Christine Eber spent the last 35 years opening her mind to the suffering of people of Chiapas, Mexico, first as a volunteer, then as a graduate student and finally as an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University.
Now a retired professor emerita, she continues the work today.
After spending decades writing scholarly works about the Tsotsil-Maya people of Chiapas, Eber, wrote her first novel about their struggles and their faith titled ‘When A Woman Rises.’
“I believe that my novel is more likely to lead people to want to visit Chiapas than my academic books or articles ever did,” Eber said. “And I really do want people to go to Chiapas, to make friends there, perhaps to get involved in some kind of project or at least go back home inspired to do something to make the world a more egalitarian and just place.”
The novel, published by Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, will have a book launch from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, September 28 at Casa Camino Real Book Store in Las Cruces.
In the forward to Eber’s book, author Diane Rus describes Eber as practicing love in the Mayan sense of the word as described by a character in the book – listening deeply, not giving up on each other, helping each other, respecting each other and feeling each other’s pain.
“It was clear to me that there were things I couldn’t say in my ethnographic writings and the novel was an effort to help push myself to understand their lives better and help others understand the Maya people better,” Eber said. “The novel really liberated me to say a lot of things I wanted to say in my writing in an engaging way.”
In the novel, Magdalena from Chenalhó, Chiapas tells the story of her daughter’s best friend Lucia who has been missing for ten years. Magdalena recounts the girls’ dreams of becoming teachers.
They both join the Zapatista movement, supporting democracy, land reform and the rights of indigenous people. The women’s stories
reveal how culture, poverty and rigid gender roles impact their lives.
“My novel shows how Maya people live in different conditions from those of most readers but aren’t necessarily any less intelligent or capable of taking leadership roles or anything else,” Eber said. “They just haven’t had the opportunities.”
Eber is a founder of the nonprofit ‘Weaving for Justice,’ a volunteer group in Las Cruces helping three Maya women’s cooperatives. “We’re involved in trying to find fair trade markets in the U.S. and to help raise funds for scholarships for Maya youth to go on to high school, college and post graduate studies.”
For more information about “Weaving for Justice,” visit www.weaving-for-justice.org
Author: Minerva Baumann – NMSU