Linked with (added Sept. 09, 2007) A re-compilation of texts and blogs for indigenous peoples.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “Everything can be achieved, bit by bit, little by little”.
She says also: “I want peace, not war and that women should not suffer violence. That is my fight as an indigenous woman for all of us. Already as a girl these thoughts were in my mind. But at that time they were just dreams. I think that the world is big and that we have to fight for everyone”.
And she says: “It is called el Bhote, with only a few hills and a few trees. Previously we had more. We have reforested a bit. It is very dry; we have no wells for irrigation. There is potable water but sometimes it does not function for eight up to fifteen days. I have learned during my training that where there are trees there is also rain. My community is very hot and very cold. There are times that are very, very cold and times that are very, very hot. My village is one of extreme temperatures. We sow maize, beans, pumpkins, broad beans, but without water you cannot irrigate. At home I wake up to make tortillas, to wash and to take care of my little animals. I am with them for a while and then I look for something to eat. When I go away I leave everything in the care of my children. Nothing stops me”.
Macedonia (Doña Mace) Blas – Mexico
She works for Fot’zi Ñañhu A.C.
Macedonia Blas is a Ñañhú (Mexican indigenous ethnic group) woman whose first child died when she was only 18 years old. She did not know how to take care of a little baby and, in her community, there were no doctors and there was no money. Later on, she had 11 more children.
Nowadays, she is not only a mother, she is an organizer, a trainer and a defender of Mexican indigenous women. I am lucky that Macedonia Blas, Doña Mace, as she is called, is a bilingual woman. Her mother tongue is Ñañho, but she also speaks Spanish and that makes our conversation possible.
The world is big and Doña Mace’s community is little. There are eleven children. “When I was 18, I began to live with my partner and I had my first daughter when I was 19. She died of vomiting and diarrhoea. I did not know how to take care of her because I was so young then. There are traditional medicines but I did not know about them then. I have four daughters and we get on well with each other. One of them works in the organization and also participates in the cultivation of mushrooms”.
“I work as a coordinator in our organization and I like to give talks. It is useful for my companions who do not know their rights. Many of them cannot speak Spanish, but we speak in our own language, in Ñañho. Some of the women did not have the opportunity to study because they had to take care of the animals”.
She is tireless and finds the appropriate words to explain what violence is and how to eliminate it from her own life and the life of the others. “I don’t feel tired because I like the work very much. Indigenous women do not know their rights. And for that reason we talk with them, to encourage change, so that they will not live with violence but will live a better life”.
Sometimes they say to us words we do not like. This is also a form of violation. We have to know the good words. You feel it in your heart when you are ill-treated. The grand mothers have already lived through it and they tell us, It is so good that you are learning”.
Besides this awareness process, she has been the leader of other initiatives. In her community she has gained the respect and confidence of the people and this gives her the power to question ancient customs that are harmful to women.
“Here we have many violent customs. Previously, women never had the chance to talk with their mothers. They never talked about what to do when they grew up and their bodies changed, when they began to menstruate. It is important to explain things to them so that they know what is normal. We know of a lot of people that beat girls and throw them out of their homes accusing them of being with men and that is not a good way to behave. It happened then and it happens now”.
This community, like so many others, has some aggressive practices related to sexuality. “There are people that are violated sexually by others because of jealousy. There are men who, as soon as a woman becomes a widow, begin to make advances to her and act as if they have a relationship with her. Their wives do not take that lightly. Friends and relatives of the offended wife detain the woman supposed to be involved with the husband and smear a paste made of chilli on her vagina. We are working to stop this practice, so that women will no longer suffer this kind of violence. We do not like this custom”.
The custom, probably an heritance of colonial times, is that other women punish an ‘unfaithful’ woman. To question these kinds of practices is something that is difficult for any woman to do from outside the community, a woman who does not speak the language and without moral authority.
Doña Mace, however, has the attributes required and also the courage to take on issues that are considered taboo. In 2003 they mounted the Campaign against Violence towards Indigenous Women.
They worked in groups to analyse the subject matter and to give each other support. They also edited a training manual, and produced posters and other explanatory materials.
“The most difficult part of the struggle is the husbands. The women say that they are not allowed to participate because they learn too much, they do not earn anything and they waste their time. I think they profit because to learn is to gain something. They haven’t earned money, but, yes, there have been some projects for women. Little by little”.
“We women have to help each other instead of speaking badly of others and acting against our own kind. Teachers should also take care of their pupils, treat them with respect, but it is not like that”. This statement is related to a denunciation of sexual and physiological abuses of Ñañhú boys and girls in her community. In the last two general elections they organized a commission of indigenous women observers. “First were there 20 women observers and after that, 40. We explained to the people in our community who we were electing, how the process functioned, what electoral crimes are and so on”.
Macedonia insists that things are changing little by little. “We have to have education. The judges and delegates have not enough training and knowledge to know what to do. Beaten women come and many times no one informs them or helps them. They only tell them to go back home and make peace with their husbands. This happens because we are women and indigenous. Some of them do not even speak Spanish. The functionaries do not believe them. They call what they say tittle- tattle. I go with them as a translator. Of course the authorities do not like what we say, but we say it anyway”.
That is not the only thing that they do not like. When the complaints became official, the president of the municipality sent armed men to look for Macedonia at her home. “Things change little by little with communication. With the talks and the workshops we can make more progress.
Above everything else I trust in God. He has given me strength to walk and to talk. Before I did not want to speak in public. I felt fearful and ashamed. Not anymore”.
Macedonia Blas works for all the women around the world, she says. And I say: How fortunate for us to have an activist of her dimension in our lives. (Read all on 1000PeaceWomen).
Read: Los espejismos de la ley.
Reconoce GDF la labor de 12 mujeres mexicanas que formaron parte de “Mil Mujeres por el Nobel de la Paz 2005”.