Monday, January 28, 2008

'Dos Equis' Buses Sprouting In Mexico

When I think of Mexico, just as when I think about most foreign countries, I tend to immediately think of women. Of course I think of their children as well, but my thoughts start with the women.

Maquiladoras. Feminicides. It goes on...ayayay.

It's impossible to lay it all out in text, let alone in words. But here's a small something that can serve as one lens into the complicated world of the brown woman:

Andrew Gumbel, from The Independent, reports that Mexico has finally established a female bus line.

Mexico City residents take a staggering 22 million bus rides every day, creating an atmosphere ripe for chaos of all sorts.

Officials say about one-seventh of the city's rapes and incidents of sexual harassment take place on buses, but the number of actual complaints is stunningly low – just seven last year.

Every woman has her own defence mechanisms – everything from wearing dowdy outer clothing to carrying a safety pin to deter wandering hands.

Mexico City is not the first place to introduce women-only buses. Similar services already exist in Brazil, Japan and India. The concept is not entirely new in Mexico City either – on the city's underground system, the first three cars are usually reserved for women.

The response in the first few days, though, has been enthusiastic. A couple of times, men have got on a bus, only to be mocked by the passengers and shamed into climbing back off.

"Now he knows how women feel," Yolanda Altamirano, a 64-year-old office cleaner, said after one hapless caballero retreated from her bus.

Well, these buses aren't complete life savers, because women do have to exist outside of the buses for most of the rest of the day...but at least they get a small break. For now.

You can never know enough about Mexico. This is the one thing that I would say to anyone who asks me anything about the country. I have never been there. But the Mexico experience fills more spaces than merely the geographic.

To complete this post now that I have more time (I was running late to class when I put this up), you can't just look at these events without understanding the layers and layers of cultural, political, religious, and spiritual spaces of Mexico.

Too many working women of color are systematically targeted, violated, and killed--known as the feminicides that take place in areas like Ciudad Juarez. Too many women of color in Mexico are the family bread-winners, many working in factories along the border--living off of some of the best wages in all the country, yet what they make is barely enough to live in suffering. Many of these women hold onto their love for family, religion, and rich culture. They hold the country together, as daughters, mothers, grandmothers, wives, friends...and collectively make up that essential flame that gives Mexico life.

This is why I am elated to hear about such buses. I have no way of imagining a bus ride with these women--but with the little knowledge I can piece together, I feel (and I hope) that for a small part of their day, they can step into a space where fear and anxiety can be put away for a little while.


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