For a feminism of sisters of the land


Mayte Alvarado

At sunrise, we look to the sky for signs of rain in this land ravaged by drought. In some places the frost has started to melt and the streams burble; the dead tree trunks, rocks and bark are blanketed with moss, reminding us that life goes on, that we too are still here, that we too are part of this land.

The latest IPCC report is a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are to climate change; there is no longer room for half-measures. We cannot afford to sit back and do nothing, because if we do, we will miss the brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future for all.

We must not let this mild winter distract us from the climate emergency, from the deep cracks opening up in the parched soil, from the macro-projects that plague our land and threaten our diverse rural ways of life. This is why we are here, raising our voices, defending the territory, weaving networks that make us stronger, helping each other and condemning all that threatens us and tries to bring us down. Together we can face adversity and overcome any obstacles, because joy and empathy are what make us who we are.

Sister of the land,

another March

we have taken to the streets and filled the squares, defending the future built upon equality, diversity and sustainability that we know is possible. Today, let us breathe life into this future together: we must never lose hope.

We are still suffering the ravages of the pandemic, but as women we keep putting one foot in front of the other, like a flock of sheep huddling together for protection, each one tucking its head under the body of its neighbour. Without the collective there is no rural life; without mutual help and support it is impossible to keep going.

We will not yield to the isolated and solitary rurality being imposed on us. It is based on a system that takes advantage of us, that deceives and clings to a dangerous nostalgia, romanticising the inequality and machismo that — sadly — our mothers and grandmothers have had to endure. This system represses us as women, confining us to tradition and motherhood. It refuses to embrace the reality and diversity of our rural areas.

We need new rural realities, full of feminism, agroecology and diversity, as well as memory. In these times of uncertainty, it is important to know where we have come from, to be able to imagine the way to a better future, and the paths that, drawing on other learnings, can show us where we can and want to go.

This is why, as another year comes around, we again wait patiently for the elder to blossom, for mallows to flood the fields and for the sweet fragrances of mint and basil to return to the air. We wait together to harvest fruit from the orchards and vegetables from the soil. We will again share our recipes, cherishing this knowledge that has so often been scorned. As we were taught by a long line of women before us, we will unravel the knowledge and join the threads to respin the yarn; we will become part of a loom that welcomes but also questions, one that acts as a bridge between the women of our past and those who will come.

To some extent, today’s threats are the same as always, disguised with words like ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’. But we are like the houses in our villages, strong, raised with stone from the landscape itself, made from trees, and dialogues with the land. Despite the dams, the neglect and forced exile, many of them remain standing today, witnessing the greed of an extractive system that only cares about money and productivity. This system is accelerating the spread of macro-projects throughout the territory, putting protected natural areas with an incalculable environmental value at risk, and then using green and renewable words to wash their hands of it all with complete impunity. In these monocultures of solar panels and wind farms, ‘green’ deserts, and intensive farms the connection between land, human and animal is severed. The industrial farms pollute our soils and the water we drink. This obsession with industrialisation contaminates, fuels precarity and kills. It dismisses all those who bring our towns to life, rendering collectives like migrant women — who still endure miserable working and living conditions — vulnerable and invisible. We are here to raise our voices, to insist that we will not stop fighting for a dignified land.

Sister of the land,

we are trees. And rooted together through our actions and words, we can also be symbiosis, rhizomes, forests. Intertwined today we express ourselves and sing, hand in hand we walk fearlessly, and always forward. Look at the growth of the Canary Island pine after the volcanic eruption and the flourishing algae on the ocean lava flows: despite the lava and ash, new shoots always emerge.

Today, more than ever, we think of our Ukrainian sisters, but also of all those who are suffering in so many armed conflicts that remain invisible. Today they are fighting, fleeing to the borders in search of another tomorrow with their daughters, leaving behind their people, their roots. While we see on the news that many in Ukraine are collecting snow for drinking water, some people only seem interested in how much profit they are going to earn from their intensive cereal crops. Brave Ukrainian women offer seeds to Russian soldiers to fill their pockets so that the land will never cease to flourish, despite the war, violence and death.

Sisters, you are not alone.

Another year, we are still here. Despite the pandemic, despite the drought, volcano and wars. Here we speak out, feeling more united than ever. Here we stand up, we share our fears, we put aside our silence. We argue that there are many ways of inhabiting the territory, many rural realities that foster dialogue, that construct and provide welcome and care. These are the ways of sisters of the land: full of feminism and diversity, agroecology, memory, interdependence, hope and joy.

For a feminism of all,

for a feminism of sisters of the land.

*The illustration is by Mayte Alvarado. You can download it here.

**(This manifesto was written by Lucía López Marco and María Sánchez. Many thanks to the advice and contributions of Celsa Peitado, Blanca Casares, Patricia Dopazo, Julia Álvarez,Karina Rocha, and Elena Medel. And to so many of you who have sent us your contributions).

This manifesto was translated into English by Becky Stoakes.