The women of Ajoya and the surrounding area also began
to discover and exercise their power. One way they did
this was to take collective action to address the problem
of male alcohol abuse. This has long been a major cause
of interpersonal and domestic violence in the region,
with women and children often on the receiving end.
Apart from direct physical violence, the drinking habits
of men also indirectly damage the nutrition and health
of women and children, because men often buy alcohol
with money needed to feed their families.
In previous times there had been several bars in Ajoya,
but many years ago they had been officially closed because
of alcohol-related violence. For some twenty years the
village was free of bars, although some illegal sales
of alcohol continued. In 1982 the son of the municipal
president announced that he was going to open a cantina,
or bar, in Ajoya as a private business venture.
With help from Piaxtla's health workers, the women
organized to fight this move. They put on a public farmworkers'
theater skit dramatizing how the drinking habits of
men bring harm to women and children. All parts were
played by women and children, with women bedecked in
pants and mustaches to act the roles of men. The skit
showed how, if they worked together, women could do
something about this "men's problem."
In response to the skit and other awareness-raising
activities, the village women of Ajoya took united action
to protest against the opening of the bar. As a result,
several health workers who had helped organize the women
were jailed. But the women held a protest rally at the
jail until the last health worker was released. Next,
they persuaded several newspapers to publish editorials
criticizing the municipal president's use of public
office to advance private business interests. The women
were ultimately successful in blocking the bar's opening,
and soon women's groups throughout the state were making
similar protests and closing down local bars.