Bad-Ass Woman of the Day: Eufrosina Cruz

eufrosinacruz.JPGIn her Zapotec village in Mexico, women aren’t allowed to vote, attend town assemblies, or hold elected office. But Eufrosina Cruz decided to run for mayor anyway.

The all-male town board tore up ballots cast in her favor in the Nov. 4 election, arguing that as a woman, she wasn’t a “citizen� of the town. “That is the custom here, that only the citizens vote, not the women,� said Valeriano Lopez, the town’s deputy mayor.
Rather than give up, Cruz has launched the first serious, national-level challenge to traditional Indian forms of government, known as “use and customs,� which were given full legal status in Mexico six years ago in response to Indian rights movements sweeping across Latin America.
“For me, it’s more like ‘abuse and customs,�’ Cruz said as she submitted her complaint in December to the National Human Rights Commission. “I am demanding that we, the women of the mountains, have the right to decide our lives, to vote and run for office, because the constitution says we have these rights.�

The “use and customs” law was enacted in 2001 as part of a series of reforms after the Zapatista uprisings. But, especially given the major role Zapatista women played in the revolution, it’s important to note that it’s not (as the Newsweek headline implies) as if indigenous rights and women’s rights are diametrically opposed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Rebecca Solnit attended this year’s encuentro (or “encounter”), where Zapatista women speak about the state of the movement. She quotes one woman as saying:

…Now, women aren’t as mistreated by husbands and fathers. Now, some husbands support and help us and don’t make all the decisions — not in all households, but poco a poco. We invite all women to defend our rights and combat machismo.”

An account from the 2006 encuentro describes the daily lives of Zapatista women this way:

Despite the long list of responsibilities that is the work of women, there is still an overwhelming lack of respect for the labor and needs of women in indigenous communities. The assembly expressed the ongoing struggle for the space of women in their communities. One of the barriers to women’s balanced position in their communities mentioned by the representatives was a lack of public visibility and public performances. “We staying in the house because we have to work and we work alone. When we work [in public positions] they laugh at us, but there are those of us that have fought despite all.�

Like Eufrosina Cruz. Here’s hoping she gets the right ruling from the Mexican Human Right Commission, and makes the Zapatista women proud with another run at public office.

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