“Divine God! I give you thanks for giving me the strength to recognize what my true path was, to my family for believing in me, and to the Vieques Women’s Alliance for empowerment.” Zaida Torres
In May 1999, a group of women from Vieques, Puerto Rico, joined for a common cause: to end the American military’s occupation of their homeland for military testing. Under the leadership of Judith Conde, the women formed the Alianza de Mujeres Viequenses (AMV) and added their voices to a chorus that resulted in the end of the occupation. After the Navy’s departure, the AMV continued to mobilize women from diverse backgrounds to work for the well-being of the island’s families and future generations.
Just a month before the women of Vieques’ April meeting, one of their countrymen had been accidentally killed by the USA when a test bomb missed its target. And so the women met to discuss the effects the military was having on them as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. They knew, for example, that cancer rates on their island were higher than on the main island. In fact, the women’s alliance had begun with jornadas, which held screenings for breast cancer and free clinical exams. The AMV women began tying white ribbons to military gates, and the symbol of peace spread throughout the island. In December 1999, they helped to establish the Peace and Justice Camp outside the military gates as an alternative to the more strident demands of their male counterparts. The camp resembled their homes; there they cooked, prayed, and celebrated family activities. In 2000, the group developed a women’s cancer support group that established links with local and national providers of cancer healthcare and education. A year later, they developed a health program for the entire community, resulting in services for more than 3000 residents. For the first time in more than 20 years, women were able to deliver babies in their hometown following the reestablishment of the health center. With the support of groups from the main island of Puerto Rico, in 2001 they opened the doors to Casa Alianza, where community services are administered for all Viequenses. They launched a sex education camp for young Vieques women with the goals of reducing teen pregnancy, promoting self-esteem, preventing abusive relationships, and developing leadership skills. Today, as a result of the work of the Alliance, politics on Vieques is no longer just for men. Alianza’s members are frequently asked to join community panels and commissions.
Alianza de Mujeres Viequenses (AMV) (Allianz der Frauen von Vieques)
Latin America and the Carribeans | Puerto Rico