Mayagüez Presente! Women’s 8M International March in Puerto Rico

“We stand because we are not alone. We have each other.” These are the words from Raquela Delgado Valentín, one of the coordinators from the annual Women’s 8M International March in Puerto Rico. Our área oeste became part of this collective march, where hundreds of women and men marched in solidarity with each other, letting their voices be heard against social injustices, such as patriarchal, capitalist, and racial oppression.

This year’s march started at approximately 11:30am from Siempre Vivas RUM’s main office, and ended at 1:30pm in front of the University’s main entrance, La Vita gate.

(photo taken by Génesis Alvelo)

Raquela Delgado intensively expressed that, “we stand because we are tired of double and triple work shifts. We stand because we are tired of femicides, macharranería de izquierda, de derecho, de centro, sexual harassment, imposed maternity, obstetric violence, limited access to reproductive rights, and walking on the streets with fear, and excessive brutality.”  She self-identifies as a feminist activist, part of the collective Junte Feminista del Oeste, who have been working for a long time in different spaces and “join together to denounce machismo” in our Puerto Rican and global society.

(photo taken by Génesis Alvelo)

María Cristina García, a Special Education teacher working for the Department of Education for seven years, also helped coordinate this march, expressed her [and many other teachers’] concerns regarding the government’s austere measures over Puerto Rico’s public education. She indicates that these measures “provoke us to take proactive steps, using collective action, and creating alliances with other groups, which lead to the creation of the Junte Feminista del Oeste, composed of the Federación de Maestros in solidarity of the west-side of Puerto Rico, Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, Siempre Vivas, and other civilians who demonstrate compromise to fight for social equality and build resistance against social, economic, and political oppression.”

María Cristina added that, “we stand because we want to create a new life. This is a very sad day in history, commemorating the women who died fighting for our rights, and thanks to these strong, fierce women, we are able to continue with this legacy and persevere to achieve social justice. Concerning today’s Puerto Rican society, we are facing a project that has been approved at the Senado (Project 825) and Cámara de Representantes (Project 1421), intended to privatize our students’ public education using charter schools. We, as a collective team of teachers, want to continue teaching our Puerto Rican culture and values to our students, and by privatizing our public education, it will be more challenging to provide students with the information they need to educate our children about our culture. We are also observing how many juicy contracts are offered to ‘enhance the teaching of values’ at schools, yet those are the same tasks we do as teachers. This and many reasons more is why we march today, in addition to the main purpose for our 8M Women’s March.”

(photo taken by Génesis Alvelo)

Dr. Mary Sefranek, Associate Interim Director of the UPRM English Department, participated as part of the barrileras in the manifestation, playing bomba as a sign of protest and resistance. Some protesters also carried panderos as a sign for empowering their voices throughout the march. Sefranek pointed out, “there have been so many atropellos hacia la libertad.” . She also adds how, “There is intersection for us to come together and address these different causes.” Sefranek also addressed the statistics of sexual harassment within RUM, indicating in astonishment the level of indifference in which this statistic was conveyed, as 19% of students have suffered sexual harassment. With this statistic, she highlighted the importance of being proactive and taking immediate action and measures to prevent these situations from happening again on campus. “This is a powerful moment, even though I feel exhausted, but we keep going, and it’s moments like these help us regain energy, even though we feel drowned by these measures.” Sefranek also mentioned the importance of including Gender Studies to educate students and create more awareness about the necessity of conveying these topics into society.

(photo taken by Génesis Alvelo)

Additionally, Génesis Marie Alvelo-Colón, a fourth-year Political Sciences student from UPRM, and General, Communications, and Publicity Coordinator of El Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o? expressed the importance to, “never forget the fights and movements that gave us all the rights we have today. Forgetting means letting go, and there’s still a long way to go.” Lastly, Génesis Marie indicated this movement is, “here to stay and change the way we see the world,” and she “couldn’t be prouder of all these people that are here today, as well as the people who couldn’t come, but are supporting us in other ways. The goal has always been and always will be: a better world.”