Every Woman Is a World: Interviews with Women of Chiapas

Every Woman Is a World: Interviews with Women of Chiapas

Every Woman Is a World: Interviews with Women of Chiapas

Every Woman Is a World: Interviews with Women of Chiapas


Born in the remote mountains and tropical forests of southern Mexico, the elder women of Chiapas have witnessed tumultuous change during their lifetimes, which in some cases spanned the entire twentieth century. Through hard experience, these women have gained unique perspectives on the transformations that modernity has brought to their traditional way of life. Reflecting on this rich store of wisdom, artists Gayle Walker and Kiki Suárez began interviewing and photographing Chiapanec women between the ages of 60 and 108. In this book, they present the life stories of twenty-eight women, who speak for the silent members of a divided society--well-to-do, urban ladinasof European descent; mixed race, low-income mestizas; and indigenous Maya from the highlands and Lacandon rainforest.

As the women tell their stories, they shed light on major historical events as well as the personal dramas of daily life. For some, the Mexican Revolution and the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic are still painfully vivid. Others focus on recent social upheavals, such as the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. Women whose families had more resources fondly recall their high school days, while poorer women tell tragic stories of deprivation, hunger, and family violence. Particularly thought-provoking are the women's attitudes toward marriage, work, religion, and their own mortality. Considering the limited opportunities these women faced, Walker and Suárez sum up the significant theme of these interviews by observing that the women of Chiapas "remind us that if we are flexible, creative, and courageous, we have many more possibilities than we think we have."


The women who appear in this book come from different regions of Chiapas, from mountain towns and ranches and from hamlets in the distant rainforest. Some of them do not remember when they were born or how long they have lived on the earth; several of them are now over a hundred years old.

Their lives have not been easy. They have survived the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, religious persecution under President Plutarco Elías Calles, and times of limited opportunities in which women were marginalized.

The Mexican author Rosario Castellanos wrote about the women of Chiapas, and more than thirty years after her death her novels and poetry remain relevant. the condition of women in Chiapas has not changed much. Men still hold the reins. in Every Woman Is a World, Gayle Walker and Kiki Suárez honor older women, the grandmothers, who re-create history with their words.

Since childhood, these women have known how to work hard. They learned to sew, embroider, weave, and make pottery; plant the fields, grind corn, and make tortillas; cook and take care of the family. Their lives are without rest because life never stops.

The women who survived the most arduous times remember little of the past. Many suffered physical and psychological abuse, first at the hands of alcoholic fathers who drank to the point of unconsciousness. When the women married or went to live with a man, their partners treated them the same or worse.

Some of the women do not know how to read or write. the indigenous women who are not fluent in Spanish have trouble communicating with Ladinos as well as with speakers of Maya languages other than their own. When . . .

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