An Homage to the Storytellers and Culturebearers

Mar 8, 2012

In honor of International Women’s Day I share three books that have been meaningful to me that were written by or about women.

While attending U.C. Riverside I began to define and to make sense of what I had experienced and felt as a Chicana. Martha P. Cotera’s book “Diosa y Hembra” shares much about the history of Chicanas. Her summary for chapter 2 reads: By understnd the past, Chicana historians hope that contemporary women will be beter equipped to cope with the present and to determine their futuer.
Reading her book shed new light on the women’s stories that my mother and my female relatives had shared with me. Who they were, how they identified their roles, the limitations set by themselves and by others. This was powerful stuff. “Diosa y Hembra” was written in 1976, the artwork is Nora Gonzalez Dodson.
Decades later on a family trip to the British Isles we learned about the work of Peig Sayers, a renowned storyteller of the Irish Tradition. The Dingle News shares “…she married into the Great Blasket…”. The Great Blasket, An Blascoad in Irish Gaelic, is an island to the west of the Dingle Peninsula. The weather is so intense that there were months when the inhabitants were unable to leave the island to get the Irish mainland, some 15 km to the east. It was here that Peig heard and held stories in her native Irish.
The first lines of her autobiography are translated as: “I am an old woman now, with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge. I have experienced much ease and much hardship from the day that I was born until this very day”. Her words are used as part of the textbooks in Ireland. Her life was a testament to the perseverance that was at the core of many women whose history we may or may not know.
In 2008 the bilingual edition of Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez’ “500 Years of Chicana Women’s History/500 Anos de la Mujer Chicana” was published. The cover photo is by Jeffrey Blankfort
The story begins in Mesoamerica. There is an acknowledgement of those who came before the Mexica (Aztecs) and of the Creation Myths in which women, truly, are vital.
One of the earliest named women in Mexica history is Warrior Princess Six Monkey. You can see images of her in this book and in the some of the few codices that captured the history of the era.
Reading chapters deeper into the book one finds diverse pictures of women who have individually or collectively made a difference in the lives of others. In the 300+ pages you’ll find images of Jovita Idar – journalist for La Cronica, baseball players (1939-1950), Rosita La Riveter, Emma Tenayuca of the Workers Alliance, and the inclusion of those who are working to end the femicides in Ju├írez.

I encourage you to check out these books or to share the works of other women who have had an impact on your life. It’s by this sort of sharing that we insure that women’s experiences and stories remain in the greater histories that help define so much for so many.

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