MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

A Closer Look: with Cipriana Jurado

On May 7, 2004, Southwest Research and Information Center's Sylvia Ledesma conducted an interview with Cipriana Jurado of Centro de Investigación y Solidaridad Obera (CISO). Their discussion focused on the role of women in the community, and the environment.

Sylvia Ladesma (SL): Cipriana, what is the relationship between women and the environment?

Cipriana Jurado (CJ): I think the relationship between women and the environment is very important. Women are teachers of our children and the environment. Not only our children, we have to care for our environment from contamination that we live next to. This is the border and there is question of contamination from the United States (U.S.). Along the border you can find cars that are old that the U.S. doesn't permit to be operated due to the contamination. What is more dangerous is that we live among industrial wastes of maquiladoras (factories), many of which are U.S. owned. We have taken precaution to the types of problems to women who are sensitive to contaminants. One of the serious problems is when we work at the maquiladoras and the issue of pregnancies and sexual reproduction. We handle chemicals we shouldn't work with. We use these chemicals without protection.

SL: So one way to look at violence is on the part of the employer/managers of the facilities, who ignore and do not recognize impacts to women and what is humane.

CJ: Exactly, it isn't only that, if not the complacency of the institutions for worker protections against harm to sexual violence in the workplace. The doctors are not Hispanas and many of them do not provide care in cases with problems of sexual content.

SL: The problems with the women and the maquilas affect not only the natural environment but also the direct environment of women, their health, economics, etc. You say that women's fight for rights is the struggle for family and children and human rights, more so than opposing men (machismo).

CJ: Not only social aspects, but political ones as well. I have to say generally that the women's movement has advanced in many respects, but we do have to confront competition and call it what it is. And oppose the many men who do not accept that we as women are continuing to move forward.

SL: Cipriana, I have been involved in the environmental justice movement for many years and the work, especially issues related to the border, has brought the United States, Mexico, international and even globally attention. What is the difference of women's movement in Mexico and women's movement in the United States?

CJ: Well, there is much difference, I think that in the U.S. women have advanced more rapidly that women in Mexico and there are multiple factors to consider. We in Mexico have advanced for the struggle of human rights which underscores other issues, but we have other obstacles on the part of men. For example, the government is controlled by more than 90 percent males, so this has been a problem. There are also economic issues of the country in relation to women rights in whatever form, politically, economically, and socially. It has been difficult to access government funds to support our work. We are always working with very few resources. The majority of our work is voluntary.

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"Una cosa es vestir y alimentar a nuestras hijas, sin embargo lo esencial es enseñarles que otras personas — fuera de ellas mismas — son tambien importantes. Lo mejor que pueden hacer con sus vidas es dedicarlas al servicio de los demás."

"Giving kids clothes and food is one thing, but it's much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people."

--Dolores Huerta

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