International Working Women’s Day in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez: “Down with patriarchy!”

El Paso, Texas

Young “feministxs” organizers held a rally and cross-border march in El Paso on International Working Women’s Day, March 8, calling for the end to “machismo,” transphobia and state violence against femme and trans migrants.

Representative of La Via Campesina speaks on International Working Women’s Day, El Paso, Texas, March 8, 2023.  WW Photo: Alex Koplos

The action was in solidarity with protests that happened in tandem in Juárez, México, calling for a halt to femicide and violence against Indigenous and campesina femme, trans and LGBTQIA+ people.

With reactionary politicians pushing over 36 anti-trans bills in the Texas House and Senate in recent weeks, along with anti-abortion laws, organizers called on people to speak up and defend the rights for bodily autonomy and for trans people’s right to exist.

El Paso’s sister city Juárez has one of the highest rates of femicides and disappearances in the world. Speakers emphasized the need to be in solidarity with and to struggle for the rights of femme and trans folks to live without fear of interpersonal or state violence.

Thousands of protesters filled downtown Juárez, Mexico, closing major streets and shutting down the Paso del Norte International Bridge on International Working Women’s Day, March 8, 2023.  Credit: Corrie Boudreaux, El Paso Matters.   

A representative with La Via Campesina (The Peasants’ Way) read a letter from Rosemary Rojas, the coordinator of Mujeres Fronterizas (Border Women Project), who was in Mozambique at the time participating in the International School of Peasant and Popular Feminism. “Today all over the world women are mobilizing against the patriarchy that sustains this capitalist system; and to change it, we must confront the mechanism of oppression that is the patriarchy.”

Rojas’ statement continued: “The peasant and popular feminism is materialized in the struggle of women for economic and environmental justice, decent health and housing, public and quality education for all, authentic equality and the end of racism and for peace and to stop the war against the poor and particularly against migrant families, women, daughters and their sons.

“For us this is not a day of celebration. . . . As our compañeras on the other side of the river say, it is a day of struggle and protest.”

El Paso says, “End the war on trans lives!”

Youth, women, gender-expansive people and men gathered in downtown El Paso wearing purple clothing, green bandanas, holding La Via Campesina flags which read: “Nos Queremos Vivas!” (We want each other alive!), “End the war on Trans lives!” and “¡Que Caiga el patriarcado!” (Down with patriarchy!)

Organizers shared flyers with chants, enthusiastically recited throughout the rally and march, including “Mujeres contra la guerra, mujeres contra capital, mujeres contra machismo y terrorismo neoliberal” (Women against war, women against capital, women against machismo and neoliberal terrorism) and “!Manchadas de sangre están las fronteras, porque en ellas matan mujeres obreras!” (The borders are stained with blood, because they murder working women on them!).

Sex-worker organizers with the Erotic Laborers Solidarity Alliance of El Paso (ELSA) denounced the criminalization of sex work and called for solidarity with sex workers. “Trans women of color feel the impact of criminalization the most. Police profile us and often press prostitution charges, based on clothing or condoms thrown in a purse. We should not have to live in fear of being targeted by police! We are especially vulnerable within an exploitative capitalist system and must be supported, defended and protected!”

Before marching, an Indigenous woman and religious leader, who had been carrying a sacred copal fire throughout the rally, addressed the crowd, asked permission for the gathering to be there and blessed the event. Protesters then marched to the international border between El Paso and Juarez, where a group crossed the bridge to meet up with those protesting in Juarez.

Thousands of women, gender-oppressed people, children and men marched in Juárez, México, Chihuahua, México, just across the imperialist war-made border. They started from the Museum of the Revolución in downtown Juárez, stopping at a memorial to Isabel Canabillas, an anti-capitalist, feminist activist from Juárez, who was murdered on the sidewalk in Juarez in 2020, and ended at the same international bridge.

In reaction to this vibrant, growing liberation movement on the border, in February the Biden administration ordered a more restrictive immigration policy than Trump’s Title 42 pandemic order, which expires in May. This lengthy Democratic Party policy implements aggressive and inaccessible guidelines meant to deter folks from México, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, countries targeted by the U.S. for regime change. Biden’s prohibitions allow police agencies to continue to deny entry to tens of thousands of people seeking asylum at the border, specifically legalizing the use of violence and more prisons for families.

The struggle against patriarchy and to defend trans lives and bodily autonomy is essential for the struggle for socialism. On IWWD, protesters on both sides of the border declared: “!No se va a caer, lo vamos a tirar, no solo al patriarcado, también al capital!” (It’s not going to fall; we are going to throw it away, not only the patriarchy but also capital!)

Alex Koplos

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Alex Koplos

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