- Emerging Feminist Theologies:Overview of the JFSR Live Roundtable in Cuernavaca, Mexico
contemporary gender politics, feminist faith practices, inculturation, Mesoamerican cosmogonies, Teología India
On Saturday, November 11, 2017, a group of about fifty women met in a colonial building facing the Cuernavaca Cathedral in Morelos, Mexico.1 They came from different Mexican states: Morelos, Chiapas, Queretaro, and Mexico. Most are active participants in the pastoral work of their dioceses. In addition to myself, they were joined by three feminist theologians: ecofeminist Marilú Rojas Salazar, ethicist Gabriela Juárez Palacios, and ecumenical theologian Ann Lutterman-Aguilar. The goal was to gather a wide spectrum of women, both scholars and activists, struggling for gender justice within the constraints of their faith practices and within these turbulent political times. During a full day of workshops, we shared our responses to the following precirculated questions: What does it mean for you to be a mujer de fe (woman of faith) feminist activist in the context of the contemporary political situation in Mexico, shaken by the struggles of indigenous peoples against capitalist exploitation and for their very survival? Can you work toward nonpatriarchal and nonhierarchical positions within the church? And how do you practice your faith as women [End Page 89] in this context? We discovered that all of us, as Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza explained it, "saw religion as a place of struggle and inspiration for women."2
Three collectives organized this gathering: Amigas Auxiliadoras de Cuernavaca, Diplomado de Teologias Feministas, and CODIMUJ (Coordinadora Diocesana de Mujeres, Chiapas). This last organization consists of around ten thousand women from the remote indigenous communities in the Chiapas highlands. The women from Chiapas spoke of the extreme poverty and exploitation they suffer as employees of the local finqueros (landowners). They also reported innumerable evictions from their lands and the destruction of their woods, fields, rivers, and air.
The women from Chiapas also spoke of being enlivened in their church practices and liturgies by the process of "inculturation," which allows for certain aspects of indigenous traditions and rituals, including dance and music, to be incorporated into their devotions.3 In addition, these women drew from what has come to be known as Teologia India—a complex set of philosophical formulations based on indigenous ancestral cosmogonies. They made connections between this Teologia India and the panentheism ecofeminist theologian Rojas has expressed, which fuses human, natural, and spiritual domains in a vital holism that resonates with Mayan cosmogonies. Pascuala, a Tzotzil Indian, who remembers being twelve years old when her struggles for justice began, is representative of many of the women within CODIMUJ. I heard her say in response to Rojas's presentation: "Es asi, como dijo Marilú, Dios está en todo." "It is exactly as Marilú says. God is in everything." Pascuala connected the panentheistic affirmation of the presence of the whole in every part of the cosmos to indigenous beliefs in the sacrality of caves, mountains, and rivers.4 For the theologians and indigenous women alike at the workshop, this theological vision makes imperative their efforts to take care of the whole of creation and to focus their efforts on building justice-seeking and life-giving communities.5
Woven throughout this roundtable are the words of participants in the meeting. María Luisa Córdova and Pascuala Gómez López from CODIMUJ, and Mari Carmen Bustos, Maria de Lourdes Hernández Salinas, Águeda Romero Martínez, Martha Bahena Roa, and Maria Isabel Martínez Rocha from Amigas Auxiliadoras de Cuernavaca, all speak from their experiences working [End Page 90] with the pastoral work of the Catholic Church and its patriarchal bureaucracy with projects like Comunidades Eclesiales de Base (CEB). They are working for social justice in impoverished areas of the country. These communities, linking urban poor and rural peasant Catholics, date from the emergence of the "Church of the Poor" following Vatican II (1962–65) and the Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968. Approximately 70 percent of its constituents are women.6 In the words of an early CEB participant, Lourdes Carbajal, the base communities opened a new world of possibilities for women at a time when...