(Photo by Ariel Poster: Women tend trees with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Woman and the General

Rigoberta Menchu

For Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Mayan activist, who in December 1999 brought charges of genocide against eight former Guatemalan officials, including General Rios Montt.

What jokes those who hate her make--
about her shape, her clothes,
her unschooled ways. They even
accuse her of treason.
The woman is brown and round with power.
Her gift of speech rings rich enough
to shift the rhythm of a listener's heart.
The woman's eyes lance
her listeners with living love.

The general's visage
jumps from every morning's
Guatemalan paper.
That half-smile, that
benefactor stretch beneath the gray mustache,
that grandfatherly attitude, composed
of years of being obeyed.

Behind her the wide sky
and a planet of people hungry for justice.
Behind him an army
of poor boys stiff and starched.
The roots of his power burrow into history.
The roots of hers began before.
His eyes are blind to what
hers see.

His tranquility proceeds
from things that can be taken from him.
Her endless equilibrium balances on nothing
but dignity.  The woman knows
unfolding must come, truth must
flower now. Though she lives
with daily death threats,
the woman knows
an eon of spring is beginning.

The general thinks
he has another chance.
And yes, the old man yet can do much damage
during the winter of repression that remains.
At any moment he could give the order
to cut the woman down. Yet
what she's set in motion cannot be undone.

The general can't control the woman,
can't control the hope that she's set loose
for a people's poem of truth.
He can’t control her driving hope
for the whole human family
to live unafraid.
Escaped from his control, our hope
to see the human race
rise one in every stunning color,
from blood and love a living cloth,
bright as the woman's huipil.

Susa Silvermarie

Many thanks to Susa Silvermarie for her inspiring poem for the month of March!

Click here for information about Rigoberta Menchu's foundation for peace and justice for indigenous peoples.

Creating a huipil (blouse, pronounced we-peel) with a backstrap loom.

The women Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative—Jody Williams (USA), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Mairead Maguire (Ireland) and Rigoberta MenchĂș Tum (Guatemala)— sent letters of congratulations to the three women who were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 :  Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemini opposition leader Tawakkul Karman.

“Your victory today is a victory for all women around the world struggling for peace, justice and equality,” said Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines.  “We are inspired by your example of nonviolent action in the face of brutal violence, discrimination and injustice.  You remind us that with women’s bold action, there is hope for a better world.”

There are now nine living women Nobel Peace Laureates in the world, and 15 since the creation of the prize.  Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her work on environment and democracy, died on September 25, 2011.   Sirleaf and Gbowee are the second and third African women to have received the Nobel Peace prize.

mayan mexican handicrafts art weaving rugs clothing tablecloths playa del carmen mexico mayan art mexico native american weavingIn most Mayan villages, women weave cloth for their family's clothing or for ceremonial, artistic, and, increasingly, commercial purposes. A Mayan woman weaves her vision of the universe and signs her work with her own personal design. Each community produces unique weaving styles and symbolic stories, reflected in the work of the region's weavers.
mayan weaving art handicrafts mexicomayan art mexico native american weavingMayan women weave the design of the universe into their cloth. Like prayers, the designs woven speak to the gods to convey wishes or reflect the glory of the universe. An embroidered scorpion calls down the rain. Cotton symbolizes clouds. A diamond represents the world. The number thirteen recalls the sun's course through the sky and underworld. Elaborate geometric designs repeated on each piece map the organization of the Mayan cosmos.
       For more information, see

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