Experiences and Reflections on a Latin American Feminist Theology of Liberation Using an Ecofeminist Key towards an Indigenous Women's Perspective

Article excerpt

My passion for feminism is based on my work and experience with religious (1) and lay women for almost 20 years, in the context of my pastoral work in Mexico. To this passion is added the common reflection of all women who, like me, think that men and women are equals and that the contributions of women to humanity have been, are and will be as important as those of men.

I have carried out my work in Mexico in two phases. First, I worked with lay women responsible for their families and lay women catechists in the southern and western areas of the country. Second, I worked with religious women who made a choice in terms of their radical option for the poor during the 1960s and 70s (2) and who had immersed themselves in the midst of the poor in a coherent praxis of life and transforming commitment. Their commitment did not allow them to continue their academic-theological formation for a while. After 30 years of praxis and experience, they took up their formation once more thanks to the permanent formation process put in place by conferences of religious men and women in Mexico. In my work with all these women, I have learned more from them than the other way around. This reflection is the fruit of the echo of their voices.

Women in Mexico and the whole of Latin America have exercised strong leadership in their accompaniment of small communities of faith that emerged after Vatican II and as the fruit of the reflection of a theology of liberation. These women have worked as catechists, had a ministry of the Word, accompanied processes and fights for emancipation amid workers, peasants and indigenous people, and have been present in places of marginalization, such as popular barrios, the bordering belts of misery around big cities, in which street children, human rights and street women are exposed to maltreatment and violation.

Women have been present, supporting and building together praxis and a transforming commitment in places and scenarios in which many religious, political and social male "leaders" have been absent. Women's religious leadership in the churches has not been recognized, nor has their political and social leadership in Latin American societies. The same has happened in the sphere of theological reflection, where it seems that others have reflected or "theorized" about what women have practised. Women, who because of their commitment with the preferential option for the poor did not have access to academic-theological formation, are now starting to reflect from their praxis and are taking up their theological formation from a different perspective: their life experience.

The lack of academic-theological formation among women (which is not the case among men liberation theologians) is an element that shows what Latin American theologians have called "the feminization of poverty". (3) This feminization of poverty uncovers the face of the injustice, exclusion and marginalization of Latin American women, who have suffered a triple exclusion: for being women, for being poor, and for being indigenous. (4)

Women in Latin America, besides having to overcome the patriarchal and machismo systems operating in society in general, must face constantly in the church the dominant clericalism and control over the theological thought by men. Despite these realities, women have made their Latin American feminist theological reflection from the parameters of liberation beginning from their own experiences of marginalization and exclusion, as we shall see now.

A Latin American Feminist Theology of Liberation in the Contextual Framework of Liberation Theology

Latin American feminist theology of liberation (LFTL) was born in the contextual framework of liberation theology.

   The theologies of liberation were developed in the midst of global
   armed and negotiated fights for a cultural and social justice that
   were initiated and maintained by the poor, the colonized, the
   defeated, the segregated, the marginalized, the disinherited, those
   without the vote, women, invisible males and children from the
   third world. …