USA: Hunger Strike of Border Women at White House Ends

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

Eleven women from the organization La Mujer Obrera (Working Women) who advocate for community-led economic development along the United States-Mexico border, ended a ten-day hunger strike in front of the White House in Washington, D.C today.

The hunger strike began on November 8.

"Huelga de Hambre-La Mujer Obrera" by cfpereda, Nov. 2010, CC-AT-ND-NC on flickr

"Huelga de Hambre-La Mujer Obrera" by cfpereda, Nov. 2010, CC-AT-ND-NC on flickr

La Mujer Obrera is critical of the Obama administration's border initiatives which they claim do not address the needs of the community or working women, and instead favor construction and security industries.

In their campaign against poverty and violence along the border, the women use social networking tools such as a campaign blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share their message and generate support for their demonstration. Their efforts have been noticed by bloggers from the U.S. and Mexico.

U.S. Blogger Jennifer Cooper author for the Poverty in America Channel on wrote about the border women’s hunger strike:

At a time when billions are being spent on construction and security at the border, La Mujer Obrera is demanding that women not be left out of the equation, and rightfully so. According to a position paper (pdf) released in August by La Mujer Obrera, the majority of both documented and undocumented immigrants in the region are women and children, many of whom are fleeing domestic violence in their own countries.

Another U.S. blogger, Border Explorer, writes about their campaign and points to a poster designed by El Paso artist Francella Salgado. It depicts the iconic image “Rosie the Riveter”with a different twist: a skeletal semblance echoing day of the dead folk art skeletons.

But this skeleton symbolizes the border women workers who are working themselves to death…but not advancing despite all their toil. Nevertheless, they say: Yes, we can! Yes, it can be!

“Si Se Puede” by Francella Salgado. Used with artist's permission.

Mexican Blogger Barbaros del Norte [es] (Barbarians of the North) writes about the group's dissatisfaction with the Obama administration's response to the needs of people living in the border regions, and their questioning of the $600 million earmarked for border security of which grassroots groups such as theirs will not see a dime.

“Ya nos cansamos de pedir ayuda allá. Ahora esperamos que el presidente Obama escuche nuestra súplica, queremos que sepa que en la frontera no sólo hay muerte y violencia”, afirmaron las mujeres mientras mostraban mensajes en inglés pidiendo “Justicia y desarrollo en la frontera” y acciones gubernamentales contra el crimen organizado y el desempleo en esa violenta zona de México.

“We are already tired of asking for help over there. We now hope that President Obama will listen to our supplications, we want him to know that on the border there isn't only death and violence,” said the women while they demonstrated with messages written in English asking for “Justice and development at the border” and government action against organized crime and unemployment in that violent zone of Mexico.

Community development by border women

La Mujer Obrera has launched several economic development projects along the U.S. Mexico border, notably in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico where women's lives are especially in danger, not least throughout the femicide mass killings that have kept happening since 1993. In these areas, La Mujer Obrera have transformed abandoned garment industry warehouses into socially focused businesses including a marketplace, a restaurant, a day care center, a museum, a media center, and adult vocational/education sites.

Their vision is explained in more detail in the following YouTube video uploaded by Ixtlixolotl.

La Mujer Obrera advocates for community-led development projects along the U.S.-Mexico border region.

The reception to the protests by community groups and student organizations in the Washington, D.C. area has been warm. The women were honored at a Community Welcome at St. Stephens and the Incarnation Episcopal Church on Friday, November 12.

Students from the Georgetown University chapter of MEChA participated with the women on Saturday, November 13 infront of the White House and voiced their support.

The D.C. area community group Black is Back Coalition welcomed the women and communicated their solidarity with their cause and struggle. A YouTube video posted by Mujeres en La Lucha [Women in the Struggle] documents this meeting.

Black is Back Coalition member welcomes the Mujer Obrera group and voices solidarity with their cause.

Support was also generated thousands of miles away by their friends in El Paso, Texas as Twitter users spread the word about a rally in support of the hunger strike which was scheduled on Friday, November 12, 2010 in the El Paso Federal Square area.


Rally tomorrow in solidarity w/ La Mujer Obrera's hunger strike in Washington D.C.! 11am downtown @ federal square! RT!


The915Eye [EP News] Friday rally in El Paso will support La Mujer Obrera Washington D.C. hunger strike

"Huelga de Hambre-La Mujer Obrera" by cfpereda, Nov. 2010, CC-AT-ND-NC on flickr

The California-based independent media outlet, Pacifica Radio (, interviewed the women on Thursday, November 11, 2010 about their demonstration as part of the Spanish-language program Nuestra Voz [es] (Our Voice). A podcast of the program is available in Spanish. The interview focuses on the negative impacts NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) wreaked in their community and the women's desire to achieve a better quality of life crafted from their own self-determination to break free the bonds of the maquila industry.

They also seek federal funding to support grassroots groups currently operating along the border, as well as the development of a Southwest Border Regional Commission, modeled after the Appalachian Regional Commission, where a partnership between local, state and federal stake holders enable sustainable economic solutions.

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

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