...Eufrosina Cruz, 27, decided to become the first woman to run for mayor — despite the fact that women aren't allowed to attend town assemblies, much less run for office.
The all-male town board tore up ballots cast in her favor in the Nov. 4 election, arguing that as a woman, she wasn't a "citizen" of the town. "That is the custom here, that only the citizens vote, not the women," said Valeriano Lopez, the town's deputy mayor.
What wonderful traditions you have. I can see why you're so eager to uphold them.
[T]he male leaders are refusing to budge. "We live differently here, senor, than people in the city. Here, women are dedicated to their homes, and men work the fields," Apolonio Mendoza, the secretary of the all-male town council, told a visiting reporter.
Cruz has received some support from older men, who by village law lose their political rights when they turn 60. Some younger men also say the system must change and give women more rights.
At a recent meeting of several dozen Cruz supporters, most of them voteless, women in traditional gray shawls recalled being turned down for government aid programs because they weren't accompanied by a man.
Martina Cruz Moreno, 19, said that when her widowed mother sought government-provided building materials to improve her dirt-floor, tin-roofed wooden home, village authorities told her, "Go get yourself a husband."
As a woman, Eufrosina Cruz is not only barred from being mayor, but from participating in the "community labor" that qualifies male villagers as "citizens." Those tasks include repairing roads, herding cattle, cleaning streets and raising crops.
Well, that seems fair. Prevent women from participating in the responsibilities that qualify them as 'citizens', and then prevent them from voting because they're not 'citizens'. It's like the obstacles some gays face adopting in the U.S.--prevent them from marrying each other, and then tell them they can't adopt because they're not a married couple.
All of this is, officially, illegal in Mexico:
The law states that Indian townships may "apply their own normative systems ... as long as they obey the general principles of the Constitution and respect the rights of individuals, human rights, and particularly the dignity and well-being of women."
But so far, every level of government that Cruz has gone to hasn't done a damn thing about it.
"The congress upheld the vote out of sheer laziness, to avoid stirring up the village or causing a conflict there," said Rep. Perla Woolrich, a Oaxaca state legislator who supported Cruz's cause. "In the past, use and customs represented something positive, but by now it violates people's constitutional rights. Use and customs have to reviewed, and those practices that violate rights have to be thrown out."