It might have seemed like a regular week, but it wasn’t. This past week, March 15 through the 17, “Asociación de Estudiantes de Ciencias Políticas” (AECIPO) celebrated the “Week of Women in Politics.” This special week was dedicated to the Political Science Professor Ileana Matías Del Toro. Sebastián García Holguín, from AECIPO, elaborated by saying, “the Week of Women in Politics was dedicated to professor Ileana Matías Del Toro for her outstanding role in the development of the department of Political Science, notably in the area of curricular sequences that we have today.”
Dr. Matías Del Toro receiving a commemorative plaque by Sebastián García Holguín on behalfof AECIPO.
The celebration consisted of various conferences focused on the role of women in modern politics. The opening activity was a Q&A panel with Itzamar Peña, former mayor of Las Piedras. A debate on the current fiscal crisis of the island was programed for that afternoon, but due to lack of electricity on campus it had to be suspended. On the second day, Legislator Piti Gándara, former First Lady, offered a talk about her transition from “La Fortaleza” to “El Capitolo.”
The closing conference was about the role of women in social movements. In a packed room at the Celis building, two elder women stood out in the crowd, as they sat together talking between themselves. They turned out to be the key speakers for the sit-down of Mujer en los Movimientos Sociales. After a short introduction and pleasantries, the women were introduced; Dr. Raquel Seda and Mary Ann Merill. Both are more than just social workers; they played an active role in the development of Puerto Rico’s political and social movements.
Dr. Merill, right, and Dr. Seda, left.
The women discussed the different motivations and situations that led them to be involved in these movements. For Dr. Seda it began when her son pulled her into helping him with his own social activity, rekindling her passion for student led movements. She even elaborated by recalling her son telling her that she has been subversive since he was in elementary school. For Dr. Merill, her passion for social movements was lit when she faced discrimination while attending college in the United States. She recalls how her first roommate asked to be moved into another room as soon as Merill revealed she was Puerto Rican; while her new African-American roommate suffered the same discriminatory situation by her first roommate as well. Due to this happenings, she became well aware of the discrimination surrounding her, from ‘dominant’ groups discriminating against minorities, as well as minorities discriminating against other minorities in their same situation.
Even though they both share the same passion, they have found different ways to spread awareness about it. To Dr. Merill, it made more sense to abandon the professorship to take actions, while Dr. Seda understood that the professorship was key for the fight. Dr. Seda referred to the university as her “trench in the war,” where she could educate the troops.
All the women that were part of the event, are not only political and social icons, but real life role models for everyone. They are examples on how we should educate ourselves in the reality of the world, and that even people from different backgrounds might suffer from the same issues and, therefore, unite to fight the oppression.
Picture courtesy of AECIPO’s Facebook page.