MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Women of Hope — Activism, agency, and histories of everyday lives in the environmental and social justice movement

We are honored to feature the women in this issue as they collectively capture voces de la tierra. This is a compilation of (Hispana/Chicana/Mexicana) activists who reflect upon thoughts and practice as grassroots organizers and leaders in their respected communities located in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Largely influenced by cultural and political experience and location, these narratives contribute to a historical landscape of activism in the United States distinct to the desert southwest. The autobiographical writings constitute an outline of a sense of self and agency (the ability to move successfully in, between, and around legal, political, and social systems) through the writing of experience, as well as the experience itself.

This past October, I had the privilege of interviewing Dolores Huerta, a conversation that acts as a catalyst for highlighting six other women who tirelessly strive toward change for the betterment of a social whole. Huerta, who was born in Dawson, New Mexico — a mining town that no longer exists — describes what makes the land of enchantment unique and special in her mind. "The lighting — whenever I come back to New Mexico I am always struck by the light, its quality, and what it means to me and to so many people who live in New Mexico and to those who visit."

The light Huerta refers to can also be found in people, specifically the women of focus in this issue. Encircling themes of economics, water, health, and violence, the authors interweave thoughts on social systems, politics, and environment with clarity in what Paulo Freire describes as the ability to read the word and the world. Friere and Frei Betto (1987) relate ideas of political clarity as an individual who can, in what is conceptualized as "a clothesline of information," links one piece of information to another, especially when that information is in flux.

The women who present views in this issue of Voices from the Earth include Maria Varela, who for over thirty-five years devotes herself to rural economic development, pauses to consider the notion of transformation as she focuses on women's leadership skills of hands, heart, and much more. Sofia Martinez provides a snapshot of life in Wagon Mound, New Mexico, where landfill proposals and promises of economic development attempt to drive the local economic agenda. Paula Garcia illustrates how the dependency on water will determine the future of communities, threatening to take away local control of the democratic self governance of acequias. Women activism and renewal entail health and healing as Sylvia Ledesma relates her perspective on organizing, which has its roots in Texas led to alternative health care in Albuquerque's South Valley. In Austin, Texas, Susana Almanza writes about motivating forces that point toward activism as inspired by her parent's teachings, leading her to reclaiming a day to honor Mother Earth. Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ) allowed us to reprint their article (in English and Spanish) on Mexico's President Vicente Fox's visit to New Mexico in 2003, highlighting the Network's protests about the murder of women in Ciudad Juarez. Finally, Cipriana Jurado lives and works in Juarez, Mexico, founding Centro de Investigacion en Soladaridad Obrera (CISO) to deal with violence against women and environmental issues.

Voices of the Earth celebrates these and other women whose names may not appear on the pages and yet who enrich our lives as they continue to labor in the gardens, community centers, local farmer's markets, and school board rooms of our neighborhoods.

— Frances Ortega

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"Una cosa es vestir y alimentar a nuestras hijas, sin embargo lo esencial es enseñarles que otras personas — fuera de ellas mismas — son tambien importantes. Lo mejor que pueden hacer con sus vidas es dedicarlas al servicio de los demás."

"Giving kids clothes and food is one thing, but it's much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people."

--Dolores Huerta

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