Sequim author to read memoir of Women of Corn
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Judith Pasco, center, visited two Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation scholarship recipients: Yolanda, left, and Juana, along with their nephew Gabriel, in the village of Zinacantan, Mexico, in December.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — As the driving force behind a nonprofit that has flourished beyond her imagining, Judith Pasco of Sequim could have penned a vanity memoir, a tale of St. Judith.

But her new book, published some six years after Pasco formed the Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation, isn't only a tale of triumph. Instead, Somewhere for My Soul to Go: A Place, a Cause, a Legacy is a hardheaded account, filled with arduous travel to Chiapas, the Mexican state bordering Guatemala.

There are also bouts with illness. And downright panic. Pasco tells it all.

And more than halfway through, the Mujeres foundation takes shape: a Sequim-based organization awarding scholarships to high school girls and young women, funding eye examinations and glasses and coordinating Saturday enrichment programs for children.

Pasco will give readings from Somewhere for My Soul to Go this spring, including a book-launch party from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Olympic Cellars, 255410 U.S. Highway 101. At the winery just east of Port Angeles, Pasco will read short passages from the book and offer copies for sale and signing.

Born of the journals Pasco kept through her many trips through southern Mexico, Somewhere for My Soul to Go is a personal journey that is not without its low points.

In the “Best-laid Plans: 2003” chapter, Pasco writes of one Chiapas trip that was supposed to comprise three months of volunteer work.

“I was all set. And excited. And nervous,” she writes. “I was no spring chicken. I was 55 as I made my plans.”

She sets out, flying from Seattle to Houston to Mexico City to Oaxaca. Then she boards a bus for what would become a nearly 20-hour trip to San Cristobal, Chiapas.

Things don't go well from there.

After a series of events, including a bad fall in the street, Pasco suffers from panic attacks. She emails her husband, Bob, back in Sequim, to tell him she's coming home after just a couple of weeks.

“Bob responded quickly,” she wrote, “entreating me to wait a bit, to get some rest and see if I felt like
staying. . . .

“El Dia de los Muertos [the Day of the Dead celebration, Nov. 1-2] was only two weeks away, and hadn't I always wanted to experience this holiday?”

Pasco did get some rest, and stayed a few more weeks.

Back home, “I still felt like I had returned with my tail between my legs,” she writes.

But those feelings passed.

“I found that no one seemed to think the less of me for trying and failing.”

Pasco tried again; she's been traveling to Chiapas ever since.

Mujeres de Maiz, named after a women's sewing and weaving cooperative in the villages surrounding San Cristobal, became a registered nonprofit in
early 2006.

Pasco writes about the process of building trust with the women and girls, and of how Mujeres is devoted to helping women help their own communities. She also offers a crash course in the problems the women face: violence, domestic and political, plagues the women.

So does discrimination against women and the indigenous Mayas, she writes. The Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation addresses these things one girl and one young woman at a time.

“Every kid counts,” said Pasco, who taught Spanish at Sequim High School for 15 years before retiring in 2007.

“If you just want the big numbers,” she said, “you'll get discouraged and thwarted.”

Board members

But Mujeres, whose board of directors includes local residents Mary Norton, Steve Gilchrist, Martha Rudersdorf, Molly Rivard, Sandy Reed, Linda Finch and Cathy Van Ruhan, has thrived.

Fundraisers such as the Mexican breakfast earlier this month at the Sequim Prairie Grange bring in a little at a time.

Other events, such as the Men with Guitars concert in early May and the El Dia de los Muertos dinner in the fall, also fund the Mujeres scholarships.

Mujeres de Maiz recently received support from the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club, which donated $1,000 to the Saturday children's program in Ocosingo, another village in Chiapas.

Pasco explained the Mujeres de Maiz — women of corn — name by retelling a Mexican legend.

The creator, Heart of the Sky, made man out of mud, but the experiment was less than successful, since mud beings were lopsided and couldn't turn their heads. In another attempt, the creator used corn and cornmeal, and the resultant beings had flesh and blood and a heart with feeling.

So not only were people created from corn, but corn is the single most important food in Maya culture; no Mayan house is complete, Pasco writes, without the milpa, or corn patch in the yard.

Somewhere for My Soul to Go is available for $18 at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., Port Angeles, and at Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St. in Sequim.

Pasco will be on hand at Pacific Mist during the First Friday Art Walk from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 3.

She will be the featured author at Rainshadow Coffee Roasting Co., 157 W. Cedar St., Sequim, in the Fourth Friday Reading on May 24 and at the Writers' Workshoppe, 234 Taylor St., Port Townsend, at 7 p.m. June 19.

To find out more about the book and the Mujeres foundation, visit www.MujeresdeMaizOF.org or phone 360-683-8979.



Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 25. 2013 6:08PM
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