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LA ÑAPA

In Dominican Spanish la ñapa refers to "the little extra" added on at the end. Just when you thought you'd gotten all that you would get, along comes your ñapa, like a baker's dozen, with one more kiss, one more pastelito, one more mango at the mercado.

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November 25, 2016

This year, November 25th comes only weeks after a deplorable election in the United States, in which the winning candidate is a man who is on record for harassing women and boasting about doing so, a volatile and inexperienced bully, who regularly shows his contempt for women, other nations, races, vulnerable populations, poisoning the body politic with ugly rhetoric and stirring up fears with threats. Many women are feeling unsafe, distraught. The day after the election a friend's young granddaughter asked her mother if it was okay now for boys to do to her what the president-elect bragged about doing to women. Another inquired about the wall that he had vowed to build. Would she and her family be walled in or left out? Either option seemed terrifying. Where else could they go?
We go where we go when these things happen. In search of each other. We come together. We form into lines of people marching, we collaborate, we make ladders, we rise over whatever wall is built to keep us out. We get knocked down, we catch our breath, we dust ourselves off. We keep going. On the candidate's inauguration day, a million women (or more) and men will march on the nation's capital. We are inaugurating hope.
Milan Rai and his White Butterfly project: All we need is Love
We need to fuel this hope with our songs and stories. We need to remind ourselves where we've come from: mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers who got us this far, many anonymously, providing their shoulders for us to inch up a little further than they ever could. So far, we have not been able to break the glass ceiling for the highest office in this country, but we are sending up chisels and hammers, we are sending up voices and stories and songs. Somewhere a young girl is growing strong on our activism, our courage, our hope. She is climbing, up and up she goes. Give her your hand, your shoulder, your help when she goes by, and since you don't know yet who she might be, be kind to all the girls and women you meet, and since you don't know what boys and men will help her build this good world, be kind to everyone you meet. Because, really, all of us are creating this new world together!
On November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we begin 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, ending on December 10th, Human Rights Day. The starting date was chosen in honor of the Mirabal sisters, who were killed in 1960 by the dictator Trujillo for their opposition to his regime. Patria, Minerva, María Teresa never lived to see the liberation of their country. But their story has inspired women and men everywhere in their struggles against oppression and violence.
During the Trujillo dictatorship, people sometimes wore colors or symbols to signal solidarity with dissidents. Many Americans have begun wearing safety pins after the election, to show they are "safe" people who will provide harbor to all who are feeling afraid. Years ago, I urged that we wear butterflies on November 25th in honor of the Mirabal sisters, whose code name, Mariposas, means Butterfly.
However you chose to express your solidarity and commitment to work towards the kind of world we want for ourselves and those coming after, whether you wear a Butterfly this November 25th, or you collaborate with Milan Rai and his White Butterfly project traveling across the world, or you decide to wear a safety pin for the next four years, remember, you are part of a global movement, a groundswell of a more just, generous, hopeful way.
And tell the girls and boys worried about walls and bullies the stories. Tell them there are Mariposas everywhere, including inside them, seemingly fragile, hiding in cocoons, developing wings that can carry them across continents, borders, and over the intolerance and violence that the worst among us can stir up. This troubling setback in American politics is already mobilizing us, as it did the Mirabal sisters during an oppressive dictatorship, to come together, to create the just and loving world where we can all be safe, where walls have steps for climbing, resting places for people and mariposas.

Julia Alvarez
November 19, 2016
Copyright © Julia Alvarez 2016.
All rights reserved. No further duplication, downloading or
distribution permitted without written agreement of the author
(please contact my agent, Stuart Bernstein).
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