February 4, 2012
By Simon Chambers
Today Jose and I visited the Indigenous Women’s House (CAMI) in Chalchihuitan. We had the distinct pleasure to meet at CAMI a group of ten midwives who work tirelessly to promote the rights and reproductive health of indigenous women living in the 27 communities that make up Chalchihuitan.
The women, members of the Tzotzil indigenous people, welcomed us to CAMI in a moving ceremony which was part welcome for us, part inauguration of their newly renovated House.
As we gathered, the women set out cups with flowers and branches in them. In front of each cup of flowers was placed a candle: red, purple, yellow, and a darker purple. In front of these was a smaller votive candle and in front of that a white candle. The colours of the flowers echoed the colours of the candles. It was explained to us that the two purple candles represented wisdom and love. They yellow was for the sun, red for fire, the votive represented water, and the white candle represented the sky. Around the base of the candles were flower petals which represented the ground.
Each of us was then invited to take a candle as a stack of them was passed around. Then the candles on the ground were lit. Each of us was invited to step forward in turn and explain why we had chosen the colour of candle that we had in our hands, to light it, and to add it to the collection of candles standing on the floor.
As each person spoke of the colours they had chosen: blue as the spirit of happiness for our meeting today; yellow in gratitude for the sun’s warmth; purple to honor the wisdom of the group, it became more and more clear that these women were blessed with wisdom, serenity, and passion for their work.
Merit, Kinal Antzetik (PWRDF’s partner in the region) staff for Chiapas, was the last to light her candle. She closed our circle by honouring Mother Earth and our ancestors. It was a fitting end to a wonderful ceremony.
I won’t tell the stories that the midwives shared here now- those stories will be written when I’m back in Toronto over the next few months.
But I did want to share with you the faces of these wonderful women. Women of wisdom and conviction. Women who are making a difference in their work, their presence, their very lives. The midwives of Calchihuitan.