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TOŅITA ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
8th March 1995
What is the name of the Federal Army general who, before retiring from the Prado ejido, ordered that everything usable the in indigenous houses should be destroyed and some of the huts burnt. In Prado the average family wage is 200 pesos per month How much did the general earn for such a 'brilliant' military action? Will his rank be raised for 'campaign merit'? Did the general know that one of the houses he ordered to be destroyed was Toņita's house? Will the general tell his children and grandchildren about this 'luminous' page in the history of his military service? What is the name of the officer who, days after attacking and destroying the houses in the Champa San Agustín ejido, came back with sweets and had himself photographed giving them out to the children?
What is the name of the officer who, like the hero of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel Pantaleón y las Vistadoras, brought in dozens of prostitutes to 'attend' to the garrison occupying Guadalupe Tepeyac? How much did the prostitutes earn? How much did the general in command of such a 'risky' military operation earn? How much commission was paid to the Mexican 'Pantaleón'? Do the officers get the same prostitutes as the other ranks? Does this 'service' exist in all the garrisons in the campaign 'for the defence of national sovereignty'? If the Mexican Federal Army's job is to guarantee national sovereignty, why didn't it accompany Ortiz to Washington, instead of persecuting indigenous Mexican dignity in Chiapas?
On March 8th the inhabitants of Prado finished coming down from the mountains. Toņita's family formed part of the last contingent. When they arrived at what was left of their house, the scene confronting all the Prado families was repeated for Toņita's family: The men look about them, impotent and furious at the little that has remained standing. The women cry and tear their hair, pray, repeating over and over again: 'Dear God! Dear God!' as they pick up the torn clothes, the few broken bits of furniture, the food scattered and smeared with dung, the shattered statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the crucifixes thrown on the floor and jumbled among empty US Army fast food packs. This scene has now almost become a ritual for the inhabitants of Prado. In recent days it has been repeated one hundred and eight times, once for each family. one hundred and eight times over, the impotence, the rage, the tears, the cries of: 'Dear God! Dear God!' Nevertheless, this time something is different. There is a small woman who does not cry. Toņita says nothing, she does not cry, she does not wail. She walks in and goes to a corner of the house, as if searching for something. There in a forgotten corner, lies her little teacup, broken and tossed aside like a forlorn hope.
This teacup was a present, someone sent it to her, so that one day Toņita-Alice could have tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. But this March it wasn't a hare that Toņita met. It was her house, destroyed by order of someone claiming to defend sovereignty and legality. Toņita does not cry, does not wail, she says nothing. She picks up the broken pieces of her teacup and saucer. Toņita goes out, she makes her way back through the torn, dirty clothes on the floor, the maize and beans scattered among the rubble, past her mother, aunts and sisters, who are crying and wailing and repeating, 'Dear God! Dear God!'.
Outside, near a guava tree, Toņita sits on the ground and, using a mixture of earth and spit, she begins to stick the teacup pieces back together. Toņita does not cry, but there is a hard icy glitter in her eye. Brutally, like indigenous women for the last five hundred years, Toņita ceases to be a child and becomes a woman.
It's 8th March 1995, International Women's Day, and Toņita is five years old, in her sixth year. The sharp, cold glitter in her eye strikes dangerous sparks off the broken teacup pieces, as if the sun itself were slashing with a razor blade of fury at the outrage that has been committed in this land. And as if mending a broken heart, Toņita pieces her broken teacup back together with earth and spit...
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