Two Profiles of Emancipation

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist and activist in eighteenth-century England, was born of a handkerchief weaver in Spitalfields, London in 1759. With her sister Eliza and friend Fanny Blood, Wollstonecraft opened a school soon after her arrival in Newington Green in 1784, linking up with a group of men known as Rational Dissenters, who rejected the traditional Christian ideas of original sin and eternal punishment.

Wollstonecraft, together with a colleague, founded the journal Analytical Review two years later. She, along with other leading intellectuals, championed the cause of American Independence and the French Revolution, undaunted by critics who were appalled at her outspoken views on human rights, the slave trade, inhumane treatment of animals, and the plight of the poor. She wrote voluminously about the lives of talented women yearning to make their mark in a society of rigid conventions:

“It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men; nay, it is vain to expect that strength of natural affection which would make them good wives and mothers. Whilst they are absolutely dependent on their husbands they will be cunning, mean, and selfish. The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilization a curse, by dividing the world between voluptuous tyrants and cunning envious dependents, corrupt, almost equally, every class of people.”

−A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)

 

As a result of a turbulent history and precarious beginnings, antagonism towards feminism persists in modern Mexico, where stereotypes of feminists as motherhood’s leading critics are pervasive and divisive. Born on May 25, 1925, in Mexico City to a family of means, Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974), one of Mexico’s most influential spokeswomen for rights and equality, was relocated in Chiapas near the Guatemalan border. As a result of her contact with the indigenous people of that region, her work and view of the world would be irrevocably changed.

 

Nocturne

Time is too long for life;

For knowledge not enough.

What have we come for, night, heart of night?

Dream that we do not die

And, at times, for a moment, wake.

Nopales (cactus paddles) are a common sight in Mexican markets everywhere and lend themselves to a variety of tasty preparations. Here is one from the village of Otumba, courtesy of Diana Kennedy.

Nopales al Vapor Estilo Otumba

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 lb. cleaned nopales, cut into small cubes

1/4 white onion, finely chopped

2 fresh green chiles, (seeded if desired), thinly sliced

2 large sprigs epazote (optional)

Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and lightly sauté the garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients; cover and cook over low flame until nopales are almost tender. Remove the lid and continue cooking over slightly higher flame until sticky liquid from nopales has dried up, about 20 minutes. Fill a fresh, hot tortilla with some of the nopales and top with a little crumbled queso fresco or farmer cheese.

 

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