Festival promotes harmony between sexes 

The first time MamaCoAtl saw a woman beaten by her husband, it was as a child in Mexico, and the victim was her own mother.

"I come from a culture where this is so prevalent," she said Sunday as she prepared for San Francisco’s first official recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. "It’s a place where everybody knows at least one person who is a victim of violence in the home."

According to the U.N. Development Fund for Women, one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

Last week alone in San Francisco, police publicized two cases in which men stalked women to their homes. One woman was raped and the other stabbed several times. With the start of the holiday season, a time when domestic violence numbers tend to spike, MamaCoAtl said the conference comes at the right time.

"It gets worse during the holidays," MamaCoAtl said. "Beginning with the turkey celebration and onward, it’s a really dark period."

After the Mission district-based performance artist moved to The City, she thought that bringing the annual event here, which is honored by tens of thousands of people throughout the world, wasn’t such a bad idea.

San Francisco is the first U.S. city to officially adopt the Nov. 25 day of recognition, according to organizers. On Saturday, it began with a healing conference at the Mission Cultural Center, and on Sunday, dancers and acrobats graced the Mission Dance Center.

Nina Serrano, a poet and co-organizer of the weekend’s activities, said she hopes the day of remembrance will grow in popularity like the Mission district’s annual Carnival or Dia de los Muertos.

"This is not a protest," Serrano said. "It’s not against this or against that. It’s about men and women living in harmony."

Maria Conlon practices an alternative healing method that taps the body’s energy sources through movement. She said more than a hundred people came Saturday toheal old wounds — emotional, physical and spiritual.

"Once you move the old energy out, you can move on and forgive," Conlon said. "Once that happens, it’s easier to find a job or get an education."

As for MamaCoAtl’s own personal wound, she called it a seed she was able to nourish into something positive.

"When we are faced with something so personal, we tend to learn more," she said.

bbegin@examiner.com

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Brent Begin

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