Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fasting for Justice: Women from the Frontera Bring Their Struggle to the White House

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the community reception for a brave group of women from an El Paso based community organization La Mujer Obrera, who have been on a hunger strike since November 8th. The women want to draw national attention -- and funding -- to their region, the nation's poorest, a place even more economically depressed than Appalachia.

Last night, one of the women, Lorena, described the work of La Mujer Obrera. In 1997, the group formed El Puente Community Development Corporation which generated a batch of women-owned small businesses including Rayito de Sol Day Care Center, El Mayapan Cafe, and the Lum Metik Trading Company and Centro Mayapan which specialize in importing and selling Mexican handcrafts (the Centro also includes a farmers' market). The group also provides vocational, basic, entrepreneurial, technological and leadership skills training for low-income women workers and their families through their Center for Bilingual Development and Social Enterprise. And they run the Mayachen Museum to preserve Mexican cultural history and knowledge within their community.

And they have been basically alone in this effort to compensate for the missing social, economic and cultural infrastructure in their community. They have been patronizingly dismissed and treated as too small to merit any major investments of funds while large sums go to border patrol projects that are less likely to bring stability to the region than these women's job training and creation efforts.

Driven by the urgency of their situation, the women have come to Washington on a hunger strike with three basic demands:

1. The establishment of a Border Commission to address the problems of the region

2. The holding of a National Summit on the border crisis

3. Immediate sustaining support for border women's development organizations

Last night, they were welcomed by an array of local community activists from organizations such as the Woodbridge Workers Committee, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, Empower DC and Black is Back.

DC also welcomed our sisters from El Paso with some musical entertainment to lift their spirits as their bodies were cold and weary from the fasting.

How you can help:

1. Sign La Mujer Obrera's petition online at

2. Connect with them online on Facebook or Twitter

3. Learn more about border conditions by reading the women's analysis on their blog.

4. Visit the women at Lafayette Square in front of the White House every day between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. They are offering a daily educational program at noon. Donations of money and bottled water to support the fasters are always welcome.

5. Fast for a day in solidarity with the women. If you can't fast for health reasons, pray for them or make a different kind of sacrifice.

Video: Mari's testimony about what La Mujer Obrera has done for her and why she's fasting

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