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Ladyfest Paraguay: An email interview with Monica Beatriz Martinez Echeverria from Asuncion

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25° 18' 15.4944" S, 57° 38' 23.1756" W

Please introduce yourself!
Hi! My name’s Monica, I´m a veterinary student at Sao Paulo State University (Brasil) but I´m from Asuncion, paraguayan city in South America. I make part of the collective Riot Grrrls chapter Paraguay, and organized with the collective 3 Ladyfests from Paraguay.


What is your zine “Synthemesco y las Ptitsas Zine” about? What topics do you discuss most often? What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
I started with the idea of making "Synthemesco y las Ptitsas Zine" due to a lack of documents talking about a female scene in Asuncion, and the work of many girl around there, I try to use in my zine our day by day speaking, is not written in such a formal way, cause I write as if I’m talking to you on the streets or in a bar hanging up with everybody. I took the name "Synthemesco y las Ptitsas" from the Anthony Burgess book "Clockwork Orange" (nadsat language) that means "The drugs and the girls", I’m not making any apology to taking drugs, but I wanted to show some of our addictive ways of life based in girls points of views... Girls often show up as submissives ones (at least in my country, but I’m not talking in a general way) the ones that should not go out or hang out with boys, cause you will be seen as a drunk fucked up person that don’t think about the future, that you are hanging up with people and becoming a mess for society, but I don’t think so, streets for me mean a lot, you learn so many things that you wouldn’t even learn in college!!! So, the zines have a mix of culture (books that I like, some history about music, some columns etc.) and I promote in interviews bands with girls on them, or zines made by girls in Paraguay, or some related organizations made by women and a bit of my streets experience as well. I help the girls from our community with another zine called "ña ñe´e igualdad" (Guarani and spanish translation for "Lets Talk About equality") but we have not worked on a new issue because of lack of time, and because I live in Brazil right now and the other girls have their studies too, so it was kind of difficult to find some time and make the zine all together, I tried to mix not just feminism issues but some subjects referred to urban tribes, art, music. So I decided to make kind of a personal zine with my views, cause “ña ñe´e igualdad” is more like a group based zine. I can’t continue with “ña ñe´e igualdad” all by myself, and I don’t think is fair too cause my point of view can affect the entire group if they are not well seen... I don’t know, I think people just don’t get my point of view or something hahhaha. The zine is written in spanish.

Do you publish also other zines?
Yes, as I said, I help in "Ña ñe´e igualdad zine", I run another one about animal liberation called "La libertad esta en la jaula" (Freedom is in a cage), just some D.I.Y copy/pasted designed about animal rights and promoting vegetarianism as a way of liberation. Our next goal is to make a new zine (international one) about subcultures involving girls, the zine name is "SUBCULTURAL GRRRLS" and I’m running it with another girl from Paraguay. I wrote about our scene in other zines from Sweden and Romania as well, which was nice to write.

For how long have you been running your zine(s) now?
It’s really new; I’ve started to write in June of this year... The other ones I have started 2006 or something like that, I don’t remember quite well the date.

How do you work as a collective on the zine or are there individuals who publish zines?
There are some people who publish zines in my country some of them don’t make zines anymore or I don’t know when they are going to make a next issue, but I think that I’m working with all of them by putting my piece to strengthen the scene.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them?
OH! I was 16/17 or something like that, at a punk show in a skatepark, where I saw a zine, it was about punk music. I wanted to know what was that about and I just had a look at it, and liked it... I didn’t read through it, cause it was a friend of mine that showed it to me. It was really interesting and funny as well, it has comics and stuff. Time passed by after that and I found another punks/anarquists zine. After that, my first experience with making them was with “ña ñe´e igualdad”, we didn’t even know what to write!!! But we had to do it; we had a lot of things to say!!!!!!!!! And so we did, and it was nice to show the zine to other girls and talk with them to see how they like it, some of them did like it while others just didn’t, we used those critics to make the zine better everyday... It was a good thing that they didn’t like our firsts issues, cause you learn from it to get better as I said... I think any first issue has always a wrong thing... and that’s good.

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
First of all I define myself as Monica, simple as that, then comes the rest but Monica is a part of feminism and feminism is a part of Monica. Feminism is like a puzzle, where you have to unite every piece of it or things will not be organized, and that is where we take part. What I hate the most is that some people in my country don’t know the real concept of feminism. They believe it is synonymous with "machismo", and I’m tired of telling the real meaning of it but they’re so stubborn you know? They don’t want to know the real meaning, they don’t open up. My country has some traditional roots in family matters, and between them the MACHO MAN always shows up... In Asuncion that is something that maybe I don’t see anymore, but in some of my family members as uncles and aunties I DO! Religion plays a strong role as well, so being a submissive girl can take you to heaven... I hate that SO HELP ME GOD!... we need to smash patriarchy out of Paraguay (and more in the country side), not just out of the capital or main cities.

How do you relate to the riot grrrl movement? Are you part of a riot grrrl chapter (that also produces a zine?)
Well, I got to know the movement through the punk rock scene and I always liked punk rock music, but I didn’t know so much about punk rock made by girls. When I decided to look for more information about this, I found this riot grrrls information and as I didn’t see anything related in Paraguay I’ve decided to open a website for this in 2004, and so we got into action (however our community is not just based on punk rock girls or music), and yes, RGPy produces zines, “ña ñe´e igualdad”.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
I hope that people like it, read it and start something like a mind revolution to realize some things they didn’t even think about before, spreading the word or sharing some ideas with other girls who are thinking in similar ways but who had never the idea to take action and how to take action. I hope to encourage some people to make zines too, and my principal objective is to leave it as a document in libraries and stuff. I hope it last forever; they have lots of history inside.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
I like to stay in contact with others, and I love to contact people who really deserve to be interviewed and make they’re ideas to be known as well. I like it when people say they read what I wrote and felt identified with that. Its really challenging, cause you need time and maybe money to do that... I think that is every zinester problem... hahah that’s normal.

What are some of the zines you read and admire?
WOW! That´s like telling me to put five of my favorite bands or something like that, cause I don’t have favorites, I like them all... and that’s the same with zines. I have a blog where I put some reviews of them (not just feminist, but in general, every zine is welcome, and I read them and I realize that they are all so good!!!!!! Everyone just put what he or she thinks, showing us information that we don’t know, showing us the underground side of life!!! And I do admire all of that!!! I admire zines in general because they’re independent from the media and it is a kind of difficult information that you won’t ever see on normal media and mainstream stuff... I like them from the ugliest one to the nicest one... it’s ART!!! It’s CULTURE! And a big one! Zines are a bomb for any government or a bomb for any ignorant people that use prejudices to judge. You know what I mean? I don’t know how to criticize a zine in a bad way because I think everyone has his point of view, and I am no the one who say that other jobs are just bullshit but I can always criticize in a constructive way to help them if I can.

I am very interested in zines in different countries. Could you please describe a little bit the (grrrl) zine community or network in Paraguay? Who are some of the most active participants and do you stand in contact with them? Do you feel part of a local or transnational zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
Well, let me talk right now about the “ña ñe´e igualdad” zine, the one from our collective. It was born due to a necessity of showing up what we feel and think of what is surrounding us… The first issue opened some doors to us. Showing this document to everyone else just made them more curious about what we were working for… It was real fun making it, everyone cutting magazines, pasting in papers, making collages etc. The name was elected by ballot in the meetings we were making, there were about 15 people that day, and everyone thought of a name and wrote it down, then, we put those names on a paper and decided which one has more votes. The result: there was a tie between “ña ñe´e ” and “igualdad”, so everyone decided that it should be called “ña ñe´e igualdad”, here in Paraguay we speak Guarani (native language) and Spanish so, we thought it was a fair name for it. We are always about seven girls (more active) the rest shows up if we need something like Ladyfest support or maybe they are busy and they can’t come to the meetings etc. I feel part of it, wherever I am. With this I´ve realized that I can do anything that I want to do in any aspect of my life. It is really encouraging and you can pass on that feeling to another one. It carries a positive energy.

Do you consider zines as an important part of a social movement? Do you think feminist zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?
I consider zines as bombs actually, and zinesters are the terrorist of a parallel world. Yes, they can change the way of view of everyone else… just by passing the information a battle is won. It depends on who is reading your zine, whether you can change their mind a little bit, well that little bit can cause a big effect later (like a butterfly effect).

What role does the Internet play for you in relation to your zine?
A nice one, right now I can make a zine in Brazil and show it to Paraguay (as a main target) and take the information as fast as I can, it’s a great tool if you know how to use it.


On your web site you mention that 3 Ladyfests have already taken place in Asuncion, Paraguay, and that another one is in the planning. You call these festivals KuñaFests. How did these KuñaFests come about and what does the name mean?
As I said before, we speak two official languages in Paraguay, so Kuña means women, lady…When we decided to make a Ladyfest we thought of the name “KUÑA FEST” just to give a Paraguayan sense, so everyone would get the idea about a kuña fest without looking in a dictionary what “lady” stands for, for those that don’t speak English… I remember that this name was born in a forum, in our older website that went down because of Microsoft issues… that sucked! A big time! There was written a lot of our history since the time we started…

Can you please tell me the dates when the three Kuña fests took place?
The first one took place in 07/22/2006, the 2nd one in 10/13/2007 and the 3rd one in 11/18/2007.

How did you originally hear about Ladyfest? Can you tell us about your first experience of attending a Ladyfest event? Can you tell us about the process of organising a Ladyfest/KuñaFest? How did you do it?
One of the first one I’ve heard about was the Brazilian Ladyfest in SaoPaulo, I was there one day when someone gave me a flyer about a Ladyfest. I got really curious about it but I didn’t get to go that day.
My first experience attending one was the greatest thing that ever happened to me! I learned a lot, we were starting from zero just to give you an idea, there was not almost any band with girls in Paraguay, no one knew about our goals so we had to go to every show in Asuncion (Metal, punk, hardcore, or just any rock show around) with some informative flyers of who we were and still are. To get the money, we donated some of our own cds, pins, patches, stickers and things like that to make a raffle and get the money to print flyers and posters from our first kuña fest… To find the bands we looked for friends who knew someone in a band with a girl playing there, we couldn’t start with the idea of making a pure feminist gig, cause there were no girls in the bands!!!! But! Our hope wasn’t dead, cause we did find some!!! But none of them were known, or have even played in another show before, so we were quite afraid to lose money (a lot of money to get the sound equipment), that was a challenge! So we had to invite one band (boy band) that supported our cause bringing their audience to know what we do. Meanwhile, I was invited to perform as a vocalist in another band… I loved the idea, but I didn’t know if I was going to be good at that, but fuck that! I don’t care about “music” in a melodic/rhythmic way; I didn’t even know how to sing! I just wanted to scream what I have inside so we blew things up with our band!!!! The result: 200 people in the first one, in a cultural center and museum from Paraguay called Manzana de la Rivera (2006).

What significance does Ladyfest/KuñaFest have for you (and has this changed over the years)? Why did you decide to become involved as an organiser (or participant)?
It has a strong significance. I really believe in the power of being able to do anything we decide to do as long as we’re UNITED. We wanted to get involved because we had an urge to activate things we wanted to see in Paraguay as well. If it doesn’t exist why don’t you do it yourself… and so we did.

What does do-it-yourself (DIY) mean to you, and was this part of your Ladyfest?
Absolutely, D.I.Y was the main part of it, for the first one we didn’t need anybody to sponsor us, we did it ourselves and we succeeded! That happened with the second kuña fest as well. The third one was a little special cause it was called “kuña fest 2 and a half” cause it was a month after the second one, and we were invited to show our work in another city from Paraguay called Encarnacion in a meeting of feminist from all over the country. A great meeting!!! I see D.I.Y as a part of my entire life, if you want to succeed, then do it yourself! That’s like a force that I have inside of me without needing anyone else to do it for me, and if you unite those forces WOWWW!!! Just expect the result, they´re awesome ones!

Do you collaborate with alternative spaces/venues for your Ladyfest/KuñaFest? How?
We were working lately with cultural centers, feminist spaces, feminist libraries, organizations and things like that as well as we were working with them on their respective activities by participating and giving them a little of our own support.

How did your host city and/or country affect what kind of Ladyfest event you have organised (in terms of topics, existing networks, community support, policies, etc…)?
It affected a lot (in my opinion) because a lot of the girls started to have a support by others, they saw other girls on stage so they wanted to do the same thing too, we weren’t closed minded and many girls from many subcultures started to appear as well giving us all their enthusiasm with this. It has changed the way of some feminist organization by doing their activities, cause now they have an idea for their activities… A lot of similar festivals appeared in Asuncion after our first kuñafests, from metal to rock in general.

Did the boundaries between organizers, participants, and audience members become blurred or challenged during your festival? How? Is this important for events like Ladyfest?
Well some of the people from the audience just criticize in a bad way what we were doing. I remember a band with a girl, and they were Christians, we supported them cause there was a girl playing with them as well as another all-girl band with Christians ideas. Many of the audience thought that we were on their side and that we supported their religious ideas, maybe I do have something against religion, but that wasn’t a fundament to tell them not to play in the first kuña fest… I think that in those cases my opinion didn’t have much importance, but I stood there on the microphone talking about religion and how that affect women through patriarchy and telling my ideas… I was just expressing myself when I had two sides against me at the show, the ones that thought that kuña fest was a religious gig and the other Christians that were mad at me because of what I said on the microphone, ahhaha that was confusing but just some of them understood our ideas to make a show to promote the female presence as well. In the second one, we stood on the door giving the tickets to get in and things like that, many of them wanted to get in for free, is not so easy to organize these types of events, so we couldn’t make a free show. The place was small so everyone was complaining about how small it was, for the second time, people didn’t want to see our ideas, they just wanted to see a big space, with the best sound ever!... All of them wanted to find an excuse to tell you that your festival sucked! But it didn’t cause we got like 250 people this time, we were growing. For the third one we were invited to show our work to a lot of feminists… they just loved our job! And it was great perfoming for them. The fourth one is coming (it is the fourth but is gonna be called “KUÑAFEST III” because the third one was called “2 and a half”) and this time we got money support from these entities, so it would be easier to call more people to see it… All these happenings are important, cause we´re in a process of learning, we´re still new with this, but every year we´re trying to make things better, and maybe next time we can call other grrrls from Brazil (LadyFest), Argentina (Bela Dona) or Chile (Femme Fest) and why not grrrls from Europe as well.

Have you got to know many other people locally or internationally by being involved in Ladyfest/Kuña fest? How do you see the networking aspect of Ladyfest/Kuña fest?
I got to know many other organizations from it, many of them didn't even know about ladyfests and stuff or Kuña fest as well, and they were amazed with all of this, I see it really important cause in being unite we can make a better job as well as we can share information easier.

What role does the Internet play for you in relation to KuñaFest?
I think it is good to make some “propaganda” (lol), but it’s a great tool for diffusion and things like that. I don’t like the internet sometimes, cause I think I´m staying here sitting… doing nothing (but actually I´m making a lot of things), I like to do the work with my own hand, and talking to people face to face that’s what I´m trying to say. I miss those days when you could go outside giving flyers etc… now it´s everything about the internet… I´m kinda nostalgic though.

What role do social networking sites (such as facebook, myspace, youtube) play for you in the organization of Kuña fest?
They´re a great tool, we don't need to pay so much for making posters or flyers anymore cause you can get in contact very fast with the people who are interested and talk to them as well as you can explain what you are doing and things like that, even though I miss those days flyeiring around cause if somebody was interested you could get in touch face to face, I´m kinda nostalgic.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of “Third Wave Feminism” and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not? How does Ladyfest relate to your feminism?
I see myself as a third wave, it means to show all my potential and just being happy for being a woman and fighting for what still is not right, but there are still some issues that have to be well conceptualized, or we are going to be all mad here! There might be some differences with the older ladies about some issues… or other “radical feminist”.

How many women were/are involved in organizing the Kuña fest? What are their backgrounds in terms of age, education, occupation, studies, interests...?
There are about 15 girls that help with the organization, but the most active ones are about seven girls ranging from 18 to 26 years old, all of them are studying at college at the moment (journalism, arquitecture, graphic design, sound engineering), some of them are working as free lancers or promoters... but I think we all have the same "rock" interest, or music interest.

Do you have a women-only or a transgender-inclusive policy?
Transgender inclusive

Do you see Ladyfest as having links to other social movements? (i.e. women’s rights, queer, anti-capitalism, riot grrrl, etc?) Is Ladyfest a movement?
I see more the Riot Grrrls as a movement than the Ladyfest, Ladyfest is just one activity. Yes, I can see the link in those social movements, cause you can mix all that in just one night festival, in any way.

Do you have a critique of Ladyfest? In your opinion, how can Ladyfest evolve?
Is there a boy band with feminist lyrics? If there is one just let me know!!! I want them in our kuña fest!!!!!!!!!! What I’m trying to say is that sometimes maybe Ladyfest can become a cool place to play, but no one is watching the idea of promoting it, the same as bands, there are girls that don’t like any feminist stuff or things like that, they hate that word, but they´re playing at a Ladyfest because they have bands… so I think it is kinda empty if you´re not supporting at all the ideas.

What practical advice can you give to someone wanting to organise a feminist event/festival?
DO IT! If you can’t find anything in your country make it yourself! Call everyone, make meetings! Don’t forget to unite everyone!!! Meet new people, meet new girls that want to work, call your friend, send emails, make a website, call attention, knock the doors, make some flyers, make a zine, and make a dream come true, it is really exciting making all those things, don’t be afraid of making any mistakes! Don’t be afraid of being criticized! Use all that in your favor!!!!

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?
My personal ones?! Getting as far as I can all by myself!… I have positive mental attitudes ;)

Would you like to add anything? (or tell us about projects that came out of your zines or Ladyfest for you)?
I think I’ve told everything I needed to say, but still, I’m fighting for a scene right now, not just one that wants to appear or pose, NO! One fulfilled with ideals through a nice fight for our rights. Paraguay now has girl bands as many other countries, a thing that we couldn’t find 4 years ago… but now I think that some objectives have to be settled down, and not organise a Ladyfest as a trendy show as any other, but organise a Ladyfest with strong potential, ideals and tradition, and expand all of this, and make this event a two days festival as well (in Paraguay).
I really appreciate this interview and the space that you’re giving to us as a collective, I hope that other grrrls around the world can come to Paraguay some day, our sisters worldwide are welcome!!!!! Paraguay is a nice and friendly little country. Thank you so much for this.

Monica Beatriz Martinez Echeverria
Elke Zobl
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