Siempre Vivas' Marcha Violeta: A March For Gender Equality

 

Let’s raise our fists and flags and celebrate; March, Women’s History month, is upon us. In 1977, the United Nations declared March 8th as International Women’s Day, a day in which we honor women- those who have fought for our rights, who have contributed to our societal development and in our everyday lives, who inspire us to be better. This year’s on-campus women’s march took place on Thursday, March 7, beginning at 10:30am. As per usual, it was coordinated by Siempre Vivas, an organization created to help and empower women, as well as foster networks of support against gender violence in local communities.

Founded more than ten years ago by Prof. Luisa Seijo, Siempre Vivas is a vital community project that receives the support of many institutions, including various local colleges. In campus, there’s even a feminist, multidisciplinary association created in solidarity with the operation, the Asociación Estudiantil en Apoyo a Siempre Vivas (AEASV), which aims to involve more students in activities that will result in social change and growth. They assisted with the planning of the women’s march, which began in the building Dra. Josefina Torres Torres because it is the only establishment on campus that’s named after a woman.

Although I got there as soon as my class finished, people were already spilling out of the building and into the lawn. I walked towards the tables where Siempre Vivas had set up to pick up the shirt I had pre-ordered. The staff hurriedly, but happily, gave me the purple t-shirt; on the front, an arm decorated with colorful flowers held up a megaphone, on the back, words read: ‘Somos el grito de quienes no tienen voz (We’re the shout of those who can’t speak)’. As I looked around for familiar faces, I noticed the amount of people that had decided to attend the march- people who, like me, are concerned about the rise of deaths caused by gender violence in Puerto Rico, our archipelago.

We were called to begin around 11. I noticed that not only students from our campus were there, but also those of other universities, as well as an abundance of organizations, had decided to partake in the Marcha Violeta (Purple March) to spread consciousness on gender equality and raise awareness on the urgency of gender violence.  As our walk towards the Plaza Colón commenced, we began chanting: ‘¿Quien es esa que se escucha? Es la mujer en pie de lucha’. Under blazing rays of sunshine, the repetitive chants began to feel like a litany- a prayer for femicide to be eradicated, for unity and inclusion and for a more just world for future generations.

The key speakers also brought attention to multiple issues regarding gender violence, the Junta de Control Fiscal, and Vieques; one of their focus was the Proyecto del Senado (PS) 950, the first anti-abortion legislation that seeks to add onerous sanctions to difficult, and demonize pregnancy termination; it was approved by the senate on March 7.

We came to a halt in front of the San Antonio Hospital, where Prof. Luisa Seijo instructed us to take a minute of silence to remember and honor the 26 dead women, victims of gender violence in the last year. Step by step, we were getting closer to our destination, the town square. Once we got there, many climbed the city hall’s steps. Seijo spoke to the crowd, noting the social progress ushered by women’s fights for rights, but also highlighting that our battle isn’t over, that we must keep fighting and resisting in order to protect and defend the voiceless. She was joined by Wilma L. Santiago Gabrielini, interim dean, who also sent out a message of hope and resilience; the women were joined by universities’ representatives to sign a document which would officialize the Alianza Interuniversitaria del Oeste por la Paz y la Equidad, an alliance that seeks to defend women’s rights; other institutions that became part of the project were: Universidad Carlos Albizu (Mayagüez campus), Universidad Ana G. Méndez (Aguadilla y Cabo Rojo campus), la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico (Mayagüez campus), Instituto de Comercio de Puerto Rico, and UPRM. After each institution’s representatives gave a brief speech about gender equality and its important role in education, we began to slowly disperse. It was time to head back.

Ultimately, it felt gratifying for my steps to mean something- to walk with a purpose. Among other students and adults dressed in purple, a color British suffragettes chose to represent unity, I felt part of something bigger than myself, something powerful and somewhat magical. It’s important to remember: we can be vehicles of change. Let’s take a stand, wave our purple flags and fists in the air: Women’s rights are everyone’s rights. As we all chanted yesterday: si nosotrxs paramos, el país se detiene.