Their bare feet set the rhythm of the dance, representing a closure of the process that began in 2015. It was then that the women who are dancing – from the Costa Chica in Guerrero and Oaxaca -, began a training program in topics such as human rights, gender, racism, and leadership that this afternoon in 2016 at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance at Mexico City made them yell strongly: “We, Afro-Mexican women raise our voices: no more invisibility, no more exclusion, no more racism.”
A lot is still pending. That is what they have underscored this October 12th, 2016 by mentioning, for example, that 6.9% of Afro-Mexican people that are 15 years old or older are illiterate, with women having less access to education: 8.4% do not know how to read or write, according to the 2015 intercensal survey for the INEGI.
Therefore, women from different networks and civil organizations elaborated a declaration where they demand, among other things:
- That the federal government recognize them constitutionally as Afro-Mexican Peoples “in order to validate our important contributions to this country’s history and development”.
- Generate a campaign among different levels of government [municipal, state and federal] “that designs and pushes for awareness-raising programs about the culture and history of our peoples”.
- That a life free from violence, discrimination, and inequality be guaranteed “respecting our human rights and identities as Afro-Mexican women”.
The list of issues that Afro-Mexicans face (made up of 1.4 million people in Mexico, of which 705 thousand are women) includes the lack of access to health, with pregnant women being those who are most affected, since they are denied opportune attention because it is believed “that black women can stand more pain”. Further, these women also denounced that they are victims of sexual violence, since there is a strong stereotype that “black women are sexually available”.
Maribel Santiago Arellanes is one of the women who was invited to participate in the program organized by Fondo Semillas and the ILSB. Both organizations approached this population based on the premise that the feminist movement in Mexico could not exclude Afro-Mexican voices.
“I’m from the municipality of Ometepec, Guerrero. I speak Amuzga, an indigenous tongue. Now that I’ve taken the workshop I feel proud of being indigenous and also about being black, because my heritage includes both. Hence, this struggle motivates me, it thrills me, because I do desire to have this recognition, because many of us who are here, have suffered discrimination.”
“When I was little I suffered discrimination for both aspects, both my indigenous and black identities, that is precisely why I am part of this struggle. [I participated in this workshop and forum] because I was invited and I didn’t miss a single workshop. I have loved it, I felt inspired, and I was able to find out about my ancestors, I had never worried about searching for my origins. This strengthens us, because we also see peers who have been discriminated, these workshops inspire us to keep going forward, to fight. At this forum I expected to see more people listen to us, press, authorities.”
Another woman who arrived to Mexico City to demand her rights was Martha Edith Bacho Mariche, from the community of Collantes, the Oaxacan municipality of Pinotepa Nacional.
“I’m new at this but I’m truly excited. I have learned a lot from my peers. I feel lucky I got to participate in the forum. We no longer want to be invisible, we all have a right to say what we think, to health, […] and with my partner, well, he isn’t fully convinced, he constantly tells me to drop it, but before coming here, he told me: ‘I’m finally beginning to understand you.’ I’ve been asking myself all night what he meant, when he walked me to the bus, but that made me feel more excited and braver about coming.”
And so, of course, I ask her about the dance: “I love dancing, the dance over there [in Collantes] is performed by a men-only group, women aren’t included, it is another struggle and by coming to represent it here we want them to see it is possible”.
“You are the ones who have to raise your voice, we must accompany you”, Laura Garcia said to them, director of Fondo Semillas.
Said Laura García, director of Fondo Semillas.
I see these Afro-Mexican women walk away, many with a smile on their face. They have been able to strengthen their process, they have found ways to create a dialogue and organize their demands. They have been able to join the dance, and are no longer invisible.