2012: For most of this year, I have been reading and writing about the past, present, and future of la gente indígena de México y Centro América. I followed the news of the efforts of el Movimiento Indígena Nacional to re-establish a pluralist national democracy in México. In Sacramento, I was involved in the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition, a group dedicated to defending the Zapatistas and their revolution. But mostly I worked on my own manuscript explaining my own methods for developing a vastly different interpretation of Malintzin and her role in the conquest of México.
Immersed in my own ideas, I tried to ignore the politics of the day but found myself compelled to listen to the all-white group of men dressed in white-collar garb, who sought to be the Republican Party’s candidate for President of the USA. I came to call the longer-than-tolerable Republican primary season “the moron-athon” because of the ridiculous declarations and many factual errors made by the candidates day after day. The moron-athon turned into a brutal old-fashioned political slugfest after the respective conventions. Both parties continue to neglect the role and future of the worker in the USA. The focus on the middle class has erased the working sector, relegating the service worker to invisibility in the distribution of goods and services. Where were the voices of Hispanics, Latino/as, Mexican Americans, Chicana/os throughout the summer? Where were the Partido de la Raza Unida, MAPA, LULAC, and all the other politicized groups with which we affiliated during the Chicano Movement years? I know of several groups holding meetings and anniversaries, but I have not heard any plans, positions, or ideologies that emerged. The two entrenched parties continue to ignore the voices of Latinos until the very last moment because they can. Republicans and Democrats think they are the only game in town.
1960: My very first election was in 1960. It was an exciting time when I and millions of other Americans could still believe in the promise of American democracy. I was a dreamer, a believer that change would come through the electoral process. After all, I was a political science graduate student at UC Berkeley, fluent in Spanish and English, and knew politics backward and forward. I would certainly be offered a job in the JFK environment reflective of my talents. Instead, I learned women were blocked from most foreign service jobs outside of secretarial posts. What? By the end of the decade all my hopes for meaningful change within the two-party system were dashed. The few who promised change, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, were dead, felled by assassins’ bullets. I vowed: From this day forth, I shall vote no more forever. Of course, I was borrowing the words from Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce people.
For the next three decades, women in the United States of America wrote volumes, spoke out often, filling the streets of Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco with their messages and their bodies proclaiming women’s liberation. People of color involved themselves in their own “identity power movements.” Women of color learned to negotiate multiple terrains, hopscotching among various dimensions, and speaking through scholarly works.
Back to 2012: Why then in this election year are women suffering so many indignities? Women seeking knowledge of sexuality, conception, and/or contraception are accused of being prostitutes (Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich); the concept of legitimate rape is raised and accepted by other congressional Republican candidates (Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock); indignities directed at all Latinos include offering “choices” between deportation and self-deportation, speaking loosely about electrocuting people on the borderline fence (Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain).
Heinous indignities continue to be directed at women, particularly Latinas—and with dire consequences:
1) Violence against women on the US-Mexico borderline comes from multiple sources:coyotes, la migra, los rinches, local police, Mexican federal police, Mexican and USA drug enforcement agents, CEOs of border industries (las maquiladoras), and narco-traficantes who are well-armed and well supplied. The types of violence include rape, stalking, arresting, assault, robbery, and kidnapping.
2) Latinas, especially indigenous women, suffer negatively from official policies and values of government, organized religion, and medical professionals as well as other service providers intent upon limiting fertility. Women also rarely benefit from costly medical procedures intended to increase fertility. Issues of access to contraceptive knowledge, abortion, sterilization has begun to be well researched by Latina scholars including Elena Gutierrez, Adela de la Torre, and Angie Chabram.
3) The stigma attached to the status of single-motherhood is particularly insidious, as Gov. Romney placed the responsibility for the existence of gangs on single mothers. Governor Romney exposed his reliance on negative stereotypes for his decision-making, making this remark it in the context of speaking about needs of Latino community. “Gangs” and gang violence occur in all ethnic/racial categories, gendered settings, and economic strata.
Why do we, las mujeres, Chicanas, Latinas, Mexicanas continue suffering so many indignities, no matter on which side of the U.S.-Mexican borderline we reside?
¿Qué no nacimos iguales?
Aren’t we your partners?
Aren’t we your sisters?
Didn’t we raise you well?
Didn’t we bear and raise your children?
Haven’t we toiled in the fields a su lado?
Now that I’m educated, don’t I earn enough?
Haven’t I brought home a paycheck as meager as yours?
And now when I am educated,
Don’t I support our family in good style?
Yo como tortillas y tomo tequila, hací como tu!
Fui soldada y soldadera también
y cuidé el hogar para los soldados revolucionarios.
¿Qué no soy mujer trabajadora?
Don’t I deserve igualdad?
2012 is bound to be a momentous year with expectations ranging from mass destruction of the planet to a test as to whether or not our fractured populace can unite long enough to hand over a second term to our first elected president of mixed racial descent. I voted in 2008 and 2012 because I pay taxes, and I live here. If Chicana/os and Latina/os are in need of perfect timing to speak out on their needs, demands, and dreams, this is it. We need to hear the voices of the workers of society. The numbers are on our side; the stars are in alignment; the Maya y Azteca elders have spoken. SÍ SE PUEDE!!
MALCS Founder, Adaljiza Sosa-Riddell, Ph.D., is Chicano Studies Professor Emeritus at The University of California, Davis. She lives in Los Angeles and studies politics, Chicana/o issues, and class struggle.