Mexico Life
San Miguel's women's mariachi band. San Miguel's women's mariachi band.

San Miguel group crosses cultural lines

Organization brings together Mexican and foreign women for films and other events

To be a woman. In Spanish, it translates to ser mujer. In San Miguel de Allende, Ser Mujer speaks of a multicultural group of women, ranging in age from 25 to over 80, who work in partnership with community-based organizations to promote the commonality of women’s issues across cultures, to raise awareness of their challenges and to celebrate their accomplishments and contributions.

Ser Mujer was formed three years ago by Trish Snyder, who spent most of her professional career as a non-profit administrator. She served as the director of a drug/alcohol crisis center, then directed a hospital-based wellness program for older adults, and even took on the fundraising effort to launch a public radio station in her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Snyder’s social services interests found a niche in San Miguel when she retired; she has been a point person for a number of programs supporting women, including CASA’s anti-violence and midwifery programs.

Asked by a friend to help the San Miguel Center for Global Justice organize a week’s worth of March programming for Women’s History Month, Snyder expanded the request to an entire month.

“We recruited volunteers who had been involved with Global Justice and other community-based organizations,” she said. “Most importantly, we made a special effort to recruit young Mexican women, and the outstanding group includes a PhD anthropologist, a language instructor at UNAM [the National Autonomous University], marketing and graphic designer professionals, the director of Libros para Todos and a hospital administrator. Our foreign (gringa) base comprises retirees with marketing, teaching and administrative experience. Most everyone is bilingual.”

Ser Mujer functions in teams, concentric circles composed of those best able to perform the skills required for the job at hand. “We work in small groups,” Snyder explained. “There is a group that screens films, and one that plans events (such as Take Back the Night in 2016 and the recent Flash Mob in early March). Our graphics and website designers work closely as a team. We have a volunteer who does all the writing in English, and four people who do the translations.”

It all comes together, whether the results are this year’s month-long March events that run the gamut from documentaries followed by Q&As and post-film discussions with producers, filmmakers and special guests with experience in the subject matter, to field trips with San Miguel NGOs that provide the lead and expertise, to women-centric art exhibitions, and much more.

Year-round, Ser Mujer honors the struggles and successes of women around the world with film series, talks, panel discussions, poetry readings and activities (even for children). These take place in a variety of San Miguel venues, including the Biblioteca, El Sindicato, Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante,” and ENES UNAM.

“The trick,” Snyder noted, “is planning and presenting bicultural programs that will attract a Mexican audience as well as an English-speaking one. We present events in English and Spanish. Our fees are reasonable and affordable for all, and no one is turned away. In fact, we offer scholarships for students who wish to attend.”

Ser Mujer proceeds have supported Mexico City-based Casa Mandarina, enabling them to conduct anti-violence training for NGOs in San Miguel. Primarily, however, Ser Mujer supports NGOs that benefit women in San Miguel and in the state of Guanajuato.

They have given to Las Libres, the 18-year-old organization that promotes and defends women’s rights in Guanajuato and in the country. Ser Mujer works collaboratively with Libros para Todos, Caminos de Agua, Colectivo 41 and Instituto de Mujeres, among others.

The organization has received help from the Guanajuato Film Festival (GIFF), the Center for Global Justice and a number of local businesses and private citizens.

“We started Ser Mujer with borrowed films and no money,” Snyder recalled. “This year, we are bringing speakers and other presenters from Guatemala and elsewhere. I like to think that our team approach coupled with our bicultural focus and generational mix is the correct formula. It seems to have the right toque de mujer.”

For information about films and other events visit the Ser Mujer websites in English or in Spanish or its Facebook page.

Coming up:

March 16: Berta Vive, about the Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres, whose 2016 murder continues to make headlines. Earlier this month, the executive president of the company building a dam against which Cáceres campaigned became the ninth person arrested for her murder, and the attempted murder of Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro. Mexico City-based Laura Carlsen, director of the Center for International Policy’s Americas program and an advisor to the Nobel Women’s Peace Initiative will lead a post-film discussion.

Women of Ser Mujer celebrate with a mojiganga, or giant puppet, in the Jardín.
Women of Ser Mujer celebrate with a mojiganga, or giant puppet, in the Jardín.

March 20: Sold, the Emma Thompson-produced feature-length film about a 13-year-old Nepalese girl who was tricked and trafficked into a prison-like brothel in India. Shown at the Nobel Peace Conference, it opened nine film festivals and has been seen in 30 countries. A Q&A follows, with representatives from Comisión Unidos, a Mexico City organization that works in collaboration with more than 100 NGOs from Mexico, the United States, Canada, Colombia, Spain, Argentina and the United Kingdom that are devoted to ending human trafficking, along with one of the Mexican survivors who was rescued.

March 23: Ser Mujer teams up with San Miguel’s Caminos de Agua to celebrate World Water Day, offering a trip to the rural community of Pozos Ademado, where a group of women established an alternative health and community center that serves hundreds in the surrounding area. The group is building rainwater harvesting cisterns to provide safe, healthy water, and has been pivotal in educating the surrounding rural communities on water issues and solutions.

March 24 and 25: Guatemalan Congresswoman Sandra Moran is the featured guest for a two-day series of events: Concert and Conversation. A member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative created in 2006 by six female Nobel peace prize laureates to support women’s groups around the world in campaigning for justice, peace and equality, Moran is a tireless defender of women’s rights who uses her drums to get out the “No to violence against women” message. Guatemala has the third highest femicide rate in the world, and the issue closest to her heart is ending the silence. And, in a society that still regards violence against the LGBT community as a legitimate punishment, she stands out as a tireless defender of LGBT rights as well.

The author is a resident of San Miguel de Allende.

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