María Josefa Martínez, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Two years ago, in 1846, the United States invaded Mexico. That summer, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny of the United States Army marched into Santa Fe to take control. Up until that moment, I was a Mexican woman. Since then, I have been a conquered Mexican woman. There are about 25,000 to 30,000 women in New Mexico. The white male conquerors treat us badly. They have contempt for all Mexicans, especially women. As a woman, under Mexican law I was allowed to own property in my maiden name, and sell or give it away without my husband’s signature. I could even farm my own land apart from my husband’s land or land that we owned together. U.S. women don’t have these rights. Unlike the invaders, I speak Spanish not English. But English is the language used by lawyers, judges, and tax assessors. I worry that the U.S. authorities will use my lack of English to take away my rights and property.