Archive | October, 2011

Witness to a feminist movement in Guatemala

25 Oct

I made it! To Guatemala. The plane ride sucked. I left LAX at 2am and woke up from time to time on the plane. When the sunrise showed thru the window, it was absolutely beautiful. A thin orange and red glow outlined the top of mountains and the navy darkness covered the rest of the open sky. 

On Monday I went to check out my friend Kimberly Bautista’s film, Justice For My Sister. This film is about a womyn and her relentless efforts to fight impunity and convict the murderer of her sister. Even though her family is threatened, she continues to fight head on for her sister. In the struggle for her sister, she opens a fight larger than herself. It is a fight where a whole nation of womyn are seeking justice and an end to impunity. It was shown at a gathering of organizers preparing themselves to take on a nation wide campaign to help womyn against violence. My cousin, my mom and sister went with me. I’m so glad that they went. 

I had not seen the film in LA. But I am glad I saw it in Guatemala. The discussion after the film was so raw and truthful.   Every womyn that spoke yesterday has a personal story to share about how patriarchy and machismo has hurt them in their lives. One womyn shared how she hid her pregnancy until the day after she graduated from school. She was afraid her father would not let her finish her education. There is an ever growing urgency by womyn to demand an end to a culture that has allowed womyn to be mistreated, under-educated, raped, and killed. 

Violence against womyn happens at so many levels in Guatemala and around the world. But i sense a movement that is only growing bolder, stronger, and louder. This movement is telling boys and men to help womyn take care of the home. It is pleading with men to stop hitting their partners and instead learn to communicate and create harmony at home. It is telling men to take responsibility within their fatherhood. It’s telling society to respect single mothers. That a womyn’s body belongs her and not to a man or the state. This movement has recognized that their is war on womyn’s bodies and it needs to end. 

Silence is ending. Today i went to a womyn’s art festival, El Festival Ixchel. It is a 2 week long series of events organized by womyn. They have created spaces for womyn to showcase their art, sculpture, photography, graffiti, film, poetry, and music. Tonight i saw a series of short films made by Guatemalan womyn. Each film is dynamic, taking on multiple issues that affect womyn. One of my favorite short films was done by a collective of Indigenous womyn from Solola named Asociación Centro de mujeres comunicadora mayas “Nutzij”. You can check here and here to learn about them.

I am witnessing a feminist movement in my mother’s homeland. It is not a new movement, but it is colorful. It makes sense, Guatemala is very colorful! 

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Me Voy

21 Oct

Im leaving again. This time its not for youth work or to escape. Im going to Guatemala to spend time with my family. Then I am hopping over to Panama. Ive never been to Panama and im so happy that I get to see this part of Central America. One of my goals in life is to visit every Latin American country. So far I’ve been to Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, & Guatemala. During this trip im checking off Panama and Colombia on my list!

While in Colombia I will be attending the 12th Latin American Feminist Conference, aka: El Encuentro Feminista. I attended the conference in Mexico City in 2009 and I was in full bliss to sit among 1,600 self-proclaimed feminist. Since then i have reclaimed my identity as a proud feminist womyn. I’ve chosen to define my feminism. One that encompasses compassion, healing, & self-care. One that talks back when disrespected. One that builds with womyn. And also

one that builds with men bc they are our fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, and sometimes our partners.  I do art, work with youth, walk my spiritual path, and it all fits within my feminist identity.

I will return in December. My birthday month! So i”ll see you then and trust! we are gonna celebrate the Sagitarius reign when i get back! 

Below are two videos inviting womyn from all walks of life to the feminist gathering. Even if you think you’re not a feminist, most likely you are… check it out! 

 

 

more videos herehttp://www.12encuentrofeminista.org/pagina.php?p_a=26&d=videos-encuentros-feministas-latinoamericanos-y-del-caribe

Cindi Santana and the Ovarian Psycos

14 Oct

Memorial for Cindi Santana @ Coyolxauqui Plaza | Oct. 12, 2011

The October Luna Ride:

And so it happened, the full moon showed up from the northeast and i left my house on my bike. I took the train to union station and biked to Hollenbeck Park, the meeting grounds for this month’s Luna Ride. The Luna Rides are called together by the lovely and beautiful Ovarian Psycos, aka the Ovas! Representing Womyn’s independence, sacredness and wildness at full speed, i joined these ladies to ride with the warm October wind.

As we left the park i counted 28 of us and took up a whole car lane. With the full moon on our east side in full bloom, i thought to myself, “we exchanged brooms for bikes but not our spirits”. Our bike route that night would take us to the Moon Goddess, Coyolxauqui, literally. A  replica of the Moon Goddess Monument that was excavated from Templo Mayor, sits in City Terrace, East LA. Here we would gather for ceremony to honor and remember Cindi Santana and the victims/survivors of domestic violence. Cindi Santana lived to be 17years old, a senior high school student in South Gate, CA that was beaten and stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. Youth dating violence is not new, its older than the time my mother was first hit by her partner 40 years ago. And it is more wide-spread than we could ever imagine:  “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” (1)

Domestic violence is a truth that has lingered in my life since before me (my gramma ancestors survived rape and pillage from Europeans, the church, and eventually her partners). When i was in the womb i was already aware of domestic violence, as my mom survived, so did I… Along with 1 out of every 4 womyn. (2)

As we remembered Cindi, we told stories to heal ourselves from pasts that sometimes we bury in shame. Many prayers  and offerings were shared during our ceremony. I want to re-write some of those prayers and share them with you: 

Prayer for children who are surviving domestic violence with their mothers

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have survived domestic violence.

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have been murdered by their partner. 

Prayer for the mother of Cindi Santana

Prayer for men

Prayer for womyn to speak up if they are in a violent relationship.

Prayer for womyn to walk away from violent relationships.

Prayer for womyn’s eyes to see their own worth and value.

Prayer for womyn’s heart, womb, and mind. 

I wouldn’t usually share sacred prayers said in ceremony, but bc we need to talk about violence in our homes and in our relationships, i have to let people know why we do what we do. I have to share why as a womyn, wefind ourselves in ancient ceremonies as helicopters, cars, and flashing lights fill our urban lifetime. Our realities may not always be understood, but its time for a change in how we love, respect, and honor our womb and our womyn. If your partner is a womyn, take the time to reflect in the ways you love and honor her. And if you dont do this to the best of your ability, humble yourself to change, learn from her, and be a better person. 

If you’re a womyn who finds herself in an fucked up, whack ass, messed up, fearful, emotionally tolling, stressful, worry-some, and/or trapped situation, speak up. Get help. There is help. Start with asking your mom, she knows more than anyone about survivorship. Tell a sister, a friend, a cousin. Call a toll-free number. Listen to your spirit and fight for your freedom. We have to be free! We have to! 

Infinite Fuerza by Ajtun, 2008 (c)

(1) Information found at LoveisRespect.Org 

(2) Information found at Domestic Violence Resource Center

Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama

4 Oct

CENTRAL AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL

October 19-21 | 2011

12PM – 8PM

@ the Charles E. Young Research Library,

 Main Conference Room | UCLA

art by Ana Ruth Castillo

 

Central America’s recent films emerge out of the ashes of political turmoil, war, immigration, and uneven development. To bring a ention to the region and its issues as well as its vibrant culture and artistic creativity, this festival presents films by both emerging and established artists. 

Highlights include La Yuma, the first Nicaraguan film in forty years and Amor y Frijoles, a gem of Honduras’ nascent film industry, among many
others. The festival kicks off with the documentary Paradise for Sale, which will be preceded by a short introduction by filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Carolina Rivera.

The complete schedule is available at http://www.library.ucla.edu/news/14124.cfm.
Admission is free, and no reservations are required; seating is on a first-come basis.

Co-sponsored with the UCLA César Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and the Latin American Institute

 

 

An Open Letter to Ms. Yates on Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

3 Oct

Dear Ms. Pamela Yates,

I went to the opening of Granito in Los Angeles.  I am thankful and I appreciate the work, time, and energy you have given to the people of Guatemala. When I went to see the film, I did not imagine that the story would be told in such a personal manner. Most journalists or film makers seem to take the back seat because they are so set on telling the story of others, but your personal accounts weave this story together beautifully.  I really appreciate the humanness you have shown through your film making.

There is something you said in your film describing your commitment and connection to Guatemala:

“Guatemala wrapped its arms around my soul and wouldn’t let it go…”

I get it. Through your film, you shared with us what you had witnessed and there’s no way your soul, your being, could not have been impacted so greatly during your time in Guatemala…

I have seen a number films about Guatemala, including Searching for Dominga, Killer’s Paradise, and La Limonada. The level of violence, suffering, and injustice is so extreme and heavy, that it never stops feeling like you can detach yourself from Guatemala. I want to share with you my connection with Guatemala…

I was born in 1982 in Los Angeles. The first in my family to not have been born in Guatemala. When i was a girl I would turn to the index pages of history books, hoping to find something on Guatemala. But hardly anything was ever accessible to me in that way. Before I turned 15, instead of having a quinceanera, I asked my mom to take me to Tikal, Peten. I haven’t stopped drawing pyramids since…

I was not witness to Guatemala in the 1980’s, the height of the repression, the massacres, the disappearances, the reflection of the devil upon earth. However, since I was a little girl, I knew something was wrong in my mother’s country. During my first visits to Guate as a 5, 7, & 9 yr old,  poverty became a concept i began to understand, i would question why my mom’s country was so poor, children my age were begging for food, why are people living so different??? I tried to comprehend the poverty, the alcoholism, and the oppression. I did not have the vocabulary, but i saw something that made me uncomfortable deep inside. When I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, I naturally fell into Latin American and Latino Studies. I had an intense need to learn about Guatemala and Latin America.  My mind has acquired a historical, economical, and political understanding of what went wrong in my ancestral land, but my spirit still mourns.

It saddens me, to know that so much potential for a more righteous and just Latin America was on the brink of existence during the 20th Century. Cuba was the kickoff, but the dreams of Chile, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.,  were over-taken by the CIA, military coups, and U.S. installed dictatorships. Through U.S. tax dollars, war has been funded countless times. And in the 1980’s, dollars manifested into Genocide and Femicide in Guatemala.

Where are we now? Where is Guatemala… how are people living and surviving? One look at the cover of La Prensa Libra will tell you the violence never stopped. And the trauma has not healed. My cousin, a 20 years old, was murdered in Huehuetenango during March of this year. He left behind his wife, a baby girl, and a grieving mother. His baby girl will grow up and find the story of his father in the newspaper, but the newspaper captured a lie. The town will tell her the truth, and she will be filled with fury to learn that men dressed in uniforms, murdered her father. I will tell her about the donuts his father and I use to eat when we were kids. But that is all I can offer…

Where are we now? I couldn’t answer it completely. It makes my stomach turn upside down. My entire family is in Guatemala. I hear lots of stories; good, bad, evil, miraculous… I will be in Guatemala in a few weeks. I will be spending time with my family. We will catch up, I will find my little cousins that are 5-10 inches taller than last year, the kids are becoming teenagers, and the family keeps growing. I look forward to the story telling, it’s always the best! I will share with my family for a moments worth, then i will fly away from that reality… but Guatemala also holds my heart and my spirit in its hands…

I’ve added a little granito here and there for Guatemala. There was a time when I produced a radio program for womyn that aired in Guatemala. I organized film screenings for two Guatemalan documentaries. I created a collective of womyn called Chapinas Unidas to raise awareness about the femicide in Guate. We participated in the women’s march in Los Angeles in 2008 and also held a conference with an all womyn panel of speakers who were survivors of violence in Guatemala. I still write about Guatemala and inform my friends about what I’ve learned and experienced. In the past couple of years, my granito turned inwards, and i began my own healing, including the healing of inherited traumas. I want to add more granitos de arena, if I can contribute to the next steps of the film, I am open to learning more. In the meantime, Ill encourage my friends to go watch the film!

Take care. Know that you are meant to be safe and protected on your journey. The helicopter falling captures that miracle, the access you were granted is of no coincidence. Everyone has a purpose to follow and I thank you for being a messenger of our people, sharing our stories through film,  and having the courage to act on a purpose bigger than yourself. 

Con Amor, Respeto, y Agradecimiento,

Ana Ruth Castillo

For friends who are reading this open letter, please add Granito thru your facebook: http://www.facebook.com/granitofilm and go catch the film at the Laemmle

Granito de Arena = a film and a humble expression of a collective process for change