Popular Education for Rural Women in Mexico: The National School for Leadership Training
Comaletzin, A.C., Mexico
“Being in the Escuela de Dirigentas, the School for Leadership, has helped me change on a personal level, has helped me grow in order to be able to help other women in need of information. Knowledge is the most important foundation on which to build a life; it gives us the ability to have a different vision; it’s like changing the world to a different color.”
- Martha García Carreón, Youth Leader of Zautla, Puebla
I wanted to begin this presentation with the words of a young campesina, or farm girl, because, in a manner that is clear and fresh, she expresses what she has achieved in her life as a rural woman through the training program based on the theory of Educación Popular which this paper addresses.
It is worth remembering that the so-called Educación Popular is a movement that goes back to 1962, initiated by Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and social activist who worked in many Latin American countries, executing adult literacy campaigns amongst farmers and laborers.
For Freire it was fundamental to link the reading and writing of words with the reading of the world in order to be able to transform it through collective action. Using these principles, Freire built a pedagogical and political proposal that went far beyond literacy and was based on the importance of promoting a critical awareness, a conciencia critica, in all who participated in social programs and action.
Over time, his proposals have been enriched through the support of educators from different parts of the world1 and are given form in reality in multiple methodological tools that serve the traditional sectors and particularly those whose people previously had no opportunities to study.
In this text I analyze some of the theoretical principals that sustain Educación Popular as well as the principle contributions towards feminism in this political-pedagogical proposal. At the same time, a concrete program is presented for the training of rural and indigenous women. Finally, a few questions are posed which give a base to the discussion on gender relations and the role of Educación Popular in the formation of a new society.
Mexico in Crisis
by Laura Carlsen
The brutal violence of Mexican society has been forced into our view with the disappearance of 43 students from a teachers college in Ayotzinapa. In the search for their bodies in the mountains of Guerrero, many mass graves were discovered, literally revealing the skeletons in the nation’s closet. People were shocked and outraged. Massive protests swept the country as the finger of blame was pointed not just to local authorities and drug gangs, but all the way up to the president himself.
This has catalyzed a national soul searching of long standing practices of impunity, corruption, militarization, human rights violations and official complicity that extends to all levels. Journalist Laura Carlsen puts this in the context of the U.S. sponsored drug war and NAFTA. That’s right, the U.S. is also complicit in all this. In a talk December 4, 2014 she argues that the U.S. has contributed to the present crisis by funding corrupt forces responsible for crimes against their own population.
Based in Mexico City, Laura Carlsen is Director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy (www.cipamericas.org). She has written extensively on all aspects of Mexico and recently gave a Congressional briefing on the current situation.
Midsummer Reflections on the US Immigration Debate
“No, no!” said the Queen, “Sentence first-verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I won’t!” said Alice .
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
-Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson),
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
The great “Si Se Puede” demonstrations of immigrant workers and their supporters between March 25th and May Day caused many opponents of immigrant rights to step back and reassess the configuration of forces. This hiatus in the struggle over immigration legislation (which might continue until the November elections) gives us time to review the different strategies with respect to the mobility of capital and labor power that are now in the field. I will do just that briefly in the following presentation.
These strategies are often not clearly formulated because immigration politics (as with other legislatively defined “issues” ) poses incomplete questions that often get confusing answers. Thus in the debates in Congress there are “trade” discussions taking place in one committee while immigration issues are being hotly debated in another, as if the cross-border movement of, say, corn and Mexican nurses’ labor power are commodities that can be reasonably discussed independently of each other. But this lack of a sense of totality affects anti-capitalist movements as well, since they too have become increasingly “single issue” efforts for reasons both too complicated and too embarrassing for us to deal with here. That is why it is important to see that if we are discussing immigration (movement across borders) we need to ask: immigration of capital or labor power? After all, there is an enormous movement of financial instruments (from “hard cash,” to stocks and bonds, to derivatives) as well as machinery and raw material immigrating across international borders, much of it in violation of the laws of the receiving and/or sending states. Indeed, not asking about the movement of capital when discussing immigration is like discussing pregnancy without mentioning insemination. For capital without labor power cannot produce profits.
Neo-liberalism on a Global Scale: The Case of Mexico
Corporate-led neo-liberal globalization has now had three decades to deliver on its promise that it can lift the world’s poor to a humanly more acceptable standard of living. It was claimed that unfettered markets on a global scale would free up Adam Smith’s invisible hand to work its magic, resulting in a greater good for the greater number. But the harsh reality is that it has failed miserably to do so. Instead of lifting all boats, the rising tide of the free marketers has lifted the yachts of the rich to unprecedented heights while sinking the rowboats the rest of us used to stay afloat.
This outcome should not be surprising, except to those blinded by neo-liberal ideology. It could have been foretold by anyone who paid attention to the history of 20th century capitalism. The free market of the roaring twenties ushered in the decade of the Great Depression. That collapse of unbridled capitalism had taught a generation that neo-liberal markets were self-destructive. It took the guidance of a new public philosophy –Welfare Liberalism – to save capitalism from itself. The lesson that was learned for the next four decades was that rather than a laissez faire state, capitalism needed an activist state that would regulate economic institutions, promote economic growth by stimulating capitalist economic activities and provide some minimum protection to those adversely affected by the marketplace. In the United States this took the form of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. At the same time in Mexico a similar public philosophy guided Presidente Cardenas as he consolidated the 1910 Revolution.
That neo-liberalism was a dead end could also have been foretold by looking at the logic of uncontrolled capitalist markets. A fair simulation of neo-liberal markets is found in the popular board game Monopoly. Players can experience the thrill of becoming rich or the despair of impoverishment. Even though all players start as equal, the rules of the game, which replicate the logic of the market, inevitably results in an ever widening inequality until one player owns all the property around the board and the other players are driven into bankruptcy. At that point the game breaks down. It can no longer continue because none of the other players have anything left and the monopolist’s property becomes worthless without an effective demand for rooms in his hotels on Boardwalk or even a shack on Baltic Avenue. This outcome cannot be avoided (and why should it since it’s only a game) because there is no mechanism for the players to collectively alter the rules of the game to keep it going. In the real world however, there may be democratic processes by which new rules can be agreed upon that will keep everyone in the game and a state to enforce those rules. Such a democratically responsive, activist state violates the precepts of neo-liberalism. But that is what is required to keep capitalism going. (1)
The Exhaustion of Neo-liberalism in Mexico
Cliff DuRand To view the video go to http://vimeo.com/3910072 The text of the DuRand presentation follows:
March 11, 2009
The world is now in the midst of a catastrophic crisis of capitalism that is global in its reach. The crisis of the 1970s had been fixed by a turn to global neo-liberal economic policies. Now it is precisely those policies that have led to the present crisis and there is no new fix in sight. This is what the countries of the global North are now discovering. But the dead end of neo-liberalism has been apparent in Latin America for some time and has opened the way for the Left there to experiment with new alternatives.
What I want to do today is give an overview of the failure of neo-liberalism in the one country of the global South that perhaps went the farthest in turning its society in that direction. That country is Mexico. And the policies that have reshaped the country are those that grew out of NAFTA. Mexico is an ideal laboratory in which to observe the effects of corporate led neo-liberal globalization –both in its hayday, and now in its crisis.
First, a little historical context is needed. In the early 1980s an external debt crisis swept through Latin America when the U.S. Treasury Department raised interest rates as a fix for the stagflation that had set in there. In the ‘70s the banks had been awash with petrodollars and recycled them as loans to many developing countries — among them Mexico. But when interest rates shot up and the price of oil declined, Mexico found itself unable to even service its immense external debt. It was on the verge of default when Treasury engineered a bailout (actually it was a bailout of the banks, not Mexico, since the money never even left the U.S.). As part of the deal, the IMF imposed a Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) on Mexico that required it to
• cut government spending, especially on social programs
• privatize public assets
• increase exports so as to earn foreign exchange to pay the North American banks
• Open Mexico to foreign direct investment (FDI)
This was a drastic shift from the economic policies that had prevailed for decades. Since the 1930s the development of the Mexican economy had been protected by import substitution industrialization (ISI) policies. Following the example set by the industrialized countries of the North which had protected national capital against foreign competition, the Mexican state likewise favored the development of its own infant industry with protective tariffs and limits on foreign ownership. It also sought to ensure a minimal level of well being of its population through agricultural subsidies and low prices for basic food stuffs, public provision of social services, etc. All this was to change with Mexico’s debt crisis.
Peñón de los Baños: A Community in Resistance to Neo-liberal Globalization
Mexico’s agriculture is a study in contrasts. On the one hand you can see in the countryside large irrigated fields producing vegetables for export to the U.S. On the other hand you can see small family plots growing food mainly for domestic consumption and sale to a local market. Favored by government policies, agribusiness is prospering, while campesino agriculture is left largely to itself as it struggles to survive.