Mujeres de Humo, a two-decade rebellion in the Mexican state of Veracruz



The heat of the stove floods the palm hut where female hands “fan” (make) tortillas as they did two decades ago, when they undertook the so-called rebellion of the Smoke Women in one of the most important indigenous regions of the southeastern state of Veracruz .

In the heart of the archeological zone of El Tajín, which houses the vestiges of the powerful Totonac indigenous culture, the smoke that gives off the firewood envelops Martha Soledad Gómez Atzín, the woman who 20 years ago managed to remove 200 native cooks from their homes and break with a macho fence.

The aromas and flavors of the ancient recipes, led hundreds of indigenous women to prepare food for visitors to the Tajin Summit – an official cultural artistic event to pay tribute to the Totonacas – where they learned to be outside their surroundings, away from men, those who ruled and, above all, on the sidelines of abuse.

“The woman of the communities was not very open, at the moment the woman is already more liberated, she already leaves her communities to the city, she sells her products that are harvested in the cornfields and in the mountains and they set up businesses,” he says from a distance Atzin

In that 1999, from the town of El Cedro de la Sierra de Papantla, Martha Soledad undertook – together with Minerva, Adela, Josefina, Teresa, Alejandra, Juliana – a cultural change that permeated a generation of women.

He achieved the unthinkable in the indigenous Mesoamerican people who inhabited the region since 800 after Christ: take the matriarchs out of their family environment and take them to the outside world, without their husbands.

“Before, they arrived, they sold and nothing else. And now they talk more, they live more with people. There have been many changes in their lives for 20 years, they are more liberated,” he says from the Niche of Aromas and Flavors of Tajín, a learning space.

In the most recondito of the jungle, Atzin learned the secrets of the kitchen of his grandmother, Doña Soledad, whom he affectionately called Mamá Chole, who showed her patiently and affectionately all kinds of dishes, such as bocoles, a thick tortilla of dough of corn mixed with butter and stuffed with black beans, cheese and pork rinds.

And he understood that the aroma that his grandmother gave off his whole body was a reflection of his life in the huge galleys with fireplaces where he cooked for the family and also for pawns.

“I am a woman of smoke, because I am a smoked woman and my gray hair is of smoke; and I smell of smoke because all my life since I was born I have been a woman of smoke”, were the words that still have in mind Martha Soledad, who understood that she had a Smoke Woman lineage.

And when Minerva was invited to be part of the Tajín Summit project, the first obstacle she faced arose from inside her home: her husband, trained in the old-fashioned way, did not allow the women in her house to go to work.

Twenty years later she feels free, happy and proud of the work she does in the Niche of Aromas and Flavors of the Center for Indigenous Arts.

At 60, the native of the El Cedro community, has managed to face the cultural burden that forced women to remain within the walls of their home, focused on caring for their family.

“When Martha invited us to participate in Tajín Summit, she was a person to invite us … my husband tells me: you will not go, you will not go, who will stay in the house? Who will give me eat? And I say: I will go, because I also want to work, I want to know, pay me or not pay me I want to know what Tajín Summit is. “

Annoyed for several months, her husband now supports her and Minerva not only leaves the community at Takilhsukut theme park, but has accompanied Martha and the other Smoke Women to out-of-state presentations.

“I feel free, I am happy with my work, too bad that instead of going down, we are going up, we are already getting older, I am already 60 years old, but here we are,” he says.

And Minerva is next to Martha Soledad, who is convinced that Totonac women are warriors, strong, great, spiritual and full of life.

“For a while they were subdued, but now thank God they found the path of their freedom and now they don’t want to depend on any chain anymore,” he says.

Now totonaca food, from the pre-Columbian archaeological zone, smells like love, smoke, firewood, rain, earth, sun, time and freedom.

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