A Letter from Mexico is a monthly letter from Mariana Alvarado, a feminist journalist living in Mexico City. Each month she’ll be exploring different topics, especially the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
Nothing but grateful and joyful. That’s how a lot of women, including myself, feel this time of the year in Mexico. Ever since I remember, the month of May has been one of my favorite and happiest times.
Here, every time the fifth month of the year arrives colorfully and festive. How not to feel happy and hopeful when we have so much to celebrate during this time of the year? It comes with rain, flowers blooming, festivals everywhere to honor motherhood, magnificent parades for Labor Day, and parties to praise our professors. In the U.S., Americans honor the Mexican contribution to their freedom with the Cinco de Mayo celebration.
However, there’s something special about this May. It feels even more cheerful and blessed than usual. One of the reasons: despite the tough 2017 beginning we had, full of negative events on both sides of the border, it seems women have managed to adapt to new circumstances and overcome them in the best possible way. At least that’s how I and other ladies around me perceive it.
In Mexico, 2017 arrived with high gasoline price increases, lots of fear about the impacts on Donald Trump being elected and the peso weakening. But as a Maori proverb says: “Don’t lose hope. When it gets darkest the stars come out.” This has been true for a lot of us who have chosen to stay optimistic, proactive and hopeful through these challenging times.
We have not only managed to stay confident that everything happens for a reason and that we will succeed. For a lot of us, the new times have helped us reflect upon our past and understand how we got where we are and accomplished some of our dreams.
In reflecting on my past, this May has arrived more joyful than ever. It has reminded me not only that we honor motherhood and other festivities, but most important, how grateful and lucky I am for the women in my life and their contributions to my well-being.
I’ll pin the blame for this joyous reflection on my friend Isabel. My ex-roommate, who now lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters and who I hadn’t seen for 18 years, got me thinking. During a recent visit to Mexico City she reminded me how lucky we are to have families, not only with means, but with loving and caring ladies who shaped us into strong but sensitive women. I’m talking about our mothers, aunts, cousins and close girlfriends.
Without knowing or directly suggesting it, Isabel began this reflection, which a couple of weeks later another friend of mine reinforced. An old friend and colleague Wendy also came to visit to Mexico City, and helped me realize that we have inherited from our mothers the responsibility of being the rock in our families. Wendy and I agreed we’ve suffered from this, talked and complained about it for years and years, but for the first time in the 19 years we’ve known each other, we agreed and made peace with the fact that this has been one of the best lessons in our lives.
In reuniting with old girlfriends lately, I’ve found more strength to continue fighting for what’s right as a journalist, a woman, a wife and as a mother. It’s the women in my life and my role models who constantly remind me that we are unique and have been blessed with anything we need to succeed. In reuniting with old friends and chatting with them about life and how much we’ve improved, I decided, during the whole month of May, I would honor the role of women and mother figures.
I firmly believe we have so much to celebrate as women. As I speak with ladies on both sides of the border, I can tell there’s been lots of progress. In the U.S, as of 2014, 57 percent of women aged 16 and older worked outside the home, compared with 33.9 percent in 1950 and 43.3 percent in 1970, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Mexico, 62 percent of women and girls aged 15 years and older participated in the labor force in 2014.
There’s still room for more improvement. Mexico needs to work to put women in leadership positions: in major Mexican companies, women take up only 7 percent of seats on the board and only 15 percent of firms have women in top management roles. In both countries, income inequality persists. Still, we’ve accomplished a lot.
Every country and group celebrates Mother’s Day in its own way. In Mexico we have a big celebration in our kid’s schools, who prepare handmade cards or small gifts and participate in a festival on May 10th.
It doesn’t really matter how or when you celebrate. It doesn’t matter either if you want to honor motherhood, women role models or just being a woman. All I ask is that you take time to think about all the women who have influenced your life, not only your mom, sisters or girlfriends, but anybody who has had a significant impact in your thinking, feelings or has empowered you somehow.
During May, let’s take a moment to celebrate our accomplishments and similarities, not our differences or disagreements. Let’s honor women’s strengths.
Mariana Alvarado is an award winning journalist based in Mexico City with more than 19 years’ experience as a reporter and editor of web and print. She’s currently an online instructor with the Center for Digital Journalism at Universidad de Guadalajara. She’s worked on both sides of the border covering immigration, international business and border issues. She’s collaborated with Grupo Reforma in Mexico and with the Arizona Daily Star, the Orlando Sentinel, among other publications in the U.S. She’s married and have a two-year-old girl. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, Alvaradomariana