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A Year After Nicaragua’s Uprising, Women Of All Ages Are Leading Resistance

It’s been one year since Nicaragua’s civic uprising, and women, who have been uniquely impacted by political violence, are still fighting back.

On April 18, 2018, protestors took to the streets throughout the Central American country, demonstrating against Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s government, particularly the president’s social security reform proposals, in a mass rally that sparked an even bigger and longer anti-government movement.

Since then, the government has responded to the mass opposition with violence. Police and paramilitary groups are often sent to rallies to intimidate protestors and deter observers from joining protests. On April 19, authorities’ shots claimed the lives of two young men, Darwin Manuel Urbina, 29, and Richard Eduardo Pavón, 17. A year later, more than 300 are dead, 700 are in jail and 62,000 in exile.

These deaths have directly impacted women — their mothers, partners, siblings and friends — who are turning their pain and anger into fuel for their political fight. Throughout the nation, women have been playing key roles in the opposition movement.

Last year, when Ortega denied there had been any student killings, 21-year-old Madelaine Caracas read out the names of all those deceased, gaining instant repute.

She’s not alone.

A group called Mothers of April, which bands the mothers of those who were killed, jailed or disappeared, has since formed. Together, they offer each other support and make demands, like ending repression, disbanding paramilitary groups and holding elections earlier than those scheduled for 2021.

One of the mothers is Yardira Cordoba, whose son Orlando was shot during a Mother’s Day march in May 2018 when snipers killed 19 people. He was just 15 years old. According to his mom, Orlando, who played drums at his church, left his high school to attend the march on his own. When Cordoba, 45, learned of his presence and that he was wounded, she rushed to the hospital, where he died. “I fell on the floor, crying,” she told Al Jazeera.

The mom, who then faced harassment by pro-government supporters, was forced to move across town. Another of her sons lost his government job because of the publicity and moved to Costa Rica. Long scared to speak out, she joined the mother’s group, seeking support and change.

“I want justice, for my son and all the others,” she said.

Long-time feminist activists in the country are also leading efforts. At 69, Marlen Chow, a sociologist who carried an AK-47 in the Sandinista revolution that overthrew United States-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, has since taken on the government that succeeded him.

She was arrested last October for protesting. When police asked her which group she was representing, she said “Pico Rojo,” or red lipstick, igniting the hashtag #SoyPicoRojo, with women and men protesting Ortega and showing their solidarity with Chow by posting photos of themselves in red lipstick.

The women’s efforts have helped ignite some change. Ortega has agreed to release some prisoners, allow people to practice their legal right to protest and let media report on demonstrations and Nicaraguan politics freely. However, human rights officials at the United Nations have said that the president hasn’t followed through on all of his promises.

Until he does, he can count on women to be on the frontlines of resistance.

Read: These Young Nicaraguan Women Are Pushing Back Against State Violence Through The Power Of Art

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These Latinas Are Changing The World With Their Groundbreaking Inventions In Science, Technology, And Engineering

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These Latinas Are Changing The World With Their Groundbreaking Inventions In Science, Technology, And Engineering

@techreview_es / Twitter

Women are under-represented in the tech sector. Not only that, but they’re underpaid, often passed for promotions and faced with everyday sexism. It’s no wonder women are more likely to leave the industry within a year compared to their male counterparts. But there’s hope. Last week, the MIT Technology Review published a list of the leading Latin American innovators of 2019, and we wanted to highlight the women, who have pushed through in a male-dominated industry and are creating solutions for issues like climate change, terminal illnesses, and other threats. 

In a field that requires women to work alongside men who don’t believe women have the intelligence and inclination to work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), these Latina innovators are proving otherwise.

Renee Wittemyer, director of program strategy and investment at Pivotal Ventures —Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company— says that women, and particularly women of color, “are being systemically left behind.” And, she adds, “these stats are moving at a glacial pace.” According to Wittemeyer, African American women and Hispanic women represent 3% and 1% of tech workers respectively.

There is an extensive underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. 

Women make up only 24 percent of the STEM workforce. To make matters worse, only 3 percent of Latina women are working in STEM fields. So these Latina innovators are worth celebrating. 

These scientists, biologists and engineers are making a social impact by solving many of the world’s most complex questions and threatening issues—from climate change to terminal illnesses to social problems.

Here are five Latina innovators shaking up the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) sphere and using technology to create a greater impact for the world:

Lucía Gallardo

technologyreview.es

Lucía Gallardo is the brain behind “Emerge,” a start-up that aims to solve social problems with emerging technologies, such as blockchain, Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). “Through her company, Gallardo tries to bring these tools to people who work on social impact projects, especially in impoverished countries such as her native Honduras. One of Emerge’s main sources of support is women and marginalized communities, who are driven by both technology and advice,” MIT Technology Review writes.

María Alexandra Tamayo

technologyreview.es

This Colombian innovator, is purifying water in a country that has the second-most water resources but where only 8% of households have access to drinking water. This way, the biomedical engineer hopes to avoid diseases and death caused by water.

“This is how NanoPro was born, a device ‘capable of eliminating fungi, viruses and bacteria from water without affecting its taste, smell and color,’ the engineer explains. “The filter can be applied in both rural and urban populations, since it is incorporated both in faucets and in thermoses for those areas whose supply network does not reach homes.” With her invention, Tamayo hopes to democratize the access to drinkable water.

Marcela Torres

technologyreview.es

Marcela Torres wants to help refugees and immigrants in Mexico through “Holacode,” a software she developed to provide immigrants with access to employment and better integrate themselves into society. “Marcela Torres realized that in Mexico there were not enough people with the qualifications needed for the software developer positions that were open in the country, so she decided to use technology to solve the problem,” the MIT magazine wrote. “This is how ‘Holacode’ was born, a start-up that offers software development courses for the migrant community in Mexico.” Holacode offers coding and software courses for migrants in Mexico. The courses lasts five months, and with this start-up, Torres hopes that technology education can become more democratic and accessible. “The start-up allows these jobs to be filled by especially vulnerable people such as migrants.”

María Isabel Amorín

technologyreview.es

Amorín, 28-year-old Guatemalan chemist discovered an innovative way to clean sewage. On top of emissions and the excessive rate at which we are consuming resources, another great impact that global industrial activities have on the planet, is water pollution. In short, textile industries use a lot of chemical dyes for the production of clothing, which not only results in massive water waste but these chemicals can pollute rivers and other bodies of water. 

The Guatemalan chemist, Maria Isabel Amorin, “synthesized a polymer from shrimp shells that’s capable of retaining the dyes used in the textile industry.” According to the MIT Technology Review, “The filter works by recirculating and retaining the dye used to dye clothes. This project is particularly focused on artisanal textile production, since the technologies available to treat the waters are very expensive. Now, the young chemist is in the process of patenting her ecological method of filtration and hopes to scale production.”

Mariel Pérez Carrillo

technologyreview.es

This Mexican biochemical engineer and entrepreneur, helps farmers increase their crop production through Innus Technologies. Carillo recalled, “I went to the countryside to learn from the farmers and I realized that they don’t know how their crop is. They also don’t know what state their soil is in.” She invented Enviro, a device that identifies soil conditions and climate in real time and, from them, offers recommendations to improve crop yields.

Thanks to its sensors, Enviro can measure temperature, humidity, conductivity, pH and salinity. The device can help farmers reduce crop losses. Pérez affirms that Enviro also reduces the need of agricultural supplies, “which reduces the contamination of soil and aquifers caused by to excessive use of agricultural chemicals.” 

In “Negra Yo, Pero El No!” A Woman Tears Down The Racism That Exists In Her Mother’s Latinidad

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In “Negra Yo, Pero El No!” A Woman Tears Down The Racism That Exists In Her Mother’s Latinidad

@2shotsofmely / Twitter

We all know how annoying family can be, nitpicking and offering opinions about how we choose to live our lives. Sometimes, though, our relatives’ perspectives are more than frustrating—they can be hurtful, causing us to question and doubt our place in the world. For many of us, it may be really difficult to address these issues with our loved ones, and we might often need to process these complex situations on our own before we can make any progress within our relationships. For Twitter user Hot Girl Scholar (@2shotsofmely), art was part of this process. She addressed some deep family conflict through poetry, and y’all, Twitter was shook.

According to her pinned tweet, @2shotsofmely and her family emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic when she was seven years old. In May of this year, she graduated cum laude from Clark University with a BA in English and a minor in Education, ecstatic to dedicate her degree to immigrant and first-generation students. By embracing her role as a “hood girl, educator, and undercover poet,” @2shotsofmely is “living [her] mama’s wildest dreams”—although the poems that have electrified Twitter focus on some hard-to-swallow cultural viewpoints, reiterated by su madre y su abuela.

In poetry, the author of the poem is not always the speaker of the poem, but because of the caption in @2shotsofmely’s post (“Heard it so much I wrote poems about it”), it is clear that these poems—displayed on the walls of Elevated Thought, a Lawrence-based art and social justice organization—are written from her perspective. 

In one poem, “Negra Yo, Pero El No!,” @2shotsofmely acknowledges the hypocrisy (and the shadowy nature of racism and colorism) that defines how her mother reacts to a hypothetical boyfriend: based on the title, we know that @2shotsofmely’s mother is black, yet she proclaims that if @2shotsofmely ever dated a moreno, he must have a thin nose—la nariz fina—green eyes like @2shotsofmely’s grandfather, and “good hair.” In other words, he must not have black features. Why? “Because hay que refinar la raza.”

In the other poem, “LGBTQue?,” @2shotsofmely explores the cultural stigma attached to LGBTQ identities, affirming that her grandmother would “prefer [we] open [our] legs for all the men in the barrio before we walk around with a sister in our arms.”

The original tweet has garnered over 2.3k likes and 900 retweets—people can’t stop gassing @2shotsofmely’s badass display of honesty, the simultaneous pride in and critique of her roots. Several people expressed solidarity, citing events from their own lives that mirrored @2shotsofmely’s poetry.

This Twitter user really related to @2shotsofmely’s experience on the receiving end of her mother’s words.

This Latina responded in Spanish, explaining that her own grandmother married a white man para “mejorar la raza,” but affirmed that it wasn’t her fault—this point of view, according to @ditasea88, is a remnant of colonization.

This Twitter user applauded “LGBTQue?” for its resonance and truth.

Her poems even moved some folks to tears.

Although each of these tweets suggests a common experience which is largely negative, the response to @2shotsofmely’s poetry was rich with compassion—not only for those other Twitter users who share that experience, but for the madres y abuelas whose lives were very different than ours, and who had to make different decisions as a result. History is complex and difficult to synthesize without a broad contextual understanding, and @2shotsofmely’s work draws attention to how cultural patterns from the past can leave a dark impact on the present. However, alongside the criticism and pain at the core of these poems, there is something else: a sense of defiance and hope.

Now, in the midst of the political chaos within our country, it is especially important to celebrate the victories of individuals and groups creating supportive platforms for folks—particularly people of color—to express themselves. It is always exciting to see expressions of Latinidad—from art to poetry to a bomb Insta selfie—spark conversation and communion, even if people are relating about moments that have left them hurt or bruised. In a way, this type of conversation creates a sense of camaraderie, amistad—a feeling of familia.  

And although a lot of Latina familias struggle with antiquated viewpoints (like those presented in @2shotsofmely’s poems), times are changing, and cultural expectations are becoming more inclusive to Latinx people with a range of diverse identities. Often, the more difficult aspects of our upbringing lead us to create meaningful work and connect with others who can relate to us—@2shotsofmely’s poetry is a great example of how intergenerational trauma can produce beauty, connection, and personal growth when you honor yourself and your dreams. @2shotsofmely, you go, girl!