By Mia MacDonald
Sunday, 10 May 2009
There’s something ironic about the NWI conference being held in a former convent, what the Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua is. To be sure, it’s a lovely place, large and sprawling, with long, open colonnades, myriad trees, flowers and shrubs, pocket gardens and art—modern and ecclesiastical—just about everywhere. Green hills surround the hotel, and there’s even a view of a nearby volcano. (No eruptions yet, but late night and then early morning volleys of firecrackers did startle some of the conferees, particularly and poignantly, those who’ve lived in, or still do, zones of conflict—Sudan, Bosnia, for years, Guatemala itself.) A convent, of course, would be a locus of women’s energy. But under Spanish colonial rule, and the presiding priestly order, it’s likely the nuns who lived here were sequestered, their learning, skills and, indeed, voices hidden from the wider world.
Perhaps that’s why more than a hundred of us are here: to state, unequivocally and again, that the shrouds are off. Rigoberta Menchu this afternoon commented that we shouldn’t accept marginalization of any kind. Indigenous women or lesbians, for example, shouldn’t be termed “minorities”, she said, pushed, metaphorically, into a corner. If women’s groups, or individual women, look at others as minorities, it makes them the majority, and therefore superior, a relationship that doesn’t work. (In fact, in Guatemala, indigenous people are the majority—60% of the population.) Women have given so much to realize equity, Rigoberta continued, and we need to talk about that here, in Casa Santo Domingo.