Eating Liberally Food For Thought

The O'Brien Retort: Day of the Dead, & the Naked

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(kat: Iowa farminist & sustainable ag advocate Denise O'Brien, founder of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, recently attended a meeting in Mexico City with Central American women farmers. Upon arriving, her contingent encountered a group of Mexican protesters who'd lost their land to a corrupt politican. Denise provided us with the following account--and photo:)

We came together in Mexico City on the day before All Souls Day, Halloween in the United States. Arriving from El Salvador, Iowa, Honduras, Georgia, Grenada, New York, Wisconsin and Mexico. Farmers, rural and urban women, activists and organizers all gathering to discuss and analyze what impact globalization has had on our communities, on our lives. Travel for some was long and difficult - having to come from remote areas and having experienced being robbed of all money and material goods. Coming with a sense of urgency to discover how our lives connected and how we could attempt to overcome the challenges in our communities.

Chilo, a wonderful anthropologist and activist, oriented us to the culture of the Day of the Dead. She explained how Christianity and Indigenous beliefs intersected to create an honoring of those who have come before us. The traditional mood for this holiday is bright with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the dead. This is because they think of The Day of the Dead as the continuation of life. They believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new stage in life. These people are usually Christians of Native American descent whose ancestors introduced indigenous ideas of life after death. Many questions were asked and some found it difficult to understand how this pagan event could have anything to do with Christian beliefs.

As we explored Mexico City during the festivities our senses were tantalized with many sights, sounds and smells. A cadence of drums came from one end of the Zocalo. Our curiosity took us to observe the members of a group of protesters called the 400 Peoples. They were asking for economic aid from visitors to the Zocalo --México's largest municipal square-- during Dia de Muertos festivities between the 31st and 3rd of November.

These nearly naked men were there in protest of political irregularities by Dante Delgado --photo that covers their private parts-- of Veracruz. They complained that this Senator in the Mexican Parliament had robbed them of everything they had when he was the Governor of the State of Veracruz. Naked women stood on the street corners handing out literature and taking contributions to support their protest. We talked with these women to find out how they could be so courageous to stand naked on the street to let the public know about this corrupt man. They told us that they had no other choice, that this man had taken their land and they had nothing to lose. Those of us from the United States let them know that we were in solidarity with them and told them how brave they were to stage such a protest. This would never have been allowed in our country.

As we returned to the Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker Center and our home for the coming days, we began to debrief and to prepare ourselves for the coming days together.

You may ask what this has to do with food. That will follow in upcoming reports for the retort.