United for Survival and Victory in Guatemala
by Pat Rogucki, Mary's Pence Board Member
|A woman of the Concertacion tells her story |
The indigenous women of El Quiche, Guatemala have heartbreaking stories.
It is important to understand these stories to understand how far these women have come. These are stories of the women
of the Concertacion, an ESPERA Fund network in El Quiche, Guatemala.
On a visit to Guatemala I heard from the indigenous women who had been denied an education because they were girls. The message was clear. School was only for boys. Girls learn what they need in life from their mothers and stay at home. The women in this community now receive ESPERA Funds from Mary's Pence and have access to businesses and education. Many of them are widows from the civil war. They told stories of the men being killed with bullets and machetes. The soldiers had tortured some and burned others. One woman remembered that her father's feet were black from being burned.
Candelaria, barefoot, delicately approached the center of our circle and knelt down. Long gray hair was braided down her back. Without teeth, but with great clarity and emotion, she recounted her story as if it happened yesterday. She told how three soldiers had come to the house and shot everyone. She was able to leave as the only survivor. Her only son escaped death, "thanks to God" because he was not at home. They could no longer remain in their homes. It was too dangerous. With only household skills, how were these widows going to feed their children? They had to unite in order to survive.
Juana, a younger woman, was called forth to tell her story, a painful childhood memory. She was a toddler of three. Because of her mother's late pregnancy, she could not carry Juana as they ran from the soldiers. The baby, a boy, had died soon after. Juana and her mother found safety in another house when a woman entered. The soldiers had followed her and she was violated by one of them. Rape is a common weapon of war used against women. Some other victims recognized this soldier as their rapist and united in bringing their complaint to the organization of widows in the capital, Guatemala City. The solder went to jail for his crimes. This was a rare moment in the many decades of military impunity. The burden of memory that these women carry has not crippled them.
|Hermana Maruca of the Asociacion de Mujeres Sembradoras de Esperanza |
They are united in the Asociacion de Mujeres Sembradoras de Esperanza under the leadership of tenacious Hermana Maruca in Santa Cruz de Quiche. Sister does not take "no" for an answer, Isabel explained as she rattled on in Spanish, which she was afraid to speak, but Hermana urged her on. "We unite to help the poor and each other. If we feel we do not have rights, we meet to understand them, work out a theme. As women, we do have the right to work, to buy hens for eggs, and plant corn and beans to sell at the market. Now I earn about 40 Quetzales a day (roughly $5) as compared to the norm, one to three dollars a day."
Other women have cows, 2, 3, etc. which they use for the milk to make cheese to eat and sell. In 2003, Candelaria sold her cows and thought the money would go back to the Asociacion. She was told that it was hers. She uses it to lend and charges 10% interest. She does not know how old she is since she had stopped counting when she was 80, but as an octogenerian, she is a successful, if not a rich banker!
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|Issues of Justice|
Care for the Earth
By Anne Leibig, former Mary's Pence Board Member
This year Earth Day is on Good Friday. The coming together of these two days is significant in this time when humans have the power to destroy the Earth.
I live in the Appalachian Mountains and have been part of a group called In Praise of Mountain Women. As I think about Earth Day I think about In Praise of Mountain Women and how we describe ourselves: (www.inpraise.info).
Our practice is to create a movement of women caring for self, the Earth as our Home Place, and hearing stories of women from around the world.
"The issues we are addressing are the destruction of the Appalachian mountains and culture. We experience the mothers of the Appalachian Mountains as the carriers of the culture. When we draw our strength from the mountains, we also recognize the increased destruction that is being done to the land. We are wounded like our earth is wounded, what we allow to be done to the earth we allow to be done to ourselves. We want to gather to share our sorrow and our hopes for our Home Places and for the Earth, our common home. We need to acknowledge this violence and we need to move forward with our solutions. One way to move forward, beyond the violence, is to tell stories, celebrate the arts, culture and spirituality, our supports for who we are. By maintaining our culture and celebrating the wisdom of women we will remain grounded in the mountains. We see change coming from this grounding. The women who participate experience that we can create from our own values and wants and do not have to keep swallowing what the national culture and economy ask of us."
(from 2010 proposal)
The current threat to the Earth in the Appalachian Mountains is "mountaintop removal" which is the blowing up of mountains to get to the coal seams. For more information see: www.ilovemountains.org
Mary's Pence has funded In Praise of Mountain Women. I have just completed a three year term on the Board of Mary's Pence. Before I was elected to the Board I was asked "Why do you think women's social change is important?" I wrote: "I believe women's organic and cultural lens is a unique gift and if it is not at the table or in the process the future is impaired." I still believe this and now will say "the earth is threatened."
Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. The goods of the earth are gifts from God, intended for the benefit of all. Stewardship of Creation is one of the Key Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. http://www.osjspm.org/catholic_social_teaching.aspx
Anne brings to the table her experience of living and working in the Appalachian Mountains, creating and sustaining community frameworks for full living, with an emphasis on women's participation.
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|Actions for Mary's Pence|
Gratitude for the "Mothers" in our Lives
Recognize and give thanks to someone special in your life by making a contribution to Mary's Pence this Mother's Day. We will send out a beautiful acknowledgement card promptly. Your gift will help women here in the U.S. that are experiencing insecurity of income or living circumstance, and women across the Americas struggling to provide for their families. Call or email us today - donations can be mailed in or given online.
Here are some of the things your donations help us do:
- One woman's attendance at an ESPERA Fund workshop - $25
- Cost of one teleconference with grantees and supporters - $50
- Loan to a woman in Guatemala for animals or crops - $125
- Monthly salary for a local coordinator for an ESPERA Fund network - $200
- An exhibit booth at a conference to spread the word - $350
- Travel costs for ESPERA Fund Facilitator week long consulting in Central America - $800
- One Ministry Grant for small women's projects or study - $2000 -$4000
The Four Mary's Card will be sent to the woman you wish to recognize this Mother's Day.
5 Easy Ways to Help Mary's Pence
- Suggest a book for our Summer Reading List. Mary's Pence supporters love learning about women's lives, other cultures, and about how the world works. Send your suggestions with a brief comment about why you liked the book to firstname.lastname@example.org. See last year's list at www.maryspence.org/news.html
- Pass the newsletter on. Once you've enjoyed reading this newsletter pass it on to a friend, and let them know you support the work of Mary's Pence. Personal references are priceless, as the saying goes.
- Visit us on facebook. Comment on our posts, and share with a friend. Be sure to "like" us.
- Share your talents. Serve on the Finance Committee, the 25th Anniversary Committee or the Grants Committee. If you like to write let us know, we'd love to have you interview a grantee for our eNews. We can use help with social media and outreach.
- Share your connections. Are you connected to a group that should know about Mary's Pence? Let us know, we have articles and materials to help them spread the word.
Mary's Pence at Los Angeles Religious Education Congress
|Barbara Guerin and Rosa Castillo staffing Mary's Pence Exhibit.|
Religious Education Congress participants, all 35,000 of them, had a chance to learn about Mary's Pence. Board members Rosa Castillo and Sr. Judy Molosky, and volunteers Barbara Guerin and Barbara Picco, staffed an exhibit booth at the Congress in March. A donation from Marisa Antonini of Los Angeles helped make this possible. Thanks to all for helping to spread the word about Mary's Pence.
Look for Mary's Pence at these Upcoming Events
American Catholic Council - Visit us at our exhibit booth!
June 10-12, Detroit Michigan
Call to Action - Visit us at our exhibit booth!
November 4-6, Milwaukee, WI
Mary's Pence will be hosting a prayer session - "Love, the Universe and the Circulation of Money"
Catholic Worker House - Gilda and Katherine speak about ESPERA Funds
Friday June 17th, New York, New York
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Mary's Pence - Who Are We?
We are a small organization with a big vision. We want women in the Americas living in poverty to have a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved. Therefore we invest in local women who are creating models to increase women's economic status and improve their status in their community. We look for models that foster women working together, to learn from each other, support each other, and explore new ideas. We fund women in North, Central and South America.
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So fragile this petal the earth,
as fragile as
- by Mirabai, from Love Poems from God - Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West/ translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Published by the Penguin Group, 2002
Photo: Justine Cudel