Born in the remote mountains and tropical forests of southern Mexico, the elder women of Chiapas have witnessed tumultuous change during their lifetimes, which in some cases spanned the entire twentieth century. Through hard experience, these women have gained unique perspectives on the transformations that modernity has brought to their traditional way of life. Reflecting on this rich store of wisdom, artists Gayle Walker and Kiki Suárez began interviewing and photographing Chiapanec women between the ages of 60 and 108. In this book, they present the life stories of twenty-eight women, who speak for the silent members of a divided society—well-to-do, urban ladinas of European descent; mixed race, low-income mestizas; and indigenous Maya from the highlands and Lacandon rainforest.
As the women tell their stories, they shed light on major historical events as well as the personal dramas of daily life. For some, the Mexican Revolution and the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic are still painfully vivid. Others focus on recent social upheavals, such as the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. Women whose families had more resources fondly recall their high school days, while poorer women tell tragic stories of deprivation, hunger, and family violence. Particularly thought-provoking are the women's attitudes toward marriage, work, religion, and their own mortality. Considering the limited opportunities these women faced, Walker and Suárez sum up the significant theme of these interviews by observing that the women of Chiapas "remind us that if we are flexible, creative, and courageous, we have many more possibilities than we think we have."