I attended Poesia Peligrosa, which was an open mic with a special guest poet Yesika Salgado. The event’s aim was to unite and empower the Latino/Chicano community with poetry, art and music. While that goal was achieved, there is one aspect of the event that I wanted to focus on. At the entrance of the event there was a memorial celebrating important women of color that have passed away, whether it was this year or in the last century. These women were chosen because they represented a larger image of representation of this particular community, whether they were influential figures or if they were reflective of the ways that women of color are treated.
Some of the women memorialized were artists, singers, poets, activists, authors and so many other occupations. These women were of different sexualities, nationalities, social classes and ethnicities. But despite that, there was a pattern to the death of these women: most of them were murdered. This memorial was meant to highlight that there are many people that do not want women of color to flourish, that in many cultures and countries they are still seen as subservient and that they should be silent. Many of these women were not and they were met with heavy criticism because they strayed away from what is “appropriate behavior.”
Carol P. Christ writes, “Male discourse has told us that traditional women never did anything creative or worthy of pride. In male discourse, the work of women’s hands was not considered to be of the same value as the intellectual and artistic endeavors of men.” These women worked all their life to have their work recognized and many of them actually succeeded in life while others only due to their death. But this quote still holds some truth to it. There are men that want women to be second class, there are men that see women as objects rather than people. And that leads to murder occasionally. In communities of color, there is an elevated threat due to the fact that many of these traditionalist thoughts still hold a lot of weight and is still perpetuated whether from misogynistic hip hop lyrics or the idea of machismo in Latino households. This memorial was a reminder and a warning: it is dangerous to be a woman and if you want to speak out against traditionalist establishments, sometimes you have to pay with your life.