A Day Without Women

Every little girl has the right to live without violence and to grow into her unique self

Feminist groups in Mexico have organized a peaceful, personal protest called, “A Day Without Women”, to be set in motion on Monday March 9th. They aim to demonstrate what the country would look like without women. The goal is to see NO women in offices or schools. NO women in restaurants or stores. NO women on public transportation, in cars or on the street. A country without women, for one day.

Violence against women has to stop. Most of us have experienced strangers gesturing lewdly, shouting out vulgar names, groping and touching inappropriately. Sometimes the creeps expose themselves, make obscene phone calls and now, there’s cyber bullying – Even these “minor incidents” are frustrating and demeaning. Abuse is abuse.

And worst of all, violence begets violence. Twice I saw I could retaliate, and without thinking, I did. Once when a guy on the street tried to grab me, I noticed he had a case hanging off his shoulder; I lunged at him, pulled it off, and threw it into the speeding traffic. Boy, was he ever mad! Another time, while walking with my sister, we passed a man and he tried to fondle her. Before he knew what hit him, we’d pushed him to the ground, and we repeatedly kicked him “where it hurts”, until he begged us to stop.

Both times I felt shocked. Retaliation seemed crazy, but I got so angry.

Worse yet, I’m aware that I am one of the “lucky women.” I have never been abducted, beaten, raped, or feared for my life . I know women who have – this happened to some of them as children, to others as young women, and to many during their marriages – just because they are female, their assailants figured they had the right to dominate and torture them.

Violence against women has been around since the days of cavemen. Physical strength was the deciding factor at that time, and today some brutes believe this is still the case. But now they pack a gun or other weapon to make sure they get what they want.

I have never been to Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico, but I have seen photos of the almost 2 thousand pink crosses that scar the streets and desert hillsides — each one of them represents a life – a life that ended in extreme violence. The first documented case was that of Alma Chavira Farel; she was just 13 years old when her life was stolen from her, and from the family who loved her.

What has happened to our society — gang violence, serial killers, drug cartels, and indifference to women – could it be because our fear is holding us back from DEFENDING our rights as residents of Mexico. These criminals don’t even make up 1% of our population and yet they hold the rest of us hostage. We need to stand up.

Right here in Merida, I know of a mother and her daughter who did just that. A small-time extortionist tried to get them to pay for his “protection” of their small business; they got a picture of him, and denounced him. This was not easy, but they did it. In my book, these women are heroes.

“A Day Without Women” has gained momentum in the public and private sectors. It is supported by civic groups, religious leaders and most women. The support cuts across the boundaries of class, ethnicity, wealth and politics that have fractured Mexico. Organizers hope that this modest but wide-spread action will spawn more of the same and that it will ignite social change.

Instead of occupying public spaces in protest; this movement stages an action that simulates women’s disappearance. For participants in the strike on March 9, the instructions are straightforward: Stay home.

International womn who are in Mexico on March 9th should see this action as a way they can show solidarity with Mexican women. It is forbidden for foreigners to gather and protest, but the actions of this protest are carried out in privacy, not in public. There is NO prohibition against such action.

The organizers hope that the strike will inspire long-overdue conversations and start change across Mexican society. I hope so too. In my mind’s eye is the image of Rosa Parks, refusing to give her seat to a white man. A small, firm, defiant action that brought about HUGE change.

Might “One Day Without Women” have a similar result? I dare say that depends on the participation and commitment of ALL women in Mexico.

Changes in our Lives? Oh yeah!

PS. This post has been cited in an English-language online paper, the Mexico Tribune, a publication that focuses on Mexican national news. Here’s the link:    https://mexicotribune.com/following-gender-violence-monday-will-be-a-day-without-women-in-mexico/



The yearly driving rant

For about a year now, I have refrained from writing about: “Driving in Merida”. But if you are like me, you know the lack of caution and the road rage is getting worse all the time, and forgive me, but I have to vent.

Why oh why can’t the drivers sharing the streets with me use just a ‘tad more patience?

It truly seems they would just as soon crash into me as let me emerge from my driveway. Even though I look right and left, and only inch out when nothing is coming… often a car comes careening around the corner (at God-knows-what-speed) and then lays on the horn because I am in their path.

Many drivers seem to find it objectionable when I want to turn left (even from the left lane)

I know why many able-bodied drivers park in handicapped parking spaces… they don’t want to walk in the heat. But if I can walk the extra 50 meters from a normal spot, I figure they should do the same.

At intersections, it scares the life out of me when I see drivers turning two lanes into four. But to be fair, I suppose the fact that lanes are painted on very few streets could have something to do with this anomaly.

Speeding through the red light if a driver can’t see anything coming (motorcycles are especially guilty of this) is becoming the norm.

Motorcycles (especially cops on motorcycles) snaking between lanes of traffic or roaring up on my right (even when my right turn signal is blinking) frightens me so much.

Why do taxis, combis and buses… honk-honk-honk… for no good reason I can understand? It just adds to the stress when they lay on the horn because they want me to hurry up. Sometimes there are cars racing past … one after the other… and they still expect me to throw myself out there.

Talking on the cell phone while driving? Need I say more?

If you want to prevent any children , who happen to be riding in your car, from learning some really racy epitaphs that all contain the word “mother”, keep your windows closed as you crawl through traffic…

When an emergency vehicle has its siren and flashing lights on, some drivers do not pull over; they try to run in front of the ambulance or police car. Do they think it is their duty to clear the way? If they do pull over… as soon as the siren is past them, they jump back into the traffic, regardless of what’s behind them.

El Periferico is somewhere I never go. NEVER. Only those with nerves of steel, driving cars with the acceleration capacity of a Formula One vehicle should do so.

Constantly changing lanes, in order to gain a car length of advancement through the traffic seems like absolute folly.

Another thing I wonder about is the example that parents are setting for their kids… I watched one dad zoom out in front of another one that wasn’t moving fast enough through the drop-off lane in front of a school. I have also seen Merida mamas use their horns to chastise a rogue mother for cutting into the drop-off lane from the circulating one. Boy, I bet she’ll never try that again…

Parking now seems to be allowed on both sides of most streets… sometimes I have to turn my rear view windows in because if I don’t, I can’t squeeze my car between the two lanes of parked ones.

Cars park right up to the corner and so I need to put my car half way into the traffic in order to see other cars barrelling at me.

One last comment on the topic of parking… just sayin’… it is not at all cool to park in front of anyone’s garage… not even just a little bit. I once saw a sign posted in front of a garage that read; Don’t even think about parking here… my sentiments exactly!

Everyone, at one point or another, allows the stress of driving to force them into taking chances they should not take. An unsafe pass… running a stop sign or a light on red… scooting out quickly when it isn’t safe. But in all seriousness, we should consider the fact that driving a car is tad amount to carrying a loaded weapon. When we do something foolish and careless, we never imagine that we will really hurt anyone… do we? We always expect we’ll slip past in the nick of time… like we have always done before. It would do us well to really consider what the moral (not to mention the financial) cost would be if we hurt… or God forbid… killed someone.

My friend Theresa once said: You should stop driving when you feel you’ve lost your nerve. Good advice… and you know what? I think I see a lot more Uber in my life.

Merida in 5 Days Watercolour Artists Rendezvous

This is Carolina Weiss

On New Years Day 1991, Carolina and her husband, Raymond crossed the border into Mexico, and after 70 miles of driving, they reached Ensenada… sighed happily… and continued south. They traveled for a much longer time than anyone else I’ve ever known.  A dog-eared copy of  “The Hidden Beaches of  Mexico” was their guide, and a small travel trailer, their home. Carolina and Raymond stayed in a host of seaside towns and camped along the coast, until they arrived at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Carolina says the beauty of those secluded hide-aways made her more attentive to colour, texture and composition; and eventually she thought she might like to try painting what she saw. “Painting fills my heart,” she says, “and I like plein-air painting because it encourages me to be fully conscious; it is like meditating.”

Meditating with a paintbrush in hand, I’d add.

A while after reaching the Isthmus, the couple drove towards the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Playa del Carmen became home until friends told them about Bacalar, a combined fresh/salt water lagoon, close to the Mexico-Belize border. When Carolina saw that the water had the same crystalline colour and clarity as the Caribbean, she and her husband bought a small house on the shore of the Bacalar Lagoon. I did not know Caroline during the years she and Raymond lived in Bacalar, but from what I’ve been told, everyone considered her their friend.

Raymond died in 1999, and Carolina was faced with not only with the grief, but also the huge question of whether she should sell or stay put. She opted to open a guest house in the home she had shared with Raymond in Bacalar. “Casa Carolina” was always full whenever I wanted to reserve there, but I’ve heard that guests felt like favourite family members while staying with Carolina.

And in the fall of that year, Carolina and three friends signed up for a water colour retreat in Colorado, where they painted the aspens. She enjoyed the bracing fall air and she loved the energy of the group. “If I do a workshop like this, but in Bacalar during the winter, will you all come?” “Oh yes!” they said and her annual Watercolour Rendevous began.

For many years, the guest house and the water colour artists’ rendezvous were Carolina’s life; but the responsibility of solely running the business became too much. Carolina owned a small property in Merida as well, and she began spending more time in the capital city of Yucatan. And when she sold “Casa Carolina”, she moved into her sweet little house. She missed Bacalar and her Rendezvous; although she could no longer live there, what was stopping her from continuing with the plein-air art week? Nothing at all, she decided, and that is how we lucky painters from Merida can now enjoy her wonderful event each year.

This will be my third yer, and tomorrow we start… I am so excited and happy. It is one of my year’s highlights. For the rest of the week, I will post a photos and vignettes of our time painting in five of Merida’s inspiring locations.

And on Sunday February 9th, we’ll host a finale fiesta… a party with drinks, snacks, music and of course, we’ll show you the paintings we produce during our Merida in 5 Days Watercolour Artists’ Rendezvous.

Thank you Carolina for this gift…