Maria Bonita holding a hand up to her cheek

From the heart of the comuna

"So one day, I found myself crying and the drum of the earth beat and our women ancestors spoke."

From the heart of the comuna

Our women ancestors form a circle
Sacred, alive, powerful
We are in the middle
Feeling their strength.
The drum beats a sound of earth  
Our skin dresses in colours
We are green, red, orange, blue, violet, black
The drum beats a sound of earth  
A voice vibrates, a scream emanates, a song rings out, lulling to sleep, awakening consciousness.
The drum beats a sound of earth  
A gaze of complicity, friendship profound.
The drum beats a sound of earth  
Ours is but one heart, beating a rhythm of the soul, inviting us to move, inspiring desire, and showing us a path.
One of communal togetherness, power of the people, self-government, a women’s revolution of subversive communal care.
The drum beats a sound of earth  
And I invite you to join, to be voice, skin, gaze, seed, fire, song, communion.
The drum beats a sound of earth  
And I invite you to discover it, to love it, to know it, and to defend it from the heart of the community
For 25 years they have lived along the same dusty streets, at the top of a hill named after a lion. They come from different places, many from traditional farming communities. Their skin is the colour of rebellion, the colour of a cardon cactus, because in them lives the spirit of the semi-arid Lara State, which is where their love for life comes from, their appreciation, care and protection of water and land. They are heiresses of the Gayon and Ayaman lineages, Indigenous communities that lived and live in the northern part of Lara State.

From the time they were very young they learned that maternity is a role from which it is not easy to escape. Caring for children, home and husband, washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning—everything had to be impeccable, people insisted.

And that was life—that and violence, insults, abuse, hitting, scheming, complaints were to be expected. It seemed almost natural, and that is how they spent their days. Everyday life on those dirt streets living in little houses of tin sheet metal without any electricity or running water. That was poverty, the precarity of when a man would arrive, yes, a man, a project. And then, an unusual revolution because it came about without war.

Then they were invited to go out, they were invited to take to the streets and occupy public space. In the process, the women tore down doors and windows, broke chains, let their hair down and they felt free, free like runaway slaves, Caribbean rebels, freedom fighters.

And those concepts of independence and sovereignty are something that those who had the chance to study had read about, but feeling it, feeling like the protagonists of a process of social transformation—that is an important victory that we have to mention and we cannot forget.

At the top of that hill one can feel the complicity, the shared fire, the years of struggle. They tell of how one of them would go around with her parasol in the afternoons from house to house having coffee and conversing with the people she would invite, convincing them
We are going to make a community council!
Let’s move forward together as a community!
Let’s make plans for education, sports, health, nutrition, a women and gender equality committee, the economy.
We can form our own People’s Government so our Neighbourhood can Be Beautiful!

And that is how the houses came, the doctor’s office, daycare, electricity, potable water. These are some of the community’s achievements, some of our common dreams come true.
And you might ask how a cuentera, a storyteller, made her way to a hill with the name of a lion
And I will tell you: it’s that I was born rowdy, always fighting, I was born a wanderer my grandmother would say, born ready Comandante Chavez would add, from so much walking, grumbling, fighting, and doubting that military man, that I would end up becoming convinced by the community project, by the idea of self-government, of the people managing their own resources, of all the power going to the communities, and so I was convinced.

But I knew something was missing because the women, the women of the community kept building up the people’s power and putting our hearts in the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist fight, but there is something that hurts and continues to affect us. There are wounds from a patriarchy still present.
So one day, I found myself crying and the drum of the earth beat and our women ancestors spoke.
I found myself surrounded by a group of women who held me up, who contained me as I spilled over in front of them, as it both hurt and liberated me at the same time. That is how I discovered that love among women heals you, saves you, and that our friendship is profoundly political and that sisterhood is a way of being, of living life. From that moment on I never felt alone again, I never felt like an island again, because I know there is a group of women who carry me, bring me, love me, care for me and me for them. I know that this way of becoming a feminist with the mysticism of women loving life is an experience of feeling connected and loved by women, even if you never see them again. How not to want this that happened to me, to happen also to other women, this new beginning, this birth of a new heart is a gift from the goddesses that must be shared.  

So I decided to join the women and I began walking from community to community to learn about others’ experiences. We began debating health, education, nutrition, we began preaching the anti-patriarchal word and calling for communities free of machismo. We insisted on recovering ancestral knowledge, intuition, we decided to defend life by talking about abortion and we found ourselves laughing, crying, debating, reflecting. I find myself with Macu, with the China, Yenni, Carolina, Maria, Ramona, Irma, and even with our sister Yenifer who left us not long ago.

This is my homage to them, the women of the hill, the lioness women, the ones who without a doubt have sown a seed in me with so much force it now beats with my heart.
Without a doubt they blaze a path, they are the ones who make caring for a family possible, collective care. They are also a force, a force in a territory that fights to overcome the embargo, the patriarchal violence, the political treason, to overcome the bureaucracy and the corruption.

Without a doubt they blaze a path
Without a doubt they are a compass
Without a doubt they are the heart of the community

Many thanks, I am Maria Bonita, Mharyha Morales from Venezuela. I hope you will continue to enjoy this beautiful festival that brings us women together, in all our diversity, that brings us together from the heart of the community to create, resist, and transform.

Thank you.