Our Young Women Forging Their Place and Voice The Story of La Adelita by E.Perez Azerad

Our third amazing blog of Women’s History Month! Thank you Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Perez Azerad

RIISE Multicultural Advisor

@lizperezazerad

 

Si Se Puede

Based on the famous Mexican Corridos or folk songs, which arose during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), “La Adelita” has become the symbolic image of any woman warrior who struggles for her rights and those of others. Although there is no definitive proof that one such woman existed, the term La Adelita was given to the numerous Mexican women who travelled and fought alongside men during the war.  Over time however, the interpretation of the song and its portrayal of La Adelita, have drawn conflicting and complex interpretations.  In a future blog I hope to use Adelita as a model for strength in academics.  Today, however, I would like to use this complexity of interpretation to look into some of the issues our young woman face as they move through the social scene of middle and upper school in independent education.  Please note that my opinions are just those, based on the culture and values of the household that my husband and I have fostered for over 20 years.  I hope that you will consider these points and discuss them from your own points of view as your young women navigate their complex social journeys.

My advice to our young women

 

  • Do not let anyone detract from your power. Have faith in your voice.

In a TED talk entitled, “On Being a Woman and a Diplomat,” Pat Mitchell interviews former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Secretary Albright recalls of her first meeting at the U.N.,

And I’m sitting there – [with] 15 members of the Security Council — so 14 men sat there staring at me, and I thought — well you know how we all are. You want to get the feeling of the room, and “do people like me?” and “will I really say something intelligent?” And all of a sudden I thought, “Well, wait a minute. I am sitting behind a sign that says ‘The United States,’ and if I don’t speak today then the voice of the United States will not be heard,” and it was the first time that I had that feeling that I had to step out of myself in my normal, reluctant female mode and decide that I had to speak on behalf of our country.

You are your own best representative.  Just as Albright realized that she represented the voice of the USA, you must have the strength to represent your own voice.  Do not let anything or anyone silence your valuable opinion.  No one else will be there to speak from behind the sign that has your name on it except for you.  Take pride in your opinions and ideas as they grown and form.  As La Adelita, have the strength to move beyond your comfort zone and “represent” in the best possible way. This applies to life both inside and outside of the classroom. This is what your education and personal maturity are about, developing your voice.

View the full interview at

http://www.ted.com/talks/madeleine_albright_on_being_a_woman_and_a_diplomat

 

  • Do not let popular concepts of beauty detract from the hard work of developing your personal power

Days before receiving her historic Oscar win, “12 Years a Slave” actress Lupita Nyong’o made a moving acceptance speech as she received the award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.  Reading from a letter sent to her by a young black girl who was considering bleaching her skin, Lupita said,

…My heart bled a little when I read those words… one prayer [I made] to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned… Mother…[however] would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.”… what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul… feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.

I don’t think that this idea of the ‘deeper business’ can be emphasized enough.  I recognize that during the majority of your journey through independent education, you will often feel as though you are drinking from an open fire hydrant.  You will be told that there is simply no time for yourself or the work of indulging your inner thoughts.  I want you to fight this notion and give yourself permission to have some ‘me time.’  Your journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and you must grant yourself the time to ignore the world, decompress and use your brain to ponder your inner beauty, because it is from this source that you will draw your personal power.

Enjoy the Youtube link to her speech

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCkfARH2eE

 

  • Do not let a single person, social media, your peers, or anything in society, define you sexually

This is a very touchy issue that may make us uncomfortable to think about or discuss by it is so fundamental to how I raised my girls that I must share it with you.  I often tell friends in the independent school circles that high school was a cakewalk compared to the tumultuous middle school years.  I believe this was due, in part, to the intense social pressure that my daughters faced in order to fit in to a social model that was largely defined by the Bar Mitzvah and Sweet 16 parties.  In hindsight I realize that these social commitments were a gift that allowed me to begin the delicate conversations of how my daughters were to have agency over their bodies and ultimately, their sexuality.  I absolutely explained to them that fashion is a complex convention that is driven by numerous forces, not the least of which is profit margin.  My message was ‘what makes the crowd feel ‘cool’ does not necessarily have to define you.  Define your own style.’ One of the feminist interpretations of La Adelita is as a provocative and hyper-sexualized counterpart to male soldiers who faced death. Professor of Feminism Cynthia Enloe analyzes the role of women from various cultural perspectives and argues that the Adelitas were only added to the military scene in order to preserve men’s morale.  I am unable to judge whether this is true, but as it regards our young women I say,

Maintain control of yourself in every social situation. 

You are not there to entertain others!

Rather you are there to strengthen valuable friendships and enjoy yourself among your peers.  Maintaining control goes beyond dress to include choices concerning alcohol, drugs, how one acts in public, even how you look out for your closest friends and classmates who may not have the strength to guard themselves.

I would like to leave you with a saying from my paternal grandmother. It clearly demonstrates the legacy of her rugged determination as a child born during the Mexican Revolution, one very likely imprinted by the symbolism of La Adelita. It goes like this:

La gracia no es andar entre la lumbre y quemarte; la gracia es andar entre la lumbre y no quemarte.

This translates as,

The virtue in life is not to avoid walking into the fire to avoid getting burned, the virtue is to walk into the fire and not get burned.

As parents, let’s work toward supporting our young women on their path to reaching the goals to which they aspire. At times our young women may feel as though they are walking into fire.  Let’s constantly reassure them that we are here to listen and support them along the complex journeys to young adulthood.

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Gina Parker Collins
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Elizabeth! This is such great advice for our girls. I will read with my daughter and let her lead the discussion on the power she can manifest from a woman warrior in La Adelita this week ,on her 13th birthday!

  2. Posted May 3, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Outstanding Post!

    Thank you.

    • Posted May 3, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Gerardo. Thank you for sharing your work re-shaping what philanthropy can look like in our schools as you recognize the value of women, their voice, their lives.

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