Cancun & Puerto Morelos

Celebrating Women in Education: Lizbeth Peña

Cancun resident Liz shares her thoughts on what it takes to make a difference as a woman in today’s society

I first met Lizbeth about 10 years ago at the International Writer’s House in Bacalar. We were starting our own Reading Rooms at the time, mine in Cozumel, hers in Cancun. I lost track of her until social media re-connected us a few years ago. I was happy to see she never stopped her Reading Room project.

You moved from one coastal city (Acapulco) to another (Cancun), what brought you here?

I came here as a child in 1995. My mom was delighted by the (still small) city and wanted us to grow up in a much safer and cleaner environment, with no earthquakes, no hawkers bothering people on the beach, no crowded, noisy buses.

Besides the Reading Room Tlacuila, what other projects are you working on?

So many. I’m teaching narrative and literature in Cancun’s Technological Institute (ITC) and also in the British College High School. I’m studying again, this time foreign languages and some other diplomats and certifications concerning teaching and literature.

Is it easy to do all these activities as a woman in a male-dominated society?

I had a colleague who once told me that I was very good at what I do, but they preferred men to do the job because she has a prejudice that men do it better. On the other hand, many women have gathered together to support each other. I think that’s the best we can do in a situation like this – promote programs to protect women from violence and discrimination and enforce those already existing.  

On a personal level, I think we have to be careful with mottos like: “Women can do everything”. Most of these bumper sticker phrases end up like frustrating, empty slogans. To really make a difference it takes more than that: discipline and effort. Also, we must learn how to prioritize what we really want and create mutual respect networks that will be the base of a new fairer society.

How will you support International Women’s Day?

In past years I was part of collective readings and music festivals celebrating this date, but this time I want to take it a step further: a reading room for women. Reading can provoke constant self-taught inner changes much more effectively than oral advice or self-help publications. In the end it all comes down to changing ourselves first before trying to change our environment.  

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