Fieldwork Diary #1: Marimba Linda Xelajú at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart

 

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The Maryland-based marimba group Marimba Linda Xelajú performed on March 20th after a service that honored the Salvadoran Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero. Located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Washington D.C., this service took place in the Shrine of the Sacred Heart and was accompanied by a children’s choir that sang a repertoire that included the Misa Salvadoreña. 

Following the live music and the pupusas, the attendants followed the crowd to the adjacent community hall. There, the smell of Salvadoran food and the group Marimba Linda Xelajú were awaiting for the students and other attendants. As soon as the first song was heard, the middle school students began dancing to the cumbias and other traditional songs from Guatemala.

#8A in San José, Costa Rica

Joining the other protestors in front of the Presidential House of Costa Rica, I wore a purple bandana around my neck that featured a design of a purple orchid and a raised fist. We gathered on August 8th in solidarity with our Argentinian sisters, who wore green bandanas and fought for the legalization of abortion in the South American nation. It did not matter whether the bandanas were purple or green, they were a symbol of the movement that was echoed in multiple cities of the continent and beyond. 

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The sign reads “To be able to choose so we don’t die”. Photo by Alejandra Rojas, via Aborto Legal Costa Rica: https://www.facebook.com/abortolegalcostarica

Although it is legal to have an abortion in Argentina under certain circumstances, half-a-million underground abortions take place each year. This prompted the Argentine Chamber of Deputies to approve a law to make abortions legal on request. However, with 38 votes against, 31 in favor, and 2 abstained, the Argentinian senate rejected the proposed law after sixteen hours of debate that finalized at midnight, on August 9th. 

In Costa Rica, it’s a complicated issue. Abortions are permitted when the life of the mother is at risk. However this procedure, known as a therapeutic abortion, is not regulated which makes it difficult for it to be implemented. The manifestation on August 8th focused on pushing the government of the newly-elected president Carlos Alvarado to sign the Norma Técnica de Aborto Impune, or the technical norm of therapeutic abortion, which would help medical institutions know when to implement this procedure. Regarding this issue, the president declared that the topic of abortion is used to distract from topics that need to be prioritized, while members of evangelical and conservative parties are encouraging the penalization of women. In the following audio clip, you can hear a chant that points at president Carlos Alvarado:

Us women raise our voices today
Sign it now, sign it now, sign it now now now!
The decriminalization of abortion protocol 
It is of course a priority

Hoy las mujeres la voz alzamos
Firma ya, firma ya, firma ya ya ya!
El protocolo de aborto impune
Claro que sí es prioridad

Abortion legislation in Latin America ranges from its complete banning in countries including El Salvador, to its allowance on request in Cuba and Uruguay. Singing among other women, I was surrounded by the energetic dancing and loud drumming that flooded the street on this gloomy afternoon. Regardless of the decisions made by the Argentinian senate and the politicians of Costa Rica, there was a particular chant that encouraged us as part of a transnational movement of organized women who will continue fighting for their rights:

Liiisten up!
Listen, listen, listen up because it’s moving
The feminist movement through Latin America

¡Aleeerta!
Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina
La lucha feminista por América Latina