Eufrosina Cruz was fed up with the discrimination. The men in the village told her she was not allowed to vote. Last year, the Zapotec woman decided to disobey the town rule prohibiting women from voting and she ran for mayor. Members of the town board, all of whom are men, tore up the ballots that were cast for her.

An AP story carried by the Christian Science Monitor last week describes the interpretation of traditional Zapotec social rules, called usos y costumbres (uses and customs) in the mountain village of Santa Maria Quigolani, Oaxaca State, Mexico. In that village, according to the reporter, the women get up at 4:00 a.m. to clean house, grind corn, gather firewood, care for the children, and prepare food for the day. Even so, the men say they don’t do enough work, so they are not allowed to vote. After all, they are not considered to be citizens.

Although the women of the community are not even allowed to attend the town assemblies, Ms. Cruz wanted to challenge the system and run for mayor. On November 4, 2007, the town board destroyed the ballots that were cast for her, reasoning that since the women were not citizens, Ms. Cruz couldn’t be mayor. The deputy mayor, Valeriano Lopez, in justifying the board’s action, said, “that is the custom here, that only the citizens vote, not the women.”

Ms. Cruz has appealed her case to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. “For me, it’s more like ‘abuse and customs,’” she said. “I am demanding that we, the women of the mountains, have the right to decide our lives, to vote and run for office, because the Constitution says we have these rights.”