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Ah! Mothers' Day, or rather Mother's Day? Unlucky the human who does not feel a deep sense of gratitude towards hiser (sic) mother. Make a speech on Mother's Day, and you can always win over your audience by reciting the little poem: "The happiest days of my life were those I spent in the arms of another man's wife...MY MOTHER!" But avoid the problem of one speaker, who forgot the last two words and was surprised at the odd response.

Mother's Day? It is supposed to be the second Sunday in May (i.e next Sunday), but Mexico celebrates it on May 10. Why? It seems to be special to Mexico, and is celebrated with a mass at the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, where an orchestra plays "las maņanitas" of the Virgin. It is a moving event, with the old-fashioned celebrations which are so much more gracious (almost religious) than modern ones. This is not the Virgen of Guadalupe as a symbol of Mexican nationalism, but the Virgin as the symbol of motherhood.

However, this makes evident the difference between the poor south and the richer north of Mexico. In Chiapas, familias of ten or more are common. An old woman with umpteen children said humorously that this was because they had no electric light. In northern Mexico, small families are now the norm. The Catholic Church opposes birth control. The bushop of Aguascalientes, an apparently sensible man, said that the place for women was the home; they were biologically not meant to take part in politics and sports. A poll showed that a large majority of Mexicans disagree with him.

Meanwhile in Spain, the stress was on curbing male violence against women. Already this year sixteen women have been killed by their male companions. A special government service to protect women from similar violence has produced dramatic results. Apparently sweet, middle-class battered women were shown on television. Does Spain have the highest rate of such incidents in Western Europe? Is this one aspect of Spain's notorious machismo? Is this part of Spain's Islamic heritage? A movie of life in Afghanistan secretly filmed by a French cameraman showed the plight of the women there. It has created quite a sensation in Europe.

Ronald Hilton - 5/11/01