Loving yourself is an act of rebellion

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Experiences of "Rebeldía y Sanación"

Festival FILMUFE 2018, Oaxaca de Juarez

To mark the occasion of FILMUFE 2018 (Feria Internacional del Libro de Estudios de las Mujeres y Feminismos), traditional healers from indigenous communities were interviewed about their experiences of health and female body-image under the pressure of modern society, and this is what they had to say.

How does capitalism impact on our health?

“Nowadays we are encouraged to go to the doctor; to take medicines to silence our illnesses rather than treat them, in order to make us forget that we are the main players in our health. We know ourselves much better than the doctors who examine us, and we should therefore learn to understand our bodies better, to listen to them and look for the source of the problem, to anticipate and prevent problems rather than just fixing them. This is what our ancestors would do before Western society took over. We must realize that the pharmaceutical industry needs people to be ill in order to exist. It needs to sell medicine in order to make money. So it convinces us that we need them, and that they’re our only way to get better. They make us believe that the wisdom of the native people is worth nothing compared with their scientific knowledge. We are products of the system, and they manipulate our way of living and thinking. We take medicines to silence the pain without listening to what our body has to tell us, and then the pain returns because we never got to its root. It’s time to take back our bodies!”

“Illness is an imbalance of emotions and/or energies in our bodies. Our grandparents always treated illnesses preventatively, in order to maintain the balance. The ability to know and listen to your body makes prevention more effective, and healing easier.”

“Today we are fighting once again for a healthy, organic diet, but it is still highly selective - it’s still for the rich. A farmer can’t afford to go to an organic café, it’s too expensive. Thus, history repeats itself. The processed foods that we buy and consume are responsible for our illnesses! The companies that sell us this food that makes us ill are the same companies that sell us the medicines that are supposed to cure us. Studies have shown that our indigenous foods (often considered only fit for poor people and savages) are some of the most nutritious in the world! We must save our holy trinity of squash, corn and beans and teach our children to eat well and healthily in order to escape the grip of the pharmaceutical industry. There’s no time to waste. We have to work tirelessly to be able to afford these products which have become essential in our daily lives - we no longer know how to live without supermarkets and brands. We don’t know how to make things ourselves. We don’t know what we’re eating, or where it comes from. We work constantly, we lose sleep - the system is stealing our lives from us. Films tells us that zombies are coming, but I think they’re already here. I’ve already seen them in Mexico City, you can go into the metro and see them.”

“We are manipulated with the fear of death. Instead of letting us live wholeheartedly, they simply make us survive. In this system, we are just commodities, labor, worker bees with no skills, replaceable materials that are easily cast aside. We fall into debt in order to pay for the medicines that make us even more ill. Capitalism affects us through our health by turning it into a spectacle, by saying ‘Your throat hurts? Well that could be cancer and if so, you’re going to die….’ And then the power of fear reigns, and we run to the nearest pharmacy to buy the drugs the doctor prescribes us.”

“We are led to believe that only certain professionals can tell us what’s wrong with us, but who has lived in this body for a lifetime - you or your doctor? Who can know more about your body than you yourself? I think that the most important part of this act of rebellion is to take back our responsibility for our own health, with a healthy diet, a sensible pace of life and physical exercise. We will find the solutions to our problems by asking ourselves: why am I feeling this way? why am I living like this? in what way have I contributed to this illness, and how can I contribute to my recovery? This way of connecting with your body is something we should teach our children from a young age. It is incredibly important that we realize we have a functioning alternative to their system.”

What is a woman’s place in the current health system?

“The worst thing is seeing the extent to which we fight to fit in with this sick society by forgetting our own personal qualities. It’s time to start loving ourselves, and accepting ourselves as we are. We are alive and that is a wonderful miracle. We cannot hope to live healthily as a collective if we are ill, lost and irresponsible as individuals. We must support each other and change things together. They commercialize our bodies by making us believe that there are no forms of care other than hospitals, or that they are dangerous and may cause our deaths. They also control us through maternity, as it is women who must take poison to control their fertility. It is they who must be careful and they who control their own fertility, to the point where women’s wombs are now for hire. Women who aren’t able to have children can hire the womb of a woman who needs the money. She can give the gift of life to couple who want to have children, but who is thinking of the child? Its mother is only an egg and its father only a sperm. No one thinks of the trauma the surrogate will experience when she has to leave the child, nor of the child who will grow up without the person who gave them life. Removed from their birth-mother, they will lose the sacred bond that has been forming for the last 9 months.

Giving birth in a hospital, without loved ones, full of stress and worry in a cold and sterile room is a violent act that will remain etched into the baby’s memory. However, at home, you can put on some music, be surrounded by people that you love, and in a comfortable space, fill the magnificent act of birth with love. But they have imbued this experience with a fear of danger: we must do it their way so as not to put the mother and baby’s lives at risk. Falling ill and dying are our biggest fears as humans, and they understand this.”

“Another way our bodies are commercialized is through menstruation. They make us buy products containing chemical substances which harm both ourselves and the planet. They see women as a source of monthly profit, making us hate our periods and breaking the sacred link between our bodies and the moon.

They make us hate the female body and believe that we are ugly and fat and will never fit in. We forget that every second of our lives, and every cell in our body, is doing its best to make us who we are. The saddest thing is to see how much we literally fight with our bodies to fit into this broken society: surgery, make-up, hairstyles… They teach us to be afraid of death and ageing. We are terrified of wrinkles and our bodies ageing. We want to stop time, but we can’t. And time is wonderful - it writes the story of our lives onto our bodies. Our wrinkles remind us of past smiles, and scars remind us of our strongest moments. They want us to hate ourselves to force us to buy things, focusing on our exterior and forgetting what’s inside. We only spend a brief time on this earth and matter as little as a grain of sand, but what’s it all worth in the end if we don’t love ourselves?”

What is the place of healing in an advanced capitalist system, and what is the political stance of traditional healers?

“In Western countries, alternative medicine is a luxury and in third world countries it is the only possible alternative. But here in Mexico, they try to make us believe that our healing practices are ridiculous, even though they are paying a lot of money to use them. There are queues that run for days outside hospitals, because we don’t know how to treat the new diseases that they have given us. In terms of mental health, in certain societies, a shaman is a schizophrenic, wild man who lives naked and has nothing to teach to ‘advanced’ men. We shouldn’t let them put us in these boxes. I myself am a ‘wild woman’ and they call me “crazy” for living as I want to, outside of their system, close to my body and to nature. It doesn’t bother me. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m much more sane than most of them. Every day new illnesses are invented, they want to give them a name, and above all, have a drug for every one of our thoughts and feelings. We should resist this more, that’s our political stance.”

“Once, I had a doctor come to see me in distress. He had a serious illness, which, according to his colleagues, was in its terminal stages, and had been caused by his highly stressful career. He told me that no drugs could help him and he didn’t know what to do, so we used meditation, reiki, a healthy eating plan and our ancestral plants, and he was cured! They had given him two years to live, and here he was, cured. And now, this doctor cures his patients in this same way, but where he works, no one believes him. We should have the right to choose how we face what is happening to us. If someone has cancer and wants to use chemotherapy, that’s fine, and if they want use plants and reiki, that’s also fine. Everyone should choose their own path to healing.”

“We have to act to save our ancestral practices; talk about menstruation without shame or fear; say loud and clear how we want to give birth; say that we think without fear, say that we don’t agree with them! That’s our political act. Rebelling against the system starts with saving our roots and our organic, healthy diet and with self-love!”

How do you differentiate between health and healing?

“The difference stems from our way of working. If you’re in pain, you are given something to silence the pain, but for native people, healing comes from our relationship with our body, mind and spirit. For example, Temazcal is a moment of physical, mental and spiritual healing. It is only by achieving a harmony of these three essential human qualities that you can be cured and live healthily. There are so many simple things in your daily life that can indicate to you that there is a problem. Your body sends you messages, and only you can hear them. If, for three days in a row, you wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, that’s a problem. Every day we tranquilize our body and ignore what it is telling us. Everything happens for a reason - you don’t have a headache for no reason. Our bodies warn us, and it’s when you ignore these signs that serious illnesses happen.”

“The solution is collective, we need to support each other with love, and spread this message.”

Corps et territoires - Rébellion et guérison

Through these strong and poignant accounts, the healers teach us that every day we are affected by so many things: viruses, words, judgments, love, hate… Healing is a minute-by-minute process that we should never stop working on. It is our own duty to ourselves. Far from western medical practices and dependence on drugs, indigenous healers propose other alternative healing methods, which are less costly, more natural and in harmony with our body, spirit and nature. During the FILMUFE festival, many women have taken the floor to raise issues that are important in today’s society; their speeches lead us to re-assess our way of life and the way we care for ourselves, and reconsider the position of the human being in society and in nature.

La sanación es un estilo de vida.

This English translation has been possible thanks to the PerMondo project Free translation of website and documents for non-profit organisations. A project managed by Mondo Agit. Translator: Claire Harker