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At first the general reaction was very passive, but suddenly the atmosphere exploded in outrage.

Weston Benedictine Monks
Journey to Nicaragua
Winter Retreat, 2001

San Nicolas de Oriente:
A big step in cooperation

(ONE OF A SERIES )

SAN NICOLAS -- We are meeting with a small group of women, representatives of the organization 'Mary of Guadalupe,' with a membership of more than 300 women of the parish.

The women have an air of self-confidence and speak with a joyful sense of humor. They tell us of the great influence that the sisters have had on their lives and on the quality of life in the area.

meeting room, women's organization
Meeting of the women's organization, headed by president,
Maria Santana (center).

Their organization began with bible studies and discussions on the dignity and rights of women, and soon a sewing cooperative was established. They have now initiated projects to improve the lives of their families and to promote the spirit of civility in the town.

One of the issues facing these women has been to deal with the pervasive culture of machismo, which permits and even encourages men to be abusive of women to the point that it is not uncommon for married men to beat their wives leaving terrible scars and bruises.

Can this change? One of the women tells us this encouraging story:

One day, the newly formed women's group was meeting at the parish center and the wife of a town official came into the room in terrible condition after being beaten by her husband. At first the general reaction was very passive, but suddenly the atmosphere exploded in outrage.

One after another, the women rose up and joined their president, marching into the street and then through the town (growing in numbers as they went: grandmothers and young girls as well) until, standing in front of the municipal offices where the official was at work, their chanting rose up demanding an end to this violent abuse. Things began to change!

As people began to be aware of the destructive spirit of machismo, they realized that it was depriving them of the unity and energy they needed to address the problems facing them. Hope was born that men and women could work together for the betterment of their lives.

women's organization
Members of the women's organization

A big step in this direction was taken when the women's organization decided to invite the men's organization of the parish to join them. There were doubts and fears on both sides. But they recognized that they had to work together to resolve the economic and social problems following Hurricane Mitch.

men's organization
Members of the men's organization

They came together and agreed to unite their organizations and hold joint elections. The turnout was strong and the numbers of men and women were roughly equal. Two men, articulate supporters of the women's initiatives, called for a secret ballot. To the amazement of all, a woman was elected president and five women and four men were elected to the board of directors with clear majorities.

While all the problems associated with a culture of machismo have not been resolved, progress has been made. Mutual respect and cooperation have born fruit: now, beside the attractive workshop equipped with sewing machines, there is a handsome little restaurant, Comedor el Campestre.

Next: The countryside: Quebrada de Agua

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