On Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, millions of women took to the streets. Reproductive choice, sexual assault, and affordable healthcare were just a few of the issues at stake for the marchers, whose numbers also included men, children, and — at least in Santa Fe — dogs. Protests popped up in every state and on every continent, as people throughout the world expressed their fears and their unity. In Santa Fe, though the morning dawned with a snow shower, more than 11,000 people walked from the Bataan Memorial Building on Galisteo Street, winding through the downtown streets to the Plaza and back to the Roundhouse for a rally.
I attended the local Women’s March as an observer, pen and notepad in hand, to explore the intersection of politics and the cultural fabric of Santa Fe. I began with breakfast at the Plaza Café on Lincoln Avenue. Like the airplanes, buses, and trains headed for Washington, D.C., the day before, most of the restaurant’s seats were filled by marchers. There were a fair number of tell-tale knitted pink “pussy hats,” which have sprung up as a symbol of resistance to President Trump’s 2005 claim, caught on audio tape by Access Hollywood, that his celebrity status affords him unfettered opportunities to grope women. I introduced myself as a reporter to a woman at a nearby booth who looked a bit tired but offered me a warm smile. Her name was August River, and she said she had come out to march because she was hoping the energy of the crowd would inspire her. “It’s time for me to stop crying and get busy,” she said. Her friends from Chupadero and Pojoaque were excited to see how many people would turn out.
Stacey Sullivan de Maldonado and Sharon Smith said they were marching because they felt it was time for women to get past cattiness to support one another. Smith, who grew up in the 1950s, said, “So many women think it’s OK for men to treat us as lesser. Maybe they are the women who voted for Trump.” When standing in line for the restroom earlier, she’d made conversation with three women she didn’t know, which felt to her like progress. “We talked because of the hats. It’s too bad we need the hats to start a dialogue.”
Greg and Cindy Friday, who had walked over from their house near the Plaza for breakfast, said they considered the Women’s March a waste of time — because the election was in the past. “We need to wait and see what he actually does. Maybe the change will be good,” Cindy said. “Obama did some things, but he didn’t do everything he said he was going to do,” Greg said. As I ate my eggs, the Fridays continued to talk in hushed voices about politics. When I got up to leave, Greg stopped me. “Trump is a buffoon,” he said. “When he opens his mouth, he doesn’t sound smart. I want to tell people, ‘Don’t blame me — I voted for Gary Johnson.’ But then they say I threw my vote away.”
In the planning phase of the Women’s March in Washington, conflict arose over whose rights the feminist movement has traditionally represented, since not all women experience oppression of the same type and to the same degree. Intersectional feminism, which was embraced by local march organizers in their event description, recognizes that the needs of women are diverse and vary by race, economic status, and many other factors. In Santa Fe, where the racial makeup differs from other areas of the country because of our tri-cultural population of American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo, it was clear that whatever discord might exist did not prevent women from coming together for one day. The massive line of marchers at the Bataan Memorial Building was a bobbing sea of pink hats that flowered against the snow like crabapple blossoms.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fundamental Rights,” the signs said, along with “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance,” and “We Are the Granddaughters of the Witches You Weren’t Able to Burn.” Many signs were bilingual or entirely in Spanish. The crowd was as multicultural and multihued as the population of Northern New Mexico. An African-American woman, who requested anonymity because of possible reprisal at work for her attendance at a political protest, said she was concerned about reproductive rights, racism, and immigration issues. She said that while she considers herself pro-choice, many women do not believe in abortion. “Feminists need to figure out how to talk to these women without dismissing them just because their positions are different, because we will lose their votes.”
The sun came out as the marchers chanted and burned incense on their way down Galisteo Street. A lone man danced in the flatbed of a parked pick-up truck, pointing to himself and shouting, “Trump follower! Trump follower!” I approached a tattooed fellow outside the Santa Fe Arcade who wore a T-shirt that said “Trump in ’16. Up yours, Hillary!” He told me that the protesters’ signs were misguided because “Trump hasn’t said he’s going to do any of that.” I pointed to one that said “Save the ACA,” and asked if he knew that the president had issued an executive order for its repeal. “I haven’t watched the news,” he said, “but Trump says all kinds of stupid things. The media just splices it together so people don’t have the whole story. I’m not even political. This T-shirt was three dollars online, and I just got it because it was against Hillary.”
Mary Shoemaker leaned in a doorway along the march route, wearing the same weary but hopeful expression August River had worn at breakfast. “I’m staying positive,” Shoemaker said. “My partner is Jewish. We are lesbians, and we have seven children of different races — adopted, foster, and bio. This administration threatens everything that I am.”
“Stop crying and get busy,” River had said at breakfast. That sentiment turned into the theme of the day, as millions of citizens sought to harness the collective energy in the wake of the march’s success. What could they do now that the march was over, beyond signing petitions and calling their elected officials to make their voices heard?
Shoemaker, for one, had a concrete plan in mind. “If they start to build a wall on the border of Mexico, then I will be there to physically stop it.” ◀