Posts Tagged ‘Liza Bakewell’

Good Friday in Oaxaca… Jesús may be the one who they say was crucified and resurrected, but María is never far from his side.









From frequent traveler to Oaxaca, Liza Bakewell’s book, Madre:  Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun:

One can travel all over Spain and its former viceroyalties and never see as many elaborately bedecked and bejeweled Virgins as one will see here in Mexico — neither in number, nor in glory.  Yes, in Peru there are many famously ornate ones.  In Colombia, too.  Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador have their share.  The Philippines is a runner-up.  But Mexico has all of them beat.  Marian devotion, the worship of the Virgin Mary in all her forms through song, prayer, writing painting, sculpture, and shrines, went wild in Mexico.  (p. 169)

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Today, May 10, is Día de la Madre in Mexico and it is celebrated in much the same way as in el norte.

Sign under papel picados at Casa Mayordomo Restaurante: "Feliz dia mama

The celebration migrated south from the USA in the early 20th century and was embraced and promoted by the Catholic Church AND the anticlerical Revolutionaries.  As for their reasons, I will quote from Liza Bakewell’s book, Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun.

… around the 1850s the Liberals… were nervous about women’s growing participation in the public sphere.  Establishing motherhood as venerable and the home as sanctified… would give women a sphere of their own where they could be boss.  Also, it would keep them off the streets and out of the workplace where they had begun to compete with men for jobs.

Under their watch, everyday motherhood became an exalted madre-hood…. The twentieth-century Revolutionaries who succeeded them took the idea and ran with it, adding in 1922 a ritual, Mother’s Day… [p. 84]

Needless to say, the women of Mexico have not stayed home!  As I write, hundreds of women are marching on Mexico City, participating in the March of National Dignity: Mothers Looking for their Sons and Daughters and Searching for Justice.  And, as for the workforce, according to a report citing the 2010 census, 33.3% of women work and this doesn’t even include those working in family operated enterprises.

However distasteful the reasons behind the establishment of Mother’s Day in Mexico, it does nothing to diminish the need to honor these beautiful, hardworking, formidable, and loving women.

2 women pining veil on young woman

Woman with rebozo on her head, sitting on side of hill with 3 children

Woman at the reins with 2 boys in a horse drawn cart

Close up of woman holding a baby

¡Feliz Día de la Madre mis compañeras!

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My Spanish language abilities are progressing little by little (poco a poco).  However, one thing my wonderful and extremely patient Spanish teacher, Laura Olachea, has neglected to cover is Madre-isms; those too numerous to count and unique to Mexican Spanish, expressions that the mamas, hijas, and hermanas for the most part never use, at least not in mixed or polite company.

Of course, being that one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know, I was oblivious!  Oblivious, that is, until I read Norma Hawthorne’s review of the new book, Madre: Perilous Journeys With a Spanish Noun, by Liza Bakewell.  Intrigued, I purchased the book when I was in el norte in June and immediately plunged in.

Cover of book, Madre: Perilous Journeys With a Spanish Noun, by Liza Bakewell

In July, while I was immersed in the “madre” minefield, Liza arrived in Oaxaca for some much-needed R & R, to write an article or two, and to promote her book.  I had the pleasure of getting to know her (she’s warm, smart, and funny), eat one of Aurora’s (you will meet her in the book) empanadas, and assist with setting up a couple of speaking engagements.  The first, in English, was at the Oaxaca Lending Library, where the audience was overwhelmingly women and, as expected, mostly gringas.  There was much surprise and laughter as Liza read excerpts from the book, expanded on points, and answered numerous questions.

Liza Bakewell at the Oaxaca Lending Library showing her book, Madre...

The second speaking engagement, the following evening, was at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) and was conducted all in Spanish.  And here, surrounded by the Rini Templeton exhibit, I looked around and noticed the majority of people attending were Mexican men.  However, like Guillermo Fricke, Director of IAGO, people listened closely, occasionally chuckled knowingly, and stayed to ask questions and make respectful and thoughtful comments.

Guillermo Fricke listening to the talk by Liza Bakewell at IAGO

It was a much more reserved gathering than the day before, but no less attentive and appreciative.  And, reflecting on previous events and observations and now reading Labyrinth of Solitude, by Octavio Paz, I’m coming to understand, except for fiestas, that is the Mexican way.  Though, I wonder, if it had been all Mexican women in attendance, would it have been different?  I think so.  There is something about the bond women share that crosses boundaries and cultures….

However, thanks to Liza, at least while in Mexico, I may never utter the word, madre, again!

(ps)  If your local library doesn’t have Madre: Perilous Journeys With a Spanish Noun, ask them to order it!

(pps)  Another insightful review of Madre has just appeared on GlobetrotterGirls.com

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