Miami Autonomy & Solidarity
In the following piece MAS member, Luz Sierra, reveals the hardship of being pressured to fulfill gender expectations within her household and culture while being politically involved in Miami. She shares some strong insights of her analysis of such oppression and how it affected women she have met throughout her life. Yet, as a firm believer in direct action, she demonstrates and encourage revolutionary women to share their tribulations with one another and end their fears and doubts. Therefore, in honor of Women’s History Month, we provide you this amazing piece and insist you to read it.
By Luz Sierra
This past year I became politically active. I went from being completely unaware of the existence of radical politics to doing organizing work in Miami with an anarchist perspective. It has been both a rewarding and difficult journey, yet gender seems to haunt me wherever I go. I am probably not the first woman to experience this, but I believe that I should demonstrate how this is a real issue and provide my personal insight for other women to have a reference point for their own struggles.
Being raised by Nicaraguan parents and growing up in Miami’s Latin community, I have firsthand experience with the sexist culture in South Florida. Many families that migrated from South and Central America and the Caribbean arrived to the United States carrying traditions from the 1970s and 1980s. Daughters are raised by women who were taught that their goal in life is to be an obedient wife and to devote their time to raising children and making their husbands happy. Latin women are supposed to be modest, self-reserved, have the ability to fulfill domestic roles and be overall submissive. Some Hispanic families might not follow this social construction, but there are still a large number of them who insert this moral into their households. For instance, this social construct is apparent in the previous three generations of my father’s and mother’s families. My great grandmothers, grandmothers, mother and aunts never completed their education and spend the majority of their life taking care of their husbands and children. Meanwhile, various male members of my current and extended family had the opportunity to finish their education, some even received college degrees, and went on to become dominant figures in their households. The male family members also had the chance to do as they pleased for they left all household and childcare responsibilities to their wives. As the cycle continued, my mother and grandmothers attempted to socialize me to fulfill my expected female role. I was taught not to engage in masculine activities such as sports, academia, politics, and other fields where men are present. Unfortunately for them, I refused to obey their standards of femininity. I have played sports since I was 10 years old; I grew a deep interest in history, sociology and political science; and I am currently part of three political projects. Such behavior has frustrated my parents to the point that I am insulted daily. My mother will claim that I am manly, selfish for devoting more time to organizing and promiscuous because the political groups I am involved with consist mostly of men. My father will state that I am senseless for wasting my time in politics and should devote more time in preparing myself to become a decent wife and mother.
Throughout my 20 years residing in Miami, I met women from various countries. In school, at work as a certified nursing assistant, and in politics, I have met women from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Nepal and the Philippines who share similar stories. Each one of them revealed how they are oppressed at home. They are forced to conform to gender roles and follow traditional standards of being a woman. Some have tried to deviate from those roles, yet the pressure from their loved ones is so powerful that they often compromise with their families to not be disowned. There are some who are able to fight against the current, but consequentially, they are insulted, stigmatized and can sometimes go on to develop depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I myself have experienced such emotional meltdowns and still do. I recovered from depression in 2013 after receiving therapy for over six months, and I am currently battling with social anxiety and low self-esteem. Nevertheless, I still manage to maintain my integrity and will continue to do so to keep fighting.
Hearing the stories and witnessing the sorrow of all the women who are blatant victims of patriarchy has inspired me to keep moving forward as an organizer. Watching my mother be passive with my father, witnessing my sisters being forced to display undesirable traits, and watching the tears women have shed after sharing their unfortunate stories of living under the oppressive rule of male figures has allowed me to turn anger into energy devoted to creating a society where women are no longer oppressed. I am tired of having to face gender inequality and watching women fall into its traps. We cannot continue to neglect this issue and endure these obstacles alone. As revolutionary women, we must take these matters seriously and find strategies and solutions to overcome them.
One way to start facing this struggle is by sharing our personal experience with one another and recognizing the problems we deal with today. We cannot keep denying and repressing our frustration of gender inequality. It needs to be released. How can we expect to create a social revolution when we rarely lay our personal tribulations on the table? I know it is hard to discuss the issues we face at home, at work or within political circles. It is even difficult for me to write this article, but we need to stop letting barriers obstruct us. I remember I was petrified when I initially spoke about my personal problems with a comrade. I thought she would not understand me and would think I was annoying her, but after exposing my story, I soon realized she faced the same hardships and abuse too and was sympathetic to my situation. This really transformed my life because I thought I always had to wait to talk to my therapist about these dilemmas, but I was completely wrong. There are people out there who are willing to listen and provide support; it is up to us to reach out to them. I came to understand that gender issues still exist and that my hardships are real. Through simple actions like talking and building relationships, I believe we can form a collective of people willing to create tactics to abolish such oppression. This is how Mujeres Libres formed and created a tendency within the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo and Federación Anarquista Ibérica that faced gender inequality. They were able to grow in numbers and seize the power to fight in the forefront of the Spanish Revolution. This could be achieved today if we place our hearts and minds to it. Many of us might say that our current social setting and capacity will make that impossible, but how would we know if we have not tried yet? This is why I encourage all revolutionary women to stop secondguessing themselves and fight. Let’s end the silence now and begin to form the solidarity that is needed.
We are posting a link of a mid-December 2013 interview by One Struggle of militants in Batay Ouvriye concerning the ongoing minimum wage struggle in Haiti including mass protests of hundreds of thousands of workers in the streets. In the interview, Batay Ouvriye militant, Yanik, calls on those who want to stand in solidarity with these struggles to: 1) spread information about their struggle and 2) pressure particular businesses resisting workers demands. For more information on specific actions to pressure businesses, check out the webpages of Batay Ouvriye (Haiti):http://batayouvriye.wordpress.com/ and One Struggle (South Florida): http://onestruggle.net/
Here is the link to the interview: Talk with Batay Ouvriye
Miami Community Event Today at Veye-Yo, Saturday, January 11th: https://www.facebook.com/events/492633257518625/
Miami Student Event Monday at FIU South, January 13th: https://www.facebook.com/events/190047431196540/
Tour Website: http://chilespeakingtour.wordpress.com/
Please help and support the Anarchist Speaking Tour on Popular Power in Chile. They currently need assistance with tour expenses (about $5,000 dollars) and are seeking for contributions. Therefore, we would appreciate it if you provide donations of any amount in order to help create a successful tour.
* We are reposting one of the web pages of STRUGGLING TO WIN: ANARCHISTS BUILDING POPULAR POWER IN CHILE in order to provide more information of the US Tour and share the biographies of the speakers. We hope this will encourage individuals, not only in Miami, but all over the country to attend the various events being held in different cities. Tour dates and contact information are also provided in the website as well.
Chile has a long history of working class struggle in shanty towns, factories, mines, community organizations, and schools. In the 20 years after the US supported coup which overthrew Salvador Allende’s government, much of the organizing was done underground. However after the fall of the dictatorship in 1990, there was a new rise of mass popular organization in the country. Anarchists have been a major force in the social movements, strategically organizing to build power. This has manifested in solidarity for the Mapuches, anarchists winning the student union elections at the University of Chile, militant pro-abortion actions, and libertarian labor organizations.
This national tour brings three individuals involved in these struggles to talk about the lessons learned and to create solidarity across hemispheres. From January to the end of February, the speakers will be traveling throughout the country and we hope that you can spread the word and hear about the important work that is happening in Chile.
Gabriel has been a militant of FEL (Federacion Estudiantes Libertaria) as a high school student since 2004 (aged 16). In 2005, he helped organize support from secondary students for the ongoing university student strikes against the new university credit system. During the large scale high school movement in 2006, Gabriel participated in the ACES (Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios) as part of the propaganda brigades.
In 2008, he joined with other comrades to form the UMLEM (mural brigade) of Santiago, and the subsequent Muralista Luis Olea(MLO). He also participated in the CAE (Convergencia Anarquista Específica), in Chile as part of an attempt at forming a nation-wide anarchist organization. Later, studying in Argentina, he organized with the feminist group “Mujeres en Búsqueda” and the community organizing group “Construyendo Puentes”. He also helped form a MLO group in Argentina
In 2009 Gabriel was a participant at the ELAOPA VII (Encuentro Latino Americano de Organización Populares y Autónomas) in Argentina, a gathering of libertarian and anarchist organizations involved in social struggle. He later returned to Chile and coordinated university student participation in a popular student-run school in Renca, Santiago (La Nueva Escuela de Renca)
Gabriel continued his involvement with the ORA (Organización Revolucionaria Anarquista)[formerly the CAE]. The organization along with the Santiago organizations: EL (Estrategia Libertaria) and CAL (Corriente de Acción Libertaria) would form the FCL (Federación Comunista Libertaria). In 2010, he was elected as a delegate of the MLO to ELAOPA VIII in Uruguay. In 2011, he became the spokesman of the science faculty during the great national mobilizations, and a facilitator in the CSPPE (Congreso Social por un Proyecto Educativo, Santiago). In 2013, he was a participant in the formation of AFL (La Alzada, Acción Feminista Libertaria), the new anarchist feminist organization.
Pablo was a founding member of Librería Proyección, a social center and bookstore in downtown Santiago. Librería Proyección is a space where many social and political organizations meet, including student collectives, feminist groups, unions, artists, etc. For several years Pablo has been giving introductory workshops on anarchist history and politics in social spaces and universities. Pablo is also a member of the editorial board of the libertarian communist journal Solidaridad.
Pablo is also an English-to-Spanish translator and works mostly on academic projects (journals, publishers, etc.). In addition to several translations published as chapters in books and articles in journals, Pablo has translated Death of a Discipline by Gayatri Spivak (published in 2009) and Remaking Society by Murray Bookchin (published in 2012). Pablo is currently working on a Spanish translation of Black Flame. The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, written by South African authors Michael Schmidt & Lucien van der Walt (AK Press, 2009).
Pablo received a B.A. in Philosophy (Universidad ARCIS) and a M.A. in Philosophy (Universidad de Chile). His undergraduate thesis explored Hegel’s influence on the thought of the young Michael Bakunin and his Masters’ thesis deals with the social ontology of anarchism as a critique of liberal individualism, particularly in the works of M. Bakunin and P.J. Proudhon.
Melissa will be joining the tour from Chicago and onward. She is a founding member of the Anarchist Feminist group La Alzada, Acción Feminista Libertaria,created at the end of 2012, with the purpose of making social action and construction of libertarian feminism. Within La Alzada, she focused her work with a domestic workers union and is now helping develop the community organizing thrust of La Alzada– taking feminism to the neighborhoods. In addition, she is concentrating on several areas in which the gender issue is present, such as gender violence, sexuality, sexual dissidence, as well as in education, health,and the workplace. She also utilizes methods from the Theater of the Oppressed, which is a powerful tool used by La Alzada to to develop gender issues in their work
She is originally from France and has been working and living in Chile since 2009. She studied Social and Community Psychology, investigating gender issues and discrimination. In addition she also concentrated on environment, social and political participation (both in terms of militancy and in neighborhood processes), especially territorial community involvement .
Before being a part of La Alzada, she had participated in various anarchist and libertarian groups in France and Chile, especially in the area of popular education (such as La Nueva Escuela, a self managed community school in a neighborhood of Santiago. She also painted in the MLO/UMLEM anarchist muralist group in 2009-2010.
Melissa is a songwriter, singer and musician. In the tour, she will perform some rock-folk protest songs in English, Spanish and French. She also covers several revolutionary songs such as those of Spanish civil war and Latin-American struggles.
STRUGGLING TO WIN: ANARCHISTS BUILDING POPULAR POWER IN CHILE US Tour
We are hosting an event for STRUGGLING TO WIN: ANARCHISTS BUILDING POPULAR POWER IN CHILE US Tour in Miami,FL. It will be held at Veye-Yo in January 11, 2014 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Chilean Anarchist speakers, Pablo and Gabriel, will discuss about their experience in building popular power in Chile such as being involved in student, education, feminist, and labor movements. The speakers will present on their political experience and current social movements in Chile as well as do a Q&A session for attendees.