Market Street rang with shouts of "Hyatt, Escucha! Estamos en la lucha!" "Hyatt, Listen! We are in the struggle!" Saturday, March 6, as approximately 2,100 mothers, daughters, teachers, students, veterans, activists and other supporters gathered at the Grand Hyatt downtown to kick off the 20th Annual International Woman's Day March.
Women from all walks of life came together to celebrate their gender and to eliminate abuse and other hate crimes directed at women. According to organizers, the event drew twice as many participants as last year and ended with a rally in the Plaza del Zacate that highlighted many of the struggles that women face. "Every year we have a theme, so we wanted to do something with 'Women Leading the Struggle,' because there are so many women who go unnoticed," Esperanza Peace and Justice Center staff member Rosalynn Warren told the Current at a sign-making rally the week before the march.
After a blessing and a moment of silence at 10 a.m. for the missing and murdered women of Juarez, Iola Scott, an active member of Unite Here, accused the Grand Hyatt of mistreating housekeepers, especially minority women. Scott spoke of the abuses she and others suffered while she worked for two years in the laundry-service department, and how her experiences led her to join the Unite Here union.
Viola Casares and Petra Mata spoke of how injustices against women and the "exploitation caused by corporate greed and free trade has to stop." They spoke on behalf of Fuerza Unida, an organization that once was called a "bunch of illiterate women" but that has given voice to the concerns of women workers for more than 20 years.
Dozens of organizations and supporters, including the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative, Girls Inc., Fuerza Unida, San Antonio Free Speech Coalition, Planned Parenthood, the Rape Crisis Center, and the UTSA Mexican American Studies Student Organization participated in the Woman's Day March, making it colorful and diverse.
Peacekeepers, all of whom were women, were designated to ensure that everyone at the march was safe, and that bystanders wouldn't interfere with the peaceful nature of the event. March organizers said this was an important gesture, demonstrating to San Antonio that women can take care of their own safety without relying solely on the police force.
People downtown stopped to watch as the march progressed from the Hyatt and snaked its way from Market all the way to the Plaza del Zacate rally. Local soul siren and musician Suzy Bravo opened the rally with an inspiring rendition of "Heavy Cross" by the Gossip.
Leading the speaker lineup was Lisa Caldera of Planned Parenthood, who was followed by a wake-up call from San Antonio's long-time activist Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez. For more than 45 years Betita has been a social-justice activist and organizer. She's published six books and written many articles highlighting the struggles faced by people in the Americas. She is currently the co-founder and director of the Institute for Multiracial Justice, which builds alliances between peoples of color.
Martinez's speech focused on the idea that women should come together as peacemakers.
Following a poem by Merle Woo read by San Antonio activists Rosalynn Warren and Justine Blakemore, Antonia Padilla spoke of her experiences as a 50-year-old transgender woman who has faced years of discrimination since she came out in her 30s.
To end the rally, Patricia Castillo, Executive Director of the P.E.A.C.E Initiative proudly announced that along with her organization, Fuerza Unida and Ezperanza are celebrating 20 years of work in the San Antonio community to end the oppression of women.