Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2 years. A humble collage.

I have come to the end of 2 years overseas. It is time for a hiatus.

I originally wanted to do a photo slideshow with music for this post, however all of the programs and websites I found were very annoying... so I have pasted a few photos here to commemorate 2 years of adventures.

I think I have learnt a lot during this time: I can't even begin to compile all my experiences.
Some things I hope I have learnt, and I believe have affected me, have been: the power and importance of compassion, and community.

More to come.

"Solo le pido a Dios,
Que el dolor no me sea indiferente
Que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
Vacía y sola sin haber hecho lo suficiente"

- Mercedes Sosa

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maddy speaking spanish

hehehe, For a sample of me speaking another tongue, listen to this link of a radio interview:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Photos from recent trip to Hidalgo

After reviewing my blog, especially my more serious post of "women. men. love and life." I realised that it may have been getting a little heavy and above all a little unnerving, for my mother! Looking at that post and making it clear - that it is not based on things that I have experienced!

anyway, as a counter balance to the heaviness of late on this blog, here are some lovely photos from an awesome trip I and the mates from my old Uni had to the countryside of Hidalgo, a state above mexico city.

we stayed in a cabin and kayaked and played boardgames and read and drank good tequila, and passed by a lovely old mining town on the way back where we drank hot fruit punch in the square and ate hot bread and empanadas inspired by the Cornish miners who arrived in this town years ago and gave mexico the wonder of pasties.
and i got an eight buck poncho and a one buck green ring. how nice it was. very "relax" as they say here in mexico.


On Friday, it was fun to do something for a campaign that I used to be very part of:

It was really good, in the middle of a very heavy time in the Center, with cases of torture, disappearances and a general overworkload, : just to get together for a simple and fun act of good old activism.

Taking advantage that we had a number of people in the Center on Friday for an indigenous rights workshop, we grouped everyone together and took a photo to support the "Stand Up Against Poverty" global campaign.

I was taking the photo, and we are in the entrance of Center Prodh in front of one of the murals.
"Fin de la pobreza indigena" = "End Indigenous Poverty"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

PD/PS - humanity and fragility

After getting some jittery comments from my family about my recent posts, and after passing a rather explosive weekend (Margaret tells me that Jupiter is reigning at the moment and apparently that means conflict), I thought it would be fitting to write a little PS:

I just went down to my local market, which for me is always a good Sunday activity that gives good respite - the vendors there fill my heart and really treat me well.

I was also able to talk about these recent thuderous thoughts with a couple of friends - my Colombian friend, who is only too familiar with violence and conflict, shrugged his shoulders and said "don´t let yourself get affected". He's right. I cannot let myself get sangrona, hot blooded and edgy.

Then, it all just clicked: I'm tired. I want to go home.
Ever since having my ticket back to Sydney booked, my thoughts have been in another place, and I feel ever more inquieta. However much I love this country and I adore my life at the moment, and am so grateful for my job, my blessings, everything. I am tired.

Suddenly, my own words jumped into my head: words that I used a year ago, writing on this very blog, living in this very same country, learning about it; growing back then as I am now:

I am facing it straight on, getting up and coming and goin, and realising that the millions of lives struggling to make their way in this city do NOT funnily enough combine to make it a trampling rat race, but rather you feel lifted up and carried by the collective journeys of so many dreams travelling around you. And you feel people caring for people - understanding that at the end of the day they have their aunt, their brother, their friend to look after and share life with. The infallible Mexican community identity always comes through. The truth that is felt so strongly in this country is that the people around you are the most important part of your life.

It´s been a journey, a long one. I am ready to be on Australian shores, and rest for a bit, before coming back to my beloved Mexico.

Being in Europe (Geneva and Berlin) next week will be very good for me I think.

Signing off from a somewhat more calm state of mind.....!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Some very whacked statements

In a nutshell, Mexico is going through a period of alarming increases in violence related to organized crime, (in case I hadnt made that clear in earlier posts, ahem)...

Anyway, I thought I wanted to publish some of the more whacked statements that have come out as of late:

Of course there is the classic from the president Felipe Calderon: "If you see dust flying, don´t worry, we are just cleaning the house" (justifying the dramatic rise in deaths)

And then, today, this one is a special freakshow of its own:

The death penalty has recently been thrown around in Mexico as a popular and demagogic response to fear over crime levels:
Yesterday,María Elena Morera, the head of "Mexico United Against Crime" (a citizens group that brings together the worst of knee-jerk policy responses and is in bed with the big business sector), stated:

"If the public is asking for life sentences and the death penalty for serious crimes, we should give it to them, although this does not solve the problem. I wonder whether we crimes such as house robberies should also be considered for the death penalty".

What a corker.

All this comes admist proposals from the Mexican Army to train all federal police in military formation, and to top them off with the death penalty if they dont behave.

Yep. They´re really across it all.

Men and Women. Life and Love.

How can it be that a country, a culture, is so violent? So macho? How is it, that over coffee today a neighbour told me that of her circle of friends of women about 60 years old, only one of them had not experienced violence against her in her life? How can it be that this same neighbour can tell me of almost being killed by her former husband? But really, how?

How can it be so: That it's not unheard of for a mexican woman to think that her husband doesn't love her anymore because he hasn't beaten her in 2 weeks?

How can it be that 13,000 women in mexico each year die at the hands of their partners?

How can it be that men can beat their wives and then retreat into regret over their actions, tequila and a pathetic ranchero song whose lyrics speak to the immaturity of the phenomenon of maschimso, lamenting "take me back my love, I need you, I am nothing without you"...... yeah, great self esteem on both the part of women and men there.

I suppose it's what happens when the foundation of a country and a culture is based on rape. The pattern is repeated, over and over and over again.

This all may sound too extreme, and it is not all like this. And violence does happen everywhere, australia, finland, not just in mexico. I know some of the most gorgeous mexican couples that love each other in the most beautiful way.

There are days when I just get so angry about the culture of violence, machismo, complete corruption and impunity that I think it is insurmoutable. The fact that even teachers are corrupt and buy their way into jobs and cheat on teaching exams, and that 80 per cent of kids in 9th grade dont have basic literacy skills, and that the lack of a strong education system is stuffing the whole thing up, and that the amount of deaths in mexico in june from drug-trafficking related violence was practically at a par at the deaths in Iraq. And that we´re up to 5,000 deaths in 18 months.

How can it be, how is it, that when the young man at my local shop stares in my eyes with a grin and asks me, "so do you live alone, or with friends?", that I should conceive that question as a form of violence? That I feel like shouting back at him and saying "it´s none of your bloody business man!!" - why do I feel vulnerable? Why does the taxi driver turn his rearview mirror so he can look straight at me? why do people even feel scared to drop you off even just a block from your house, and instead will make a massive bottleneck turn just to drop you at your door? Why the hell is there no phrase to say "I am embarrassed" and the literal translation is "It causes me pain" ("me da pena") - what in god's name is going on with phrases that contain such a lack of self belief and a need to keep in form and in line with appearances? Why did I feel like sharply replying to my friend today when he commented on my unmade bed on a lazy saturday morning and I thought "so what, I'm not fulfilling a woman´s role then?" what on earth provokes such thoughts? Such anger and heightened sensitivity to things that before I wouldn't have cared about? Such conflict?

Where the hell did love go? How did it become grabbing each other, asking the girl where she has been, who she has been with, pulling her hair firmly, pushing her, .... these are the realities of relationships in mexico, that often start with these signs in younger years between boyfriends and girlfriends, and then when life gets more serious and pressured between husband and wife, with kids, it becomes insults, shouts, beatings and even deaths.

I felt sick about all this walking home today, and then out of no-where the song "where is love, does it comes from skies above, is it underneath a willow tree, that I´ve been dreaming of".. -from the musical Oliver - came into my head.

Really, it makes me sad.

Where is the love of lying on the grass and laughing in the summertime, of talking about favourite songs and sharing music, of staying awake just to hear someone's voice, of talking of dreams and ambitions and who we are as people and what gives us joy, of tenderness, a childish excitement, a real respect, true love?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


This is the video clip for the song "Ella" ("She") by the Spanish singer Bebe.

Although it starts off faintly resembling a cosmetics adverstisement, it gets more joyful and diverse as it goes on.

More than anything, the song is a great energy-lifter: The album is called "out spiderwebs" and some lyrics , "Oh come down and discover that the world is just for you, that no- one can do you harm" etc... a good song for chicas.

I have realized how many feminist pep-talks I have given on my blog in recent months! hehe. everything is fine and be assured I am going through no crises! Haha.

Anyway enjoy the song.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

La vida se abarató - life has been cheapened. In mexico.

I heard a very interesting analysis from a human rights defender in the northern state of Sinaloa today.
By way of context: Sinaloa is a state that in the last few months has seen an alarming spike in the number of deaths related to drug trafficking. One major drug cartel in the area has recently had a big falling out and there is a war between them to carve up territory. It's a very ugly situation, an average of 6 deaths per day, sometimes 15 or more. And when you throw police and military into the mix, human rights violations increase.
In such a context, I thought it was so interesting what this colleague said:
Life has been cheapened. The right to life. At the moment, the violence is being ignored by many because "ah, it´s just between narcos". But such reasoning means that crimes and human rights violations are left in impunity. And how far does this logic go? The next could be that they´ll ignore violence because "ah, it's just between politicans", or "ah, it's just between prostitutes"...or whatever it could be. The arbitrary deprivation of the right to life is something so visible in mexico at the moment. In mexico city it is not felt so much, but in some states of mexico the violence is comparable to statistics in Iraq in terms of number of deaths. Life is being cheapened.

ps. dont worry mum!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Mission.

Me toco un reto y un privilegio. A challenge came my way recently. A professional challenge and privilege.

At Center Prodh we recently coordinated the International Human Rights Mission of the World Organization Againt Torture (OMCT), specifically its program on the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

It was the first international human rights mission that I have been part of and it was a big learning experience. An incredible amount of work, coordinating everything from the entry of the independent experts into the country, to the composition of meetings and the dynamic in between different mexican NGOs and then accompanying the mission on their visit to Oaxaca, a southern state of mexico. The whole experience was new, stressful, nervewracking, inspiring, exhausting and gratifying.

I learnt a lot and was witness to the sharing of experiences from the brave and determined human rights defenders throughout mexico - who have been threatened, assulted, harassed and even disappeared, tortured and killed for their work througout the country.

I learnt to shut up about what I said in a taxi, I learnt a little bit more about the dealing with mexican authorities (I still have a long way to go, it's a maze!), and I learnt a great deal from the mission members themselves.
The subtlety of the whole exercise was rather impressive. Building up that knowledge of how to manoever in such a situation is something that I am eager to work on.

Here are some photos from beloved oaxaca.

New apartment, new journey.

With much excitement, I have moved into a new apartment: My first place that is completely my own!
It is a great pad.
I am living in the same building as my mate Hannah, so it is the best of both worlds: I have my own space but at the same time I have a friend close by.

I hope to make this place a space of learning and fun, inspiration and life!

Here are some photos of the bare apartment and a moving in shot. I have a hammock!

Stay tuned for more photos as the place gets set up!

para las chicas! for the girls....

I wanted to make a little tribute to the friendships that I have been so lucky to have forged with some remarkable women.

Tere, my mexican sister who I lived with for 9 months and whose strength and sense and intuition astounds me - although she is younger than me I treat her like a big sister!
Mari, wonderful Mari - my first mexican mum and my lifelong friend - here with some of her students.

Kate, my fellow antipodean in the crazy world that is mexico. my kiwi kate (shouts out to my other kiwi kate evans). Kate is a great chum, who just "gets it" without any cultural differences, divides or anything. its great to have an anzac friend.

Stephanie: incredible workmate, Harvard's bright star, unbelievable brain for international law, tough, hilarious and bloody inspirational

Andrea: is now my neighbour! No one can put up a tent better than her. A tent for 10 people in fact. te quiero linda!

Nury: beautiful Nury. My first girlfriend in Mexico and my continuing companion. Love ya Nury.

Lauren: my supervisor at work, my mentor and guide through relationships, professional life, health and heart. shouts out to lauren and long live colorado!

Hannanita. Hannah. About three quarters mexican, lots of spanish and a bit of english in her. Love you hannah. My partner in crime. Besote!

Katleen, my wonderful Belgian buddy who is at once a ballerina and also a bundle of peace and fun.