1997 was the year when Mujeres de Maiz first took root in Highland Park, Northeast Los Angeles, at the PRC - Popular Resource Center/ Centro Regeneracion. The PRC was an organizing space for community activists and artists where countless grassroots meetings, fundraisers, exhibits, and underground artistic events took place. Radio Clandestino and the National Committee for Democracy in Mexico were two of several groups that were housed within the PRC's walls. In addition, artists such as Aztlan Underground, Quetzal, Blues Experiement, In Lak Ech, Ollin, Quinto Sol, Nuke, Omar Ramirez and Mujeres de Maiz utilized the PRC space to create, collaborate, perform, cultivate and plant their seeds of creative knowledge within the Northeast Los Angeles communities.
Over thirty years had passed since the height of the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements, yet women's voices were continually absent from the established platforms of representation. In an effort to unite women and provide a space for their voices, Felicia Montes joined forces with Claudia Mercado by co-hosting the PRC’s Radio Clandestino women’s show Lucha Por Tu Voz. At the same time, they formed the performance, poetry and song group In Lak Ech. With the desire to share the mic and stage with more women, they welcomed the suggestion to organize a show for International Women’s Day. With this intention in mind, a call out was made to all women artists to share their art regardless of age, ethnicity or level of training. Thus, on June 29, 1997, Mujeres de Maiz - an all woman performance show, a one-night multi-media exhibit and a self-published “Zine’- was born.
In its first year of creation, following the time of the seasons, Mujeres de Maiz produced four live art shows, three zines and one documentary. After its first year, Mujeres de Maiz shifted their quarterly Live Art Shows, Exhibits and Zines to an annual celebration honoring International Women’s Day in March. Today, Mujeres de Maiz has organized over 16 Live Art Shows & Exhibits, published over12 Zines and has produced countless of holistic wellness programming.
The Live Art Shows, Exhibits and Zines have been and continue to be an open call to beginners and experienced artists of all ages, sexualities and ethnicities. As a result, the Mujeres de Maiz events and Zines have united a diversity of women from different nations both geographically and or through their ancestral lineage. Women from Africa, Peru, North America, Philippines, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Mexico have performed, exhibited or published their works with MdM. In doing so, women from the U.S. have had the opportunity to network and organize around global, social, political, cultural and feminist issues. For example, in the 2010 Live Art Show, 13 Baktun: Return of the Wisdom of Elders, MdM united Susana Baca from Peru with Martha Gonzalez of Quetzal, Cava and La Santa Cecilia from East Los Angeles for a special musical collaboration.
Not only does Mujeres de Maiz serve as a bridge in uniting individual artists but continues to cross organize and support other collectives and organizations, such as, Self Help Graphics, Metabolic Studios, Homeboy Industries/Homegirl Café and Ovarian Psyco Cycles to name a few. In 1999, several members of MdM collaborated and supported the Cihuatlatokan, a historic gathering of urban indigenous women that took place in the Angeles National Forest, California. In 2002 and 2004 the proceeds of the Live Art Show were donated to the United Nation's delegates of La Red Xicana Indigena, a network of Indigenous Xicanas from Arizona and California. The 2004 Live Art Show, Danzando Con El Fuego, was a joint effort with Tongues, a queer women of color artist-activist group and magazine, Womyn Image Makers, a collective of urban indigenous women filmmakers, and Mujeres de Maiz.
Since 2004, MdM has supported and continues to collaborate with the following collectives, organizations and or independent businesses, such as, Girls Today Women Tomorrow, Proyecto Jardin, Mariachi Plaza, KPFK-Pacifica Radio, Yerberia Mayahuel, MeCha, California State University Northdrige and Los Angeles (who at these campuses-chicano studies/student groups), California State Park, Just Breath Healing, Self Help Graphics, LiliFlor Studios, Casa0101, East Side Luv, Homeboy Industries/Homegirl Café, Metabolic Studios, Tonali Gallery, Mujer Mercado, South Central Farmers, Primera Taza Coffee House, Casa del Mexicano, Semillas, Ovarian Psyco Cycles, Esteban E. Torres High School and other schools and universities across the Southwest.
Working consistently with many of these artists, organizations, collectives and businesses throughout the years led MdM to include many of them as part of their annual programming. Year after year, MdM offers its Mujer Mercado, a marketplace for female artisans to sell their hand-made art, A Night of Poetry, and a Full Moon Circle, a monthly women’s gathering based on contemporary Indigenous teachings. Although MdM is commonly known for these events, as well as, its annual Live Art Show, Zine, and Exhibit, which has now evolved into a month long art show, today many recognize MdM for its plethora of free events and workshops throughout the month of March that honor the well being of women.
The diversity of these workshops range from acquiring self-defense skills, joining a creative writing circle, learning about alternative healing practices, gardening 101, healthy cooking, herbal hikes to screening outdoor films. This year a new community event was introduced by MdM, Mujer Con Poder, a young woman’s conference in collaboration with Esteban E. Torres High School.
Since its inception in 1997, Mujeres de Maiz have been uniting, organizing and creating rather organically. Inspired by the legacy of women of color feminist writers of the 60's and 70's and the 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, the women of Mujeres de Maiz took destiny into their own hands and created their own sacred space within the larger socially active artist movements of Los Angeles. Bound by their creative spirit of using art as an educational tool for resistance, healing and change, Mujeres de Maiz formed to make visible women's voices. The empowerment gained by Mujeres de Maiz has not only enabled healing, unity, artistic career advances, but has inspired other female collectives across the Southwest, such as Trenzas, Creative Women Unite and the creation of MdM chapters.
Today, Mujeres de Maiz celebrates almost two decades of volunteer service. What began as an open call for submissions has evolved into a inter-cultural, inter-generational, multi-media holistic collective of artists committed to self-empowerment and social justice both locally and on a global level. As Mujeres de Maiz continues to grow, the collective is currently working towards establishing a non-profit status and expanding their programming to a year round cycle of public service.