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Mexico's Red-Hot Mamas


Women dance, men babysit...

That night, when Delia Fuentes goes out with her mother and her aunt, Delia's husband Jorge and her father Raul are left at home to babysit. When Delia gets up to dance with her cousin Amelia, she says, "Girls dance together. We won't care if no men turn up tonight. What's important is that the women turn up."

The show of women is kitsch and gaudy: fake flowers and fake gold, fuchsia lipstick, sweaty huipil blouses with their symbolic blank squares embroidered over the heart, and cavernous white lacy olane underskirts. A lot of time and money has been spent on clothes and cosmetics for the fiesta. Competition is fierce. "Gloria wore that huipil last year, so business can't be good," bitches Delia.

Giselle, who is visiting from Oaxaca says some women buy boy lovers. "Once you're married, you can do anything." Later, Anunciata, 28, tells me: "A woman's got to be rich to keep a good boy. My Manuelito costs me about 60 pesos a month. But he's worth it. He's only 16 but he knows plenty of tricks in bed. Isabella tried to steal him from me but he says that she's too skinny for him."

Women are healers...

Only the wisest women of Juchitan, the curandero witches who heal with the aid of elemental energies, are both thin and respected. Na Paula, whose magic lives inside a fragipani tree, is 85 and owns a twig in the shape of a human hand which she says contains special powers.

Some curadera use the cactus-derived drug peyote to see into the spirit world and contact a person's "tonal" or spiritual animal, whose welfare parallels the patient's. They also believe illness is caused by "loss of soul" and regained by rituals using hallucinogenic mushrooms. Na Paula uses the spirit of her sacred tree to heal. Delia Fuentes took her son to Na Paula when he had a stomach ulcer which doctors were unable to treat and "in two weeks he was better."

You need to be fatter...

Na Paula's eyeteeth are capped with gold and she speaks in a high sing-song voice full of elongated vowels. Interpreted by Delia, she shows me the temple inside her house. On an altar against a backdrop of purple cloth, crucifixes and portraits of saints, sits a stuffed doll, an antelope head, a piece of pink cloth, the healing twig hand and a large, gold-painted egg.

Taking me outside to her sacred tree, Na Paula shows me how its trunk fans out into three branches with a deep cleft in between. "This is a female tree," she says, stroking the bark to receive her power. Then she puts her wrinkled palms on my arm and touches the pulse points, prescribing basil, lemon and lime tree and muttering a certain charm under her breath. "You need to be fatter," she says.

Women's words on weight & dieting...

I've been on a diet for two weeks
And all I lost is two weeks.
(Totie Fields, comedienne, 1979)

If you have formed the habit of checking on every new diet that comes along,
you will find that, mercifully, they all blur together,
leaving you with only one definite piece of information: French-fried potatoes are out.
(Jean Kerr, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, 1957)

Everything from TV to fashion ads has made it seem wicked to cast a shadow.
This wild emaciated look appeals to some women, though not to most men,
who are seldom pinning up a Vogue illustration in a machine shop.
(Cynthia Heimel, author, 1993)

If one doesn't have a character like Abraham Lincoln or Joan of Arc,
a diet simply disintegrates into eating exactly what you want to eat but with a bad conscience.
(Maria Augusta Trapp, Story of the Trapp Family Singers, 1949)

Little snax
Bigger Slax!
(Ruth Schenley, 1986)

(Source: The New Beacon Book of Quotations By Women)





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