population, the news output has shown that not everyone is happy with Márques being in position. During her presidential campaign, she was exposed to racism and classicism, however, these issues were not a barrier for her, because she went ahead and won. Historically,  Colombia has been governed by elites and white individuals, but now there is a change of representation in the government with a black woman who comes from a poor family.

While Francia was campaigning in Colombia, not far away Epsy Campbell Barr, vice-president of Costa Rica, Central America was leaving her position. She was the first black female to assume this position in Costa Rica and in the Latin American region. She was the vice president of this country from May, 2018 to May, 2022. 

Moreover, Campbell is one of the co-founders of the Costa Rica Citizen Action Party (PAC). Before becoming vice president Campbell was a congresswoman for two terms, and an advocate for African descent people, and woman rights at the local and regional levels. 

I met Campbell before she became vice president, while I was working at the Afro Caribbean, Afro-Latin, and the Diaspora Women Network. At a conference, I heard her speak for the first time, and it was clear that she had the talent to be a leader and a good speaker. Years, after she became the vice president of Costa Rica. During those years she fights against racism and relentlessly advocates for the Afrocostarican population.

On the 25th of June, 2022 Campbell tweeted a photo of her and Francia Márquez, saying they will work together. 

Both Márquez and Campbell as leaders, being black, and female, play a pivotal role for women’s empowerment in the Latin American region and further abroad. They have done and are still doing their part. We can join them from our community, workplace, and organizations. 

This is not the beginning, it’s the continuation of what our ancestors had given to us, thanks to many powerful black women we are at this standing point today. Thanks, Harriet Tubmam, Matilde Lindo and others. 

Name a powerful black woman you know!

Data about Colombia and Costa Rica 

  • 10.5 % of the Colombian population is black. 
  • 7,11 % of Costa Rica’s population is black. 

Source:  Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadísticas  (DANE) and a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECAC). The percentages are based on the 2010-2011 census. 

References

The New York Times

One Earth

https://www.oneearth.org/environmental-hero-francia-marquez/

Goldman Enrivonmental Prize

France24

https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20220620-francia-marquez-from-maid-to-colombia-s-first-black-vice-president

DANE

https://www.dane.gov.co/index.php/estadisticas-por-tema/demografia-y-poblacion/censo-nacional-de-poblacion-y-vivenda-2018/informacion-tecnica

CEPAL

Cantautoras indígenas: Voces de cambios 

Las voces de Ch´umilkaj y Sara tejen historias y sanan

Texto: Shirlene Green Newball

Fotos: Ajpu Nicho, Sandra Sebastían y Cristian Dávila

En enero de este año viajé a Guatemala a recopilar información para mi tesis de maestría. Durante mi estadía entrevisté a cuatro mujeres maravillosas y fuertes de quienes aprendí mucho sobre el contexto y rol de las mujeres guatemaltecas y en especial de las mujeres Mayas Kaqchikeles.

La música es parte de mí, yo me despierto y lo primero que hago es cantar”

Sara

En el caso de Ch’umilkaj expresa que empezó a cantar desde niña. Su mamá es maestra y cada día que llegaba a la casa les contaba historias a ella y sus hermanas/os, luego cada uno tenía que resumir el mensaje a través del arte.

En mi caso yo siempre decidí hacerlo a través del canto. Cantar en mi idioma me da el derecho de decir quién soy, de donde vengo y hacía donde voy.

Ch´umilkaj

Ch’umilkaj Curruchiche Nicho y Sara Curruchich son cantautoras jóvenes Kaqchikeles quienes tienen una trayectoria a nivel nacional e internacional. Ambas son de San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango que está localizadas a unos ochenta kilómetros de la ciudad de Guatemala y es conocida como la “Florencia de America”, porque hay muchos artistas Kaqchikels que viven allí.

Sara Curruchich

Los temas de sus canciones y sus videos musicales son inspirados en la naturaleza, la Madre tierra, las mujeres, la identidad, sabiduría indígena, la discriminación, la no violencia, entre otros. 

Ch´umilkaj Curruchiche Nicho

Guatemala fue azotado por uno de los conflictos armados más brutales de Centroamérica. Durante los 35 años que duró la guerra se cometieron asesinatos, tortura, desaparición forzada que obligaron a las y los guatemaltecos a huir del país.  Según el informe de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) más de 200,000 personas fueron asesinadas como acto de violencia política y 626 masacres fueron ejecutados por el Estado de Guatemala.

Las mujeres Mayas fueron víctimas de la dimensión más cruel del conflicto interno. Durante este periodo muchas de ellas fueron asesinadas, violadas y torturadas por los militares. Un ejemplo de ello es la masacre que ocurrió en la comunidad de Plan Sánchez, municipio de Rabinal donde se estima que 286 personas fueron asesinadas. 

En los sus videos musicales las protagonistas son mujeres de la comunidad curanderas, tejedoras, defensoras, feministas etc., representando con orgullo sus roles en sus respectivas comunidades. También, en sus videos utilizan un hibrido lingüístico al cantar en su lengua materna kaqchikel y en español. El kaqchikeles es el tercer idioma Maya con un 17% de hablantes según el censo nacional del Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de Guatemala.

En honor a las mujeres Mayas/ Ch ´umilkaj

Las letras de las canciones de Sara y Ch’umilkaj no solo revitalizan el idioma kaqchikel, también transmiten un mensaje de lucha contra la violencia hacia las mujeres. Estas canciones y todo lo que se demuestra en sus videos musicales son para curar las heridas que tanto ellas como sus abuelas, madres y tías vivieron o recuerdan del conflicto armado.

Ch’umilkaj me contó durante la entrevista que un profesor una vez dijo que los Mayas ya no existen, se murieron. Según el investigador Rusty Barrett (2016) en la sociedad guatemalteca prevalece la idea de sociedad homogénea basada en la afirmación de que los Mayas de hoy en día no descienden de sus ancestros pre-coloniales, igualmente sucede con el idioma, por lo que lo consideran “dialecto”, pero ella expresa, “soy Maya, soy Kaqchikel, porque conozco mi historia, canto y quiero trasladarlo”.

Son esas manos 

que hilan y plasman en lienzos 

los ciclos del tiempo 

Jo’ tqatunu’ quchuq’a’

richin ntzolin pe

ruk’u’ x ri qab’ix

(Extracto de Mayab’ ixoqui’/En honor a las mujeres indígenas de Ch’umilkaj)

Sara manifiesta “cantar en kaqchikel es una forma de conectarme con mis abuelos (…) tiene una estructura lingüística, tiene toda su gramática (…) pues aquí está y no tiene un valor menor”. Para ambas cantautoras cantar en kaqchikel les da el poder de reafirmar su identidad, revitalizar su idioma y descolonizar el pensamiento que los idiomas Mayas son inferiores. 

Cabe mencionar que en los videos de las cantautoras se usan instrumentos musicales ancestrales, se muestra el sistema decimal para el tejido de güipil que utilizan las tejedoras, el sistema astronómico que usan hoy en día para la cosecha, el uso del calendario. Muchas otras tradiciones que utilizan hoy en día no son nuevas, sino que vienen de la civilización Maya. 

Las produciones musicales de Sara y Ch’umilkaj tienen un valor muy significativo, porque muestran la vasta cultura y prácticas tradicionales de las comunidades. Muestra la voz de las mujeres en defensa del territorio y la naturaleza. El canto al igual sirve para curar las heridas del conflicto armado de Guatemala que aún es vivido por sus abuelas, abuelos, padres, tías, y las de ellas misma.  Sus videos musicales son la reafirmación de su identidad, sus voces, letras e imágenes tejen su identidad Maya, tejen resiliencia y un futuro.

Sara

Nuestra voz es importante, porque constantemente ha intentado ser silenciada por el mismo Estado, por el gobierno y por el mismo sistema racista y colonial, pero aquí estamos

Sara

Datos de Guatemala

  • La población indígena en Latinoamérica suma aproximadamente un total de 45.3 millones.
  • Guatemala, es el segundo país en Latinoamérica con un alto porcentaje de población indígena representado por 43%, después de Bolivia.
  • Guatemala tiene una población de 14,901 286. De este total 51.5 % son mujeres y 48.5% son hombres. 
  • En Guatemala se habla 25 idiomas: 22 mayas, el xinca, el garífuna y el español.

Fuente: Comisión de Economía y Asuntos Sociales de las Naciones Unidas, Comisión Económica para América Latina (CEPAL), Mapa lisgustico del Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas Guatemala.

Aborto si, Aborto no, mi decisión

Yo decido sobre mi cuerpo.

El pasado 28 de septiembre en varios países de América Latina y el Caribe se celebró el día de la despenalización del aborto. En este día y en otras ocasiones es cuando usamos nuestro pañuelo verde que simboliza la lucha por el derecho al  aborto legal, seguro y gratuito en América Latina y el Caribe. 

En Latinoamérica y el Caribe hay varios países donde las mujeres mueren por no poder practicar el aborto y existe violación de sus derechos sexuales y reproductivos y la violación física y psicológica.

Según el Center for Reproductive Rights en América Latina y el Caribe el mapa del estado ilegal o legal del aborto se ve así:  

El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Suriname y República Dominicana es prohibido por completo. El Salvador es uno de los países más rígidos, por ejemplo la condena a “Las 17” por más de 40 años de cárcel. 

Mientras que en las anteriores es un delito en otros el aborto es permitido bajo causales como: cuando el embarazo pone en riesgo la vida y salud de la mujer,  en caso de violación, estupro, incesto y deformación o inviabilidad del feto. Entre los países donde es permitido el aborto por uno o más de estos causales tenemos a Belice, Brasil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Perú, Panama y Venezuela. 

México es particular ya que opera bajo un sistema federal, donde cada estado es independiente y por lo tanto ejerce las restricciones de acuerdo a las leyes del estado. Sin embargo, en todo el país es permitido en caso de violación, pero muchas veces no se accede porque hay obstáculos para la ejecución. Un ejemplo claro de ello se dio en junio de este año en Morelia cuando se le negó el aborto a una menor que fue violada por su padrastro. 

En Cuba, Guyana, Guyana Francesa, Uruguay y Puerto Rico y Argentina es permitido el aborto sin condiciones en las primeras semanas de gestación y bajo el plazo establecido por la ley. 

Reconozco que no es la primera vez que abordo este tema, sin embargo considero que no podemos dejar de hablar de ellos mientras nuestras madres, tías, primas, hermanas, vecinas, amigas y conocidas de nuestra comunidad mueren por estas leyes obsoletos y patriarcales.

Hay que seguir demandando que las mujeres tengamos derecho a un aborto seguro y gratuito.

Photo by Jaqueline Fritz on Unsplash

Our Menstrual Cycle is normal

Even though I have paid during my menstrual period, I am proud of it and I am not ashamed to talk about it.

In an article written two years ago, I expressed how I feel while experiencing my menstrual cycle. My body, emotions, and feelings vary according to the stage. During the first semester of this year, I experienced another phase when I missed my period for over 4 months. It was a bumpy ride; however, once more I learned about my body, my cycle and how to embrace it.

In our society, a lot of times we don’t talk about these issues openly because we are ashamed of being judged, or think it is something mainly private. However, what I learned is that it’s better to talk about it because it feels good to express your feeling and thoughts as an individual no matter your age, race, religion, nationality, and so on. As well, this can also help us to learn from someone else’s experience.

After facing those difficult months, I thought it was necessary to write about this topic once more because it’s something normal that occurs to each girl and woman. I believe we need to break the silence, tabu, and myths that society have been built concerning this topic. The menstrual cycle is not an issue to be ashamed of; on the contrary, we should be proud to talk about it because it is one of the rights girls and women have.

A woman’s menstrual cycle is a natural biological experience that occurs every 28 or more days and involves changes in two organs: the ovary and the uterus. The menstrual cycle varies depending on the process of neuroendocrine functions (Boron, 2017).

Moreover, the menstrual cycle is the process “where women are tightly controlled by endocrine, autocrine and paracrine factors regulating ovarian follicular development, ovulation, luteinization, luteolysis, and remodelling of the endometrium” (Mihm, Gangooly, & Muttukrishna, 2011).

The menstrual cycle has four phases:

  • Menstrual
  • Follicular
  • Ovulation
  • Luteal

These phases vary for each woman. Unfortunately, the menstruation phase is what is more commonly discussed in our society; however, each one is important for women’s mental and physical feelings. In a workshop about our menstrual cycle with Carmen Lorenza, a menstrual educator I learned that each phase is like one of the four weather seasons of the year: winter (menstrual), spring (follicular), summer (ovulation), and autumn (luteal). Each season has charms, temperature, light, darkness, and benefits. Likewise, the menstrual cycle phases also have.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“Menstrual bleeding is the external symptom of cyclicity in women and occurs at the end of the luteal and the beginning of the follicular phase” (Mihm, Gangooly, & Muttukrishna, 2011). This process has a length of 3-6 days. During this period the woman liberates blood, cells, and mucus.

The follicular phase occurs during the first period of the day and ends with ovulation. Next, is ovulation, where the matured egg is released from the ovary. It occurs around two weeks or just before the menstruation phase. The last stage is luteal, which is the stage where the egg bursts from its follicle but remains on the surface of the ovary. This follicle is transformed into a corpus luteum. 

As how I mentioned before, many times we hear and read about myths related to the menstrual phase. In many cultures, girls and women are isolated during their menstrual period because they are considered impure and ill, which does not permit them to interact with the rest of the society, such as not attending school, doing home duties, exercising, and so on.

Several articles from the WaterAid Organization reveal that girls who have their period in Iran, Nepal, and other countries are not allowed to go inside their house, touch their sister or grandmother, and so on. However, the articles also show that girls are more aware of their rights and are working to end the stigma about their period.

To break some of these myths and raise awareness of menstrual rights, Rebeca Lane, who is one of my favourite singers, has a campaign for girls to know about their menstruation. Along with other artists, she wrote and animated a music video titled Flores Rojas, where she stresses that our period is normal and thus, we don’t need to hide it, be ashamed or be punished. Besides the music video, the project also includes murals in public spaces and other activities, which are organized by non-profit organizations.

We need to talk about our menstrual cycle as a natural topic, it needs to be included in the education system curriculum, but most of all we need to stop stereotypes and assumptions about the entire process.

It feels good to regain my regular menstrual period after experiencing a temporal absence of it. Today I am in my autumn season. In what stage of your cycle are you now?

Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

A Role Model: Matilde Lindo Crisanto

Being a Nicaraguan Caribbean woman means you need to be more aware of your identity.

The International Day Against Women Violence was celebrated on the 25ht of November. Globally, many women took the streets or social media platforms to demonstrate once more that this pandemic affects all of us. A lot of women and girls have been victims of gender-based violence at home, at work, on the streets, and in other places. On the other hand, we also have many women leaders who campaign to put stop to this knotty issue that exists in our society.

After ending my bachelor’s degree, I returned to my hometown and started to participate in the Nidia White Women Movement activities, which protect women and girls against violence by giving advice, shelter, and legal accompanied during the process. Its office is located near my house. I knew several of the women who worked there. One was Matilde Lindo Crisanto, a strong Garifuna woman, active, and firm with her statements regarding women’s rights.

Lindo was the second of three siblings. Her father was Harold Lindo and her mother was Imogene Crisanto. After graduating from high school, she studied at the normal school in Waspan to become a teacher. Upon ending this period, she worked in the rural areas with the Miskito and Sumu communities. I recall Matilde being a teacher during my high school years. She taught Geography to both of my sisters at the Moravian Hight School, Juan Amos Comenius.  

My second sister remembers her like this. “Lindo was my geography teacher during my first year in high school in Nicaragua. She taught me Nicaraguan and Central American geography. Due to her passion for teaching the class, I grew to love the subject. It was definitely one of my favourites in high school. Beyond being a teacher, she was an advocate against violence. She voiced herself and fought for women’s rights and equality. Her voice was heard in and out of the classroom. It propelled in the community she served”.

Besides being a teacher, she was a fervent woman’s rights activist who stood up defending women of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. She began involving herself in the feminist movement during the late 80s, by participating in meetings, workshops, and conferences.

Furthermore, in 1995, she participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. Lindo was also a member of the Women’s Network’s Against Violence, an active member at the Creole Moravian Church, and the National Women Movement.

Shira Miguel, who is the coordinator of the Nidia White Movement where Lindo also worked, remembers her as a passionate woman. She expresses to Women Wheel that when she arrived at the movement, Lindo told her “This is not an easy road. First, when you talk about human rights especially women’s rights; there are lots of people who do not agree with it. Second, be clear that being in a feminist space does not mean that there is no discrimination, being a Caribbean Black or Indigenous woman is not the same as the rest”.

Moreover, Lindo stressed that violence was structural and that women violence in the Caribbean of Nicaragua was not the same as the one on Pacific Coast, which she said loudly and repeatedly on many occasions. Lindo’s trajectory as an activist is not only for the women of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, it’s also at a national level; thus we should embrace and learn from her legacy.

Lindo said, “I am from the black culture, we come from a tradition of the Goodness, queen of the nature, a tradition that reflects our way of being and practices”.

I would like each one of you to think of a black woman in your community who has been a role model for your actions, thoughts, and motivation as a black female. Join moving women stories by sharing your story with us!