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Originating in garment-worker protests in 1857, the IWD March has been a tradition throughout the 20th century, as women protest their right to "bread and roses": sustenance and quality of life. Women all over the globe have been marching since 1977, when the U.N. declared March 8 the global day of women's rights and international peace.

Saturday, March 8, 10am
Begins at Elmendorf Park, 4400 W. Commerce, ends two miles later at Guadalupe Plaza, 1300 Guadalupe Street, with speeches and rallies.

San Antonio's march, set for Saturday, March 8, promises to be more peaceful than its bellicose ruskie predecessor. In the headquarters of Fuerza Unida, a grassroots organization formed in 1990 to combat the injustices of jeans giant Levi-Strauss and Co., women from all walks of life gather around folding tables to plan this year's International Women's Day March. In San Antonio, the feminist movement, which historically has been maligned as being the province of the educated white middle-class, takes on a different dimension. As novena candles blaze in the nearby Virgen de Guadalupe altar, the activist-veterans of Fuerza Unida, the peaceCENTER, and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center swap promotion strategies with white businesswomen from the North Side.

Including the young, the old, and women of color in the day's activities is a priority for these organizers. As Deborah Vasquez, of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, explains: "Equality doesn't exist ... especially for women of historically marginalized groups."

The function of the IWD march is symbolic for some participants: In a world where machismo cultures routinely relegate feminine voices to the kitchen, the opportunity to appear in public bearing placards is a unique chance for self-expression and solidarity among other women. Petra Mata and Viola Casabes, Fuerza Unida's leading ladies, explain that the march is a chance for the community of working-class women to express how they feel: "We want a voice in this world."

"Mujeres Unidas Por La Paz" is the theme of this year's event, and peace "in the home, in cities, and the world" is the goal for these women. The impending war with Iraq is the impetus for the theme: a conflict whose bloody toll will be exacted in the lives of the minorities and the poor who comprise the bulk of American ground troops. The working-class Latina mothers have a unique reason to promote paz, as Viola Casabes observes: "It'll be our sons going to war."

This is the second year for the San Antonio version of the march, and the organizers hope to top their 300-person debut. Although no one expects Saturday's march to topple Czar Bush's regime or to put an end to the escalating conflicts in the Middle East - you just never know. After all, who would have thought that a bunch of babushka'ed Russian peasant women could send their country into anarchy in less than a week? •

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