Maria No Solo Trabaja: Maria, More Than a Worker - Women's Foundation California
California Gender Justice Funders Network

By guest blogger Rebecca Bauen, associate director at Somos Mayfair.

A few years ago, while meeting with a donor interested in women’s economic security, she confided that she had never thought of her house cleaner as a leader. I stopped and took a deep breath.  I then wrote her words on a piece of paper and posted it on my bulletin board.  Why?  I needed to remind myself that as much as women want to help other women gain their voice and power, the gulf between classes, races and cultures is wide and deep. 

For the last ten years, I have worked in solidarity with immigrant women from Mexico. Many of them are involved with organizations who are grant partners of the Women’s Foundation of California.  At WAGES (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security), we helped women gain financial independence through house cleaning cooperatives.  At Somos Mayfair, we cultivate women’s confidence, voice and power through support groups where they share their suffering; leadership development where they analyze their collective experience; and community organizing where they work together for change.  Many other organizations like WAGES and Somos exist to help women start businesses or organize for political action.

But what first attracted me to Somos, and what keeps me here is something else.  We also work at the level of the soul. We help to tenderly pull forth the beauty that exists and then step back and witness as women express their deepest selves through tears and celebration. Through dance and theater, the women of Somos who comprise Teatro Familias Unidas (United Family Theater) step out of their invisibility as house cleaners, mothers, mono-lingual Spanish-speaking immigrants and tell their stories of pain, beauty and strength.

This Mother’s Day weekend on May 8th, we will host a community-wide celebration to honor the mothers of Mayfair. With folklorico dance, traditional food, a ritual of roses, theater and song we will recognize the strength, power and leadership of women.  All are welcome.  At this celebration, the women of Somos, who live in a barrio of first and second generation immigrants in east San José, will speak their truths over the drum beats and between the stanzas of the song, Maria Landó, offsetting their pain with power:

….For  Maria there is no dawn
for Maria there is no midday
for Maria there is no moon…

Maria has no time to lift her eyes
to lift her eyes, broken by lack of sleep
Maria broken by lack of sleep from so much suffering
Maria from so much suffering, all she does is work

Maria just works and works
Maria only works
and her work is always for others

We believe that all women are leaders who can change the conditions which oppress them.

~Rebecca Bauen is associate director at Somos Mayfair.

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