To promote the use of art for raising awareness about the developing world
Where women rule !... by Simon & Katerina
See latest photos from our trip on our - Facebook page.
Katerina's slide show - Mexican Matriarchs - shortlisted for the KOLEM SVĚTA festival 2012 in Prague, is now in English.
Although Mexico has become the second largest economy in Latin America, it still hasn’t managed to shake off its old macho cowboy image. In the far South of the country, however, since the Spanish conquistadors set foot on the continent, a group of indigenous Indians have stubbornly fought to be an exception to that rule.
Matriarchal strength... Medium
- Women control business and family money.
- Women are actively involved in politics.
- Women are regarded as being the more rational and intelligent of the sexes.
- Young educated Zapotecs are trying to preserve their special cultural heritage.
Threats to the system... High
- Women are becoming more dependent on the man’s earnings.
- Fewer women are doing business, because of competition from outsiders.
- Alcoholism from the rest of Mexican society is creating a more violent society.
Impressions from our first trip in 2005:
“Around the plaza of Tehuantepec we see women, big women, riding motorized chariots like in the 1959 film ‘Ben-Hur’, the drivers are men - puny men. The women are fully clad in traditional Zapotec dress; long flowing skirts and black tops boldly embroidered with brightly coloured flowers. We note their destination - ‘San Blas Atempa’
“Yes, women rule here but men do not want to admit it,” says Maria, a huge butcher woman at the local street market in San Blas Atempa.
“I am the head of the family because I look after money. When a family is poor people will gossip that the woman is not good in managing money.“
What happens if your husband refuses to give you the money?
“That is simple - he will not eat,” she says smiling resolutely.
Manuel, Maria’s skinny husband, works as a motor-caro driver and waits patiently on the other side of the street.
“For sure the selling at the market is better," he says, "you finish your work early, as a driver you have to work the whole day."
“But, I could not do it because there are just women here. Everywhere else in Mexico men also work at the markets."
Since the time of the Spanish conquistadors the Tehuanas have dominated the markets in the Isthmus, and fascinated early travellers with their fiery nature and seductive dresses ever since.
Trade in the region increased dramatically with the Californian Gold Rush of 1847, when the Isthmus became a popular trade routes to the West coast of the US. Vast amount of wealth suddenly started to flow through the region and into the hands of the Tehuana businesswomen.
In the second half of the 19th century a local Tehuana girl by the name of Juana Catalina Romero began one of the most famous romances in Mexican History, when she met the future president of Mexico - Porfirio Diaz. With his help she managed to amassed great wealth and power in the Isthmus that would change the image of the Tehuana for forever.
The greatest moment in the history of Tehuantepec began in 1907 with the inauguration of the Trans-Isthmus Railway making travel between the oceans easier than ever. At its height, the railway line was one of the busiest in history, bringing prosperity to all the towns on route. The boom time, however, was short lived, and ended soon after the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914.
In the early 2oth century Mexican politicians searching for a symbol to represent a new and young indigenous Mexico, chose to adopt the emancipated Tehuana. The artist Diego Rivera portrayed the women as goddesses in his magnificent murals in Mexico City, and his wife Frida Kahlo popularised the Tehuana look among high classes of Mexican society.