Catpaws Cafe

Random musings from my virtual fountain pen

Archive for the tag “mexico”

Small Victories, 1 December 2015

I’m counting small victories. Being able to sit up for ten minutes. Having a shower unaided. Manage laundry. Still to come are simple things like mop the floor…

This is my first time at my computer in a while. After researching for almost a year, I wrote the first draft of Seeds of Soultraction in a month during October and early November. I’d gone back to editing Andino Andina, then walked to the local market and stocked up on vegetables. It was an ordinary day, or so I thought. When my husband came home we considered shopping before or after dinner: I was hungry, he wasn’t, and since he often falls asleep after dinner I chose to go before dinner… straight forward.
I knew to leave my new phone on the kitchen table, didn’t question why and since I expected to be gone for less than an hour my rational mind agreed.
Off we went. Supermarket one, supermarket two, purchases stored in the compartment under the seat, back home. Easy peasy. Only on the way back we got ourselves hit by a drunk driver. We had right of way and were going slow (25-30km/h). I was looking the other way, and the first I know is screeching breaks and shouting. A drunk youth on a borrowed bike, without a license, ran a stop sign.

It all happened very fast and I don’t remember much, and what I do remember is in odd snapshots. I remember screaming until someone got our overturned bike off me. Too stunned to move, I just lay where I’d landed after pulling free, in the middle of the intersection. Two young men carried me to the curb. When the ambulance came I could not remember where we lived, or even my date of birth. That’s when I observed I must be in shock.
I stared at my left leg and knee that had taken the full impact complete with road-rash, swelling, disfigure and Hurt, as did my neck on the right side. The arm that had protected both our faces on impact was scraped a little. Other scrapes and bruises were at that point to minor to worry about. I could not move and when I tried to stand on my other leg, nausea and blacking out forced me down again. I scanned my body and my guides confirmed no bone was broken, but tendons and ligaments were torn etc. All I could think was “They’re going to cut off my favourite pair of denim shorts -indeed the only ones I have right now. Crap.”
Just touching the knee made me retch with pain. Later, back home, any time I tried to stand up, the nausea would be instant and the feeling of fainting immediate.

Then everything is a blur again. A young man who spoke good English bought me a bottle of water and an icepack. He also reminded me the bike was not as important as us being alive. Much as I agree, well, it’s darned useful to get around and we’d only finished the repairs from last years incident three days prior. Honda no longer makes spare parts for the BizPlus.

The next day in a desperate bid for coffee I’d made myself stand up, holding onto and retching into the sink. That’s when I saw the portal open and understood. It was classic and so bright it was difficult to look at. This had been a choice point, the pain I felt in my neck was where the other me had snapped hers. The fainting spells was where she surfaced briefly to consciousness. I felt rather than heard a voice say Are you coming? And I mentally stated NO; I’m not leaving my husband, our cat, and I have two books I want to see out in the world first! I felt the other me die and the portal closed again. It was 11am and in the moment of closing the nausea and faintness was gone in an instant.

It took me a while to process. I was almost vegetable state, snoozing and staring at nothing for the first three days. Milou slept with me on the mattress, purring whenever the pain got too much in spite of the med’s. All energy I had had to be preserved for getting to the toilet.
I was not angry, or resentful, and that surprised me. Somewhere in my mental fog I knew there were bigger things at play here. Seeing portals and feeling the word co-creation on replay in my head does that.
We could have screwed the driver and the bike’s owner for every penny they would earn for a very long time, but ruining their lives just was not the way forward, I knew that.

After a week I had the bright idea of “I could spend this time writing, just give me a pencil and paper”. I found I could not. There was severe mental fog going on as well as a knee filled with what felt like razorblades and a leg under constant Chinese burns. I read some books instead in my waking moments. I could only sit up for minutes at a time.
Still, I was truly grateful. It sounds odd but it’s true. I was at home, I could recover with my beloved cat, instead of in a hospital I could neither afford or wanted to be in. Here, in ordinary hospitals, few speak English and family is expected to provide most of the care. In my case that would have meant Mario, before and after a 14 hr work shift, still recovering himself? In a room with several others, in pain, comings and goings all the time, no mosquito protection and the food… It does not bear thinking about.
Milou overrode her inherent dislike of sleeping close to anyone – cat or otherwise- and have spent most nights next to me – except on the full moon when she took the night off from nursing me to attend the cats allnighter party!

Thus, no matter how long it takes… there’s a lot to process. Some really old stuff that I really have zero desire to revisit. And sure, I rage against that, but I’m not going to bore you with it. I also rage against desperately wanting to move house and being stuck at home. How can we look for houses when I can’t walk? It’s likely to be a long time before I can, and before I can ride pillion again. I’m learning to ask for help and being dependent and I’m not enjoying it one bit. So here I am, watching the slow aurora borealis of bruising come and go on my leg from mid thigh down to my toes and occasionally wondering wtf?

I also sad because wanted to do the December Art & Crafts market on Isla; I spent a lot of time this summer and autumn making things especially and here I am… There’s work I promised to do and that now has to wait, and more work that I was looking forward to do that I will not be able to in the foreseeable future. There may be emails and enquiries in my mailboxes that I have not been able to reply to as I’ve not been able to get to the i-net cafe. I’d only had my phone for three days and thanx to being left at home it is intact, but I’d had no opportunity to download any apps for it before this happened. It makes me worry that I’ll thereby create for myself a reputation for being flaky and unreliable.
I have a little go-juice but equally it can be zapped by pain in minutes. When it’s spent it’s gone; all I can do is pass out on the mattress for the rest of the day. .
I was listening to a recording of Wendy Kennedy being interviewed by Rob Gaultier on a downloaded episode of Enlightenment Evolution Radio where she mentioned choosing the slow road rather than a near death experience, and that helped with the processing too.
I want to take this time to thank the Sisters of perpetual disorder on isla who helped in our time of need, with a care-package and crutches so I can hop around the house. Your help is so appreciated you have no idea and has helped enormously making life less difficult.

I know I’ve asked for an exit point quite a few times in recent years, but one where my beloved blames himself just would not do. Not one where he will forever ask himself Could I have done it better? No. I never blamed him. He did all anyone could have done in that situation, certainly more than I, being a lot more experienced at driving a bike.

It also makes one question the self, what if we had gone shopping after dinner? What if I hadn’t gone back to get… whatever? The queue had been shorter? What if we’d driven just a little bit faster/slower? What if the bike had started on the first kick? You can drive yourself crazy thinking like that. If it’s going to happen, it will, one way or another. My soul clearly thought I needed this experience so here I am having it. As the little voice after the X-files used to say (at least on English tv) I created this (or was it I made this?). If the option was to have died, no matter how long I take to recover, it is progress…
All things considered it’s something I’d have preferred not to have had to go through.
So please, next time you’re tempted: drink OR drive. One or the other. This is one way you don’t want to change another’s life, trust me on that.  And always wear good knickers.
The furry Angelic wants her dinner. I can do that.

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Lauren Z accident

Women & the Mexican revolution

With (Inter)NationalNovelWritingMonth underway I’ve had little time to work on anything else, so I apologize this is a bit rough and not really how I wanted it to be after feeling so deeply inspired after visiting the Museo Nacional del la Revolucion in Mexico City.  Maybe next year…

Women & the Mexican revolution
November 20th is the day we commemorate the Mexican Revolution, one of the most brutal struggles of the early 20th Century which lead to the end of the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Mostly we are only reminded of the men: the leaders and the politicians, more often forgotten are the women. Revolucion museo

It can be hard for people today to imagine the cataclysm that gripped Mexico during the Revolution. At the beginning of 1910 the population was around 15 million; by the end as many as 2 million people had died or left the country – that is 1 out of 7. The physical destruction and social disruptions were immeasurable, but on a more positive note workers gained previously unimagined rights; the campesinos won the right to own the land they worked, and the status of women improved immensely.

So many of the photos of the Mexican Revolution were taken with a train or rail road tracks in the background. Rail roads played an monumental role in the struggle. One of the accomplishments of the pre-Revolution Diaz regime was to criss-cross Mexico with rail road tracks. These were built, operated, and owned by foreign corporations. It is difficult to appreciate the importance of rail travel in Mexico in those days unless you understand how mountainous and difficult much of the country is. Up until the mid-20th Century roads were often little more than dirt paths. With a rail roads, armies could travel distances in hours that would have taken weeks on foot.

the real revolucionariesThe word Soldadera comes from the Spanish soldada, a small allowance a soldier received so he could hire a servant. A wo/man who collected the allowance was therefore a soldadera, a person who cares for soldiers.
The Mexican armies at the start of the Revolution lacked many important facilities possessed by more modern armies such as commissary and supply departments, and a medics.
Soldaderas performed many of these functions, but on a relatively informal basis. They set up camp, fed the fighting soldiers, cleaned their clothes, patched them up when they got wounded, retrieved their bodies from the field if they were killed, searched the bodies of the other dead for supplies and equipment, and performed innumerable other small tasks that made their men’s lives, and the life of the whole army, more bearable.

The Mexican Revolution saw two types of Soldaderas: the female soldiers who fought alongside the men, and the majority of the Soldaderas—the women who accompanied the soldiers but were not soldiers themselves. These soldaderas were sometimes called Adelitas (more about this later) and were mostly women who followed behind the large battalions, carrying kitchen utensils, and sometimes even their children. When the soldiers made camp, the soldaderas found ways to procure food from nearby villages and cooked and washed for the fighters, as well as kept them company at night.
Though the Soldaderas played a crucial role in the Mexican Revolution they never got the credit they deserved. What more, the story of these brave women have been suppressed, distorted, or simply forgotten.

As soon as they safely could, most of the revolutionary generals disbanded their female units and rid themselves of women of all ranks. This despite their military value and the proven heroism of individual soldaderas. It was simply too much for the leaders of the time to handle. Most women did not draw wages as they were not official members of the various armies. Aside from being summarily dismissed, many were denied promised pensions for their own service or that of their slain husbands.
Unfortunately this rather reinforces the major perception of soldaderas as simple, unthinking camp followers, women of easy virtue who might even be prostitutes.
Those who could went home and some had difficulty adjusting back to civilian life, dealing with social shame and sometimes with no family left to rejoin. Many died in poverty.

The public image that remained of the soldadera has gradually been taken over by film makers and marketers and distorted further. More often they show female revolutionary soldiers as femme fatales, curvaceous and long-legged, holding their weapons suggestively and they gazing seductively.

The real life of the Soldaderas was tough. The army’s horses were often better treated because the generals viewed women as expendable. The horses on the other hand played vital combat roles.

The Mexican author Elena Poniatowska describes them as:
“…slight, thin women patiently devoted to their tasks like worker ants–hauling water and making tortillas over a lit fire, the mortar and pestle always at hand. (Does anyone really know just how hard it is to carry a heavy mortar for kilometers during military campaigns?) And at the end of the day there’s the hungry baby to breastfeed.”

Anxious on train“Anxious on a train” is one of the most famous photos to come out of the Revolution. The woman on the left scans down the train for her man, while the very young, and very pregnant, girl on the right gingerly makes her way down the steps. The women behind them carry wicker baskets of provisions. More often the women were left to travel on top of the railway carriages, which could be argued was better than to walk (carrying supplies and heavy cooking utensils) but it still left them dangerously exposed to the elements such as sun, rain and wind.

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Another painting, Las Soldaderas (1926), by José Clemente Orozco. Orozco’s murals captures the feeling of long marches, the weary women trudge behind their soldiers. Their heavy bundles contain the food and other household goods that make their life in the field.

What happened to these women when her man was killed or she otherwise became separated from him? There was often no place to return, and had she done so it could be very dangerous for her. Rape by passing soldiers or deserters was a common fate of Mexican women in this period. According to Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, women of every social class were kidnapped. Stolen women would often become soldaderas. Having been dishonored, they could not return to their villages. Women who lost their men would often quickly form new arrangements with other soldiers to survive.

Working conditions for the people living on Mexico’s many haciendas were nothing but slavery. Beginning in 1910, workers rose up, raging against the oppression they and their ancestors had experienced for hundreds of years. Often they killed the owner before they left. Indigenous women often followed their men into battle, and later (with their men gone) many remaining women chose to simply take their chances on the road rather than be sitting ducks for rape and pillage.

Adelitas

Adelitas

As the revolution progressed more and more women became actual combatants. Unlike in the early days when a woman might pick up the gun of her wounded or dead spouse and plunge into combat, these (mostly middle class) woman appear to have been mobilized as a unit, and such units began to appear more often as the war continued.
Some generals were reluctant to accept a combat role for women, much less give them leadership positions. So women may disguise themselves (like Petra Herrera, initially calling herself Pedro) in order to be allowed to fight and to gain promotion, this under Pancho Villa.

Poniatowska writes :
“They nicknamed her ‘El Echa Balas’ (The Shooter) because of her violent character. She’d shoot her carbine squatting behind adobe walls, her aim better than that of a torpedo. On one occasion, two soldiers argued over who would be the first to rape a young girl they had kidnapped when ‘Pedro’ rode up to where they were and claimed her ‘for himself’. The soldiers, afraid of her aim and her knife-handling skills, let ‘Pedro’ take her. Once they were far enough away, Petra Ruiz opened her blouse and said ‘I’m also a woman like you’, and allowed the confused girl to go free.”

“…Herrera blew up bridges and demonstrated extraordinary leadership abilities…having gained a reputation as an ‘excellent soldier’, one day she showed everyone her braids and shouted ‘I’m a woman and I will continue to carry out my duties as a soldier using my real name!’ … Petra Herrera continued to fight in combat and took part, together with some 400 other women, in the second Battle of Torreón in May 30, 1914…Perhaps it was because her worth as a soldier was never formally recognized that Petra was motivated to form her own brigade which quickly grew from 25 to 1,000 women.”women of the mex rev

The female soldiers often ‘belonged’ to bands of rebels fighting against government troops. Many of them dressed like men, acted like men, rode horses, marched and fought like any of the other revolutionaries. One of the best known is Margarita Neri, a Mayan from Quintana Roo who became a commander in Emilio Zapata’s army.

Soldiers in arms

Soldiers in arms, men and women fighting side by side.

Some Soldaderas were feminists and socialist activists who not only fought on the rebel side, but fought for women’s suffrage, fair wages and affordable housing. More often middle-class, these soldaderas and revolutionaries were often educated and motivated by ideology much more than a desire to accompany their men.
Dolores Jiménez y Muro (previously a school teacher) was involved in drafting the ideas behind the “Political and Social Plan” which led to the Complot de Tacubaya. And even though that attempt to overthrow Díaz and install Madero as president failed, her writings influenced Emiliano Zapata’s own ideas of social reform.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Emiliano Zapata was a true social revolutionary rather than a simple opportunist. He was also famed for his respectful treatment of women. Zapata’s forces was described by one as “not an army, but a people in arms.”

Children too accompanied many of the armies, sometimes participating actively in the battles. The fierceness of the young who grew up practically in the revolution is hard for most to comprehend, yet testimony of it exists. In 1916, a girl named Elisa Griennesen Zambrano was living in Parral, Chihuahua when US troops arrived looking for Pancho Villa. Thirteen-year-old Elisa was outraged when the local Mexican men did nothing as invading troops arrived. So, she took charge. She got the women and children together and asked them to bring whatever was at hand: weapons, sticks, and stones. Infuriated, with their arms in the air, the women surrounded the American commander and forced him to shout “Viva Villa, Viva Mexico” as he ordered a retreat.

So when next you visit a Mexican restaurant and see the popular version of La Adelita: a beautiful woman wearing a pair of ammunition belts across her chest, holding a bugle in one hand and the Mexican flag on the other and smiling, know that there is so much more: When you hear the song Adelita, the classic corrido (soldiers’ ballad) that pays homage to all the Soldaderas. Adelita is a powerful ballad of love, bravery and patriotism and tells the story about a young woman who is in love with a sergeant, and he with her. Adelita is beautiful and brave; she follows her man into war and has even earned the respect of the colonel. In one version (there were many) she died gloriously by blowing herself up to prevent Diaz’ forces from seizing Villa’s ammunition supply. It was so popular among soldiers that the name became synonymous with the term soldadera.

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I hope this has given you something to ponder and remember on this day, and in this current state of affairs. Where do we want to go with this? Focus on that. Peace.

 

As far as i have been able to find out, all pictures used are public domain.  If not, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add credit or replace said picture.

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