International Women’s Day:
Celebrates the struggles of women
By Alice Embree / The Rag Blog / March 8, 2010
SAN ANTONIO — International Women’s Day, celebrated the world over on March 8th, has its origins in the struggle of women garment workers in the United States. But, like May Day that also commemorates a U.S. labor struggle, International Women’s Day is often ignored in this country.
It’s not ignored in San Antonio, Texas. Continuing a 20-year tradition, a coalition of San Antonio groups celebrated the power of women organizing with a march and rally that drew an estimated crowd of 2,200 on Saturday, March 6. Beginning at the doorstep of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the rally featured Iola Scott, Hyatt employee and member of Unite Here, a union organizing hotel workers in the tourist-intensive district.
Leaving the Hyatt to the beat of indigenous dancers, the march snaked down Market to Milam Park, chanting
“Hyatt, Escucha! Estamos en la lucha.”
“Money for homes, not for prisons. Money for healthcare, not for war.”
“Se Oye! Se Siente! La Mujer Esta Presente!”
With an inspiring mix of African American, Mexican-American, Latinas, and Anglos, the march commemorated organizers past and present. Images of San Antonio 1930-era labor organizers like Emma Tenayuca of the Pecan Shellers Union danced above the crowd. Crosses commemorated the women dead in Juarez. One sign read: “End NAFTA, Stop the Femicide in Juarez.”
A somber procession honored the dead from violence against transgender people. Life-size black plywood figures stood on small altars with wheels, carrying the stories of the victims. Photos of their faces stood out in color against the black wood.
More than 20 organizations co-sponsored the march, including academic women’s studies centers, Planned Parenthood, gay and lesbian alliances, and several labor organizations. Providing 20 years of organizational stability to this kind of coalition building is the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. www.esperanzacenter.org
At Plaza del Zacate, speakers and entertainers included Betita Martinez — Chicana social justice activist, writer and educator — Suzy Bravo, Amanda Flores, Kiawitl Xochitl, and many more.
I guess it takes 70 miles down an interstate to experience the kind of coalition work that Austin doesn’t dare to dream of. I marched with a contingent of Austin CodePink. It was invigorating to be part of an effort that transcended the divides of race, class, and sexual preference. An excerpt of the coalition’s vision statement states:
We, like women and girls all over the world, are the voices of conscience, the roots of change, and the leaders of local and global movements. We seek healthcare, housing, education, environmental justice, and fair wages not just for women, but also as people of color, as youth and elders, as immigrants and indigenous people, as lesbian, bisexual, intersex, two-spirit, transgender, and queer women, and as poor, and working class people.
We oppose all forms of violence. We advocate for reproductive choice. We call for an end to war, genocide, and occupation. We claim our own voices and come together to share them in public spaces. We march in solidarity with women and social justice movements around the world.
- For more of Alice Embree’s photos, go here.
For news of my hometown, a march I missed because I am in Central America.
While there are times I miss groovy Austin, when it comes to organizing and working in colaition, SA has much to offer, as you note. Most of the diversity stems from the persistant work of the Esperanza Peace and Justince Center. Also a shout out to the regular Thursday peace vigilers.
Happy International Women’s Day to all of us everywhere. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHNwKN5D-Co
A couple of months ago I was with Austin Tan Cerca de La Frontera, on our way to Piedras Negras, when we stopped in San Antonio at Fuerza Unida (founded by women workers who lost their jobs when the Levi’s plant closed down 20 years ago). We all got buttons saying “Mujeres Marcharan, San Antonio, 3/6/10.” Wish I could have gone. Glad you CodePinkers did, and thanks to Alice for reporting on it.
Alice, I agree with your remarks about San Antonio. In some labor and social justice areas, San Antonio folks are doing more, and doing it bigger, than we are in Austin. Sometimes Austinites may be a little too proud of ourselves.