She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I admired the courage of the women and my love for nature grew. I discovered my capacity to confront situations and I pledged my life to the struggles of the people”.
She says also: “I feel a passionate love for life, especially for day-to-day life. Daily life is a crucial reference point for educational projects. We decide our strategies and projects around it. What does this means specifically? We place ourselves within this daily life with its routines and its unforeseen circumstances”.
María Luisa Navarro Garrido – Venezuela
She works for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart 1), and for the Community Center for Popular Promotion (not on the web).
“I am a woman that had two births, I was born and re-born”, explains María Luisa Navarro Garrido. The first birth was to her parents in Madrid, Spain, on May 3rd, 1942. The second one, the re-birth, was after her personal decision to live among the Venezuelan people and was reaffirmed when she was given Venezuelan citizenship in 1990.
“Onto my Spanish roots the Venezuelan sap was engraved and that generated in me a great sympathy towards multicultural society and a special love for Bolivar’s people and for the people of Don Quixote”.
She was born in a home full of women; her father was the only man. They told her about his disappointed face when he knew that he had another girl. Nevertheless, she remembers, “he could not hide his fondness for his four littler girls”.
Along with her sisters she had experienced, since the beginning of her life, the very special sensibility of being a woman. “We were very close and we supported and defended each other in all life situations.
Another special experience was to be born in an artisan’s home. My mother sewed. She made all our clothes during our lives, even my sister’s wedding dress. My father painted pictures that touched me, and I helped him by mixing the colors in his palette for him to create landscapes, portraits, seascapes and still forms of life. They also contributed to the newspaper La Rioja. My mother wrote stories and my father illustrated them”.
María Luisa knew about the existence of pain and suffering because she heard stories about them at home, but she did not experience them herself during her childhood.
She specially loved plants. She took care of them. She watered them and talked to them. Later on, she discovered that she had an intense environmental consciousness that influenced many of the decisions she made in life. Due to the education she received at the School of the Sacred Heart in Madrid, she learned to live with affection. So, when she had to decide about her path in life, she chose to be a religious woman and to live from the heart.
“Today I am a Sister of the Sacred Heart, a Sisterhood which dates from 1800. I was 20 years old when I took my holy orders. I chose to work as a teacher, not in schools, but in villages, where the situation is more difficult. I participated in a project of popular education, where I felt the call of my heart and my intuition?.
Her first experience of the hard rural life was in the village of Castañuelo, Huelva, in the South of Spain. “There, I admired the courage of the women and my love for nature increased. I discovered my capacity to confront situations and I pledged my life to the struggles of the people”.
Later on, I was posted to the East of Venezuela, to the Paría peninsula. It was 1974, and I was then 30 years old. To move far away from my family and my roots, hurt but my sense of vocation and a certain attraction for adventure and risk were stronger”.
“What a meeting between the Easter Venezuelan people and myself! A mutual love was born which is still alive today. As José María Arguedas, the Peruvian writer says: ‘I have lived attentive to the heartbeats of this people’.
“At the beginning I worked in a team with a community of Sisters and realized that love is fulfilled through the work on historical projects with the people.
We created a community whose members traveled from place to place supporting different projects being carried out by the people. By doing this, we were a link between different groups and programs. One of the achievements was the constitution of the Cooperative Los Pinos, which today unifies the entire area.
Indeed, my achievements are collective achievements. They belong to the groups I am working with and the teams of educators. In Paría I continued to discover more about Venezuelan women, admiring their spirit of resistance and their courage. I felt pain for the injustice and inequality they suffered. I feel pain today for the exclusion of the poor people”.
In 1980, she joined the community of El Peñón, a village of fishermen which was gradually becoming part of the growing city of Cumaná, in the Sucre state, in the East of Venezuela. There, she worked in popular education. Later, the Community Center for Popular Promotion was born as a meeting place for the promotion of neighborhood projects.
“I have to look backwards to point out a fact that today illuminates my attitude towards life: when I was 26 years old I had a serious car accident on the roads of Huelva. From that moment on, I realized that life is for today, the present, and I decided to love it, to enjoy it and to treasure it”.
“From this reality, we make history today and we make a future possible. To treasure life, to defend life, to talk about our lives and our dreams speeds us along our way”.
Her work is influenced by the thoughts of Bolivar – his passion for the integration of the people. It is also influenced by the teachings of Paulo Freire and his pedagogy for the oppressed, about hope and autonomy. “We live today in a time that gives a special opportunity for the popular protagonist in the history of Venezuela”.
María Luisa has two loves: ecology and feminism; but they are one, the ecofeminism. “Ecology is the background music of all our projects, and we dedicate a lot of time and effort to taking care of life. We take part in the feminist movement in order to break the historical patriarchy and sexism. In short, in popular culture as well as in the Church, it is crucial to open eyes and to rise together as women to avoid the continuity and reinforcement of inequality as a cultural and clerical imposition”.
For the last five years, María Luisa has been working on an educational project with the women at the penitentiary of Cumaná. She has found this experience symbolic in the last period of her working life. “My relationship with these prisoners has taught me to live with more freedom. I discovered, with surprise and admiration, that even behind bars we can be free. Is this not a parable of us women, of our people, of the history of Latin America”.
Unceasingly, for the last 30 years, María Luisa Navarro Garcia has lived with the most disadvantaged and marginalized people in Sucre, trying to promote peace. In spite of the intolerance and difficulties she finds, her face, her words, her feelings, are signs of perennial tenderness and joy.
“To live in peace is to live together as a community. There is a very graphic expression in cookery, where we aim to integrate various flavors in a tasty harmony that nourishes us and helps us to grow. I am a very determined opponent of violence; I say yes to resistance. I embrace the idea of non-violent resistance. It is our theme, our song. (1000peacewomen).
1) To disambiguate: there exist websites for the ‘Sisters of the Sacred Heart‘ as Franciscan … , as Missionary … of Jesus, as Society … devoted, as Benedictine … , as Oblate … , etc. etc. – each time is meant another group.
2) Sorry, I can’t find more informations about María Luisa Navarro Garrido, Venezuela, in the Internet.