Magaly Castillo

Nicaragua, in exile in Catalonia

Feminist activism and popular theatre for the defense of human rights
Feministas Autoconvocadas
Articulación de Movimientos Sociales de Nicaragua

She is a Nicaraguan feminist activist. She graduated in Psychology and is an actress and drama instructor. She grew up in a poor area of Estelí, a city in North Nicaragua. When she was a teenager, she experienced multiple kinds of violence (discrimination, exclusion, sexual harassment and assault, etc.), and she chose activism to face them.
When she was 14, she started taking part in youth and feminists organisations. For instance, she took part in radio programmes and theatre plays at the Estelí Youth Centre to promote sexual education and youth engagement. Thanks to these experiences, she realised the potential of popular theatre and feminism to build new realities.

Having graduated in International Relations from the University of El Salvador and holding a Master’s Degree in Local Development, Quijano is part of the Feminist Collective’s San Salvador team. She coordinates issues related to youth and sexual and reproductive rights.

With other young women, on 2015 she started the theatre company Las Amapolas, which aimed to be a “space to gather, heal, think critically and reflect from a feminist perspective”, says Castillo. The company was a reference for women in the city and brought powerful female characters to all kinds of stages.

The Nicaraguan turmoil started on Spring last year forced Castillo to leave her country. On June 2018 she arrived in Catalonia. Here she is a member of Feministas Autoconvocadas, a group of Catalan and Nicaraguan feminist women who give visibility to the right violations taking place in the Central American country. She also collaborates with Articulación de Movimientos Sociales de Nicaragua and with some self-organised exiled Nicaraguans in Spain.

» Entrevista

> You have found in theatre a tool to speak out and transform.

Being in theatre kind of saved my life. Since I was a young girl, it was a way to overcome the violence I experienced within my family and also, more generally, in the country. Theatre allows me to have a voice and question my reality, and it has been the space where I could call out injustices.

I have been mainly self-taught, but I also took part in experiences and trainings from a feminist and social perspective, where I learned that the goal is resisting and take over the scenic arts, an area we had been banned from. It is here where I, a woman, young, dark-skinned, lower-class, and now an immigrant, can talk, be heard and challenge power.

With regard to the theatre company I took part in, theatre was a place where us, people who had been attacked, could meet and not become just another number on a list. We promoted activism and we dreamed of creating more opportunities for women to speak about all kinds of violence in a safe, supportive, loving and fun space. We implemented shared resistance strategies and feminist financial tools. Our drama research was linked to the daily experience of women around us, which allowed to create magical scenes that showed alternatives, characters who could build tools and move away from complex situations. Our theatre style was about expanding reflective abilities and finding a voice and a stance against the violence underlying our unfair societies.

> Sexist violence leaves a mark on your life path, but also connects you to the feminist movement. What are the key demands of the Nicaraguan feminist movement?

In Nicaragua, for many sexual assault survivors, getting involved in the feminist movement has been a way to save ourselves and promote social justice. Mainly, all feminist organisations and activists demand a life free of violence and having a penal code that protects us against sexist violence.

In 2014 Law 779 regarding violence against women was passed, but the government only used it to improve its international reputation; internally, the law is not operating. Is the feminist and women movement who gives support to victims, provides legal and psychological counselling, protests when there is a feminicide, keeps track and records victims and demands justice. This should be done by the government.

Another demand is repealing the 2016 law penalising abortion, which originated after the deal between Daniel Ortega’s dictatorial regime and the Church. It goes without saying that we also demand freedom of speech –the feminist movement had been persecuted and censored long time before the 2018 crisis–, to stop the persecution of indigenous and African-descendent leaders and land defenders, and to promote a secular and high-quality education.

> The protests started on April 2018 resonated with the feminist movement.

The feminist movement has been long condemning the government corruption and actions, as well as the corporativist economic model that expropriates, exploits and steals left and right. Since 2010, the feminist and women movement, in all of its expressions, has been pressuring and demanding dictator Daniel Ortega’s resignation and the creation of a democratic foundation from where to build the Nicaragua’s state.

> What is the current situation in Nicaragua? *

Nicaraguans are terrified, we are still demanding to not be killed and repressed. 15 months after the social insurrection, our human rights are not guaranteed. Kidnapping goes on and we cannot protest. The unconstitutional terrorism legislation is being used against protesters, who are being accused and arrested; when they have endured months of torture, they are released under an amnesty law.

*This interview took place on July 19th, 2019.