Worldwide Womenbeings: Exclusive Interview with Elisa Blázquez
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I studied Information Science with a major in Journalism at the Complutense University of Madrid. I don’t really know why I chose this area of study and not another since women around me and the same age as me were all choosing Nursing or Teaching and, to be honest I didn’t really know what this was about. Many years later, I started a second cycle of studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Extremadura and ended up not finishing it. I was disappointed at the university system at the time as it was more based on class attendance and memory retention than on shared learning. My first job was at HOY whose director at the time assured he did not want women in his team.
After that I wrote for the Cope, Hoja del Lunes and El País, in Badajoz where we used to live.
Then I became part of the Spanish National Radio. Once the territorial center of TVE in Extremadura opened I requested a transfer and went to the Information Unit of Cáceres where I have worked for 24 years until I left with an early retirement.
My job has allowed me to be in all kinds of environment without the need to fit in. And I’ve also been lucky that I’ve found myself in the right place and at the right time. One great example of that was when I was on holidays in Washington D.C. as the attack in the Twin Towers in New York happened: as the air communications closed I stayed there longer than expected and the company sent me to Pennsylvania first and then to New York to support the local team who were not very aware of the magnitude of the event. A few days letter, Letizia Ortiz, a RTVE reporter arrived. After some time it became known she was going to marry the prince of Spain and we laughed a lot about the situation as a friend commented: “If she is going to be the queen, Elisa, you are an Empress because you were here before”.
I was the first female president (in the area I live) for the Association of Journalists of Cáceres, I co-authored a book with Marce Solís, for the Official School of the Ministry of Industry. It is titled ‘Cultural Management: Opportunities and Employment Opportunities’ and is mainly for the Master students of this school. The preparation of this study, took me throughout the country for one year in order to interview 15 entrepreneurs who had created created a culture around their way of living.
Nowadays, after the early retirement, I dedicate my time to causes I consider fair. I actively collaborate with Cáceres’ Refugees Platform and I am always available to help in topics related to Gender Equality.
I am also part of the group of Artists and Workers of the World. Under that name we have made performances and installations in the Contemporary Art Fair of Foro Sur and in many other places in the area. One of the exhibitions we created, entitled “Señales para nuevos tiempos” has been used, and toured throughout Spain, as a way to create and demand visibility to the LGBT movement. We have been left with the idea that life is funnier if you fill it with performances and since then I have turned my birthday into a peculiar celebration. I have done “la primera communion” (the first communion), a “wedding” with myself (before it was trendy) and the “perfect body funeral”, where all my friends spoke fondly of me so I could enjoy their words while alive.
These performances gained a more serious note on the to the Platform for Refugees and we have made two demonstrations with suitcases, a symbol of loneliness and the tragic exodus of so many people who flee with their belongings reduced to that small container. We also set up a refugee camp with tents, cardboards and thermal blankets in the Plaza Mayor de Cáceres, bringing attention to the harsh living conditions suffered by displaced people in the refugee camps.
For some time, I was in charge of the café-theater Parrápolis. There were theatre performances, monologues, charity galas, drag queen contests, zombie parties, literary talks, poetry recitals, musical concerts, storytelling events and even the national presentation of the Mongolia Magazine.
I am also interested in photography and I participated in the Expo-Pop exhibition. I took a picture of the ex-president of Extremadura Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, that went around Spain and received an horde of both criticism and enthusiasm. Ibarra himself, who is in the photo with a tattoo of a perfume advertisement, asked me for the picture as he wanted to keep it. I am sure he received it since it came out in his memoir book without mentioning me as the author or thanking me back for the picture.
A couple of years later we created as a character of the Duchess of Alba, who came to the inauguration and took off my painting with the intention of buying it, along with a puppy created by my partner from Artists and Workers Marce Solís. Neither of us wanted to sell it, and we gave it to her, on the condition that she would allow us to visit her palace, to which she delightedly agreed. She extended the invitation, which in the beginning was only for the two of us, to all of the participants of the exhibition, and together we went to the Palace of Liria, in Madrid, where we had a private guide on closed areas to the public.
Then we had an aperitif with her, in her fantastic library, where she has documents of great literary and historical value. I laid on a couch, among photos of the Duchess’s with her children or Felipe González. I’ve tuned that image and hung a Republican flag behind me. It’s the photo I usually congratulate my friends on networks every April 14th.
Strangely, since that exhibition, which was a resounding success thanks to the whim of Cayetana for my work and Marce’s, we were excluded by the organisation of the Expo-Pop from participating in the new editions. We don’t know why.
The preretirement has also given me the idea to write a novel “La mujer que se casó consigo misma” -The woman who married herself – It is the story of a woman who gets divorced in her fifties and discovers that her life as a “Neosoltera” – single again – is much better than she expected. In a cheerful mood, I tell the story of her immersion in the world of Internet flirting and her adventures, which she shares with a group of friends called “Las San Viernes”. It is, in my opinion, a hymn to freedom and joy at any time in life. This book was recently published and had way more success than I anticipated.
How was it like to be a female journalist? Did you ever felt left aside or discredited?
It is funny that I never felt discriminated against, until with some perspective, I reflected on many events of my life and thought about them. I will have to say yes. For example, I started collaborating with the newspaper Diario Hoy, back in the early 80’s. We were three women pioneers in the field, three good professionals, however, they wouldn’t sign us a contract, but would sing contracts with other people (men). After that I came to know the director. At that time, Antonio González Conejero, said publicly and clearly that he did not want women in his newspaper. It was his own loss.
What kind of projects are you interested in? Can you tell us about some of the projects you already developed?
I am learning a little bit of everything and I am a master of nothing, I am interested in almost any issue that speople bring my way, as long as it has a social nuance or that it is amusing to me.
From my career as a journalist I remember that my passion was the articles about people, the interviews with simple people full of wisdom.
Regarding photography and street art, my membership of Artists and Workers of the World has allowed me to contribute to several projects. Among other “interventions”, we surrounded a bullring with red to symbolise the blood that bullfighters spill. We have covered a bridge with flowers, to commemorate the the Mental Health Awareness day. We filled it with phrases of love, expressed by the neighbours themselves, the balconies of a depressed neighborhood in Cáceres. We made a curtain with 25.000 condoms in an Event Against AIDS. We spent three days behind a showcase doing normal chores… All of this with the help of my friends and family, with minimum resources and great results.
Another activity I enjoy is to travelling and telling my adventures on social media. I give a very different overview of the cities I visit, whether I go sightseeing, or develop a series of projects to help Mozambique.
How did the idea of making a photographic exhibition of “El encanto de la mujer madura” arise?
It was very simple. When I ordered the cover of my novel “La mujer que se casó consigo misma”, the person who designed it, Javier Remedios, after reading it, thought of Emmanuelle and so was the final result.
When I saw the film, I thought of my friends, all of them mature and beautiful, each one with their own style. I immediately thought that they, who are the real protagonists of the novel, with our jokes, our memories and our experiences, were the perfect models. In a world that raises altars to youth, we wanted to vindicate the beauty of maturity. The photos have no retouching, they were taken on the terrace of my house, at different times, when each one could spend half an hour of their daily tasks. They are also made with a phone, there is no first-class equipment, no lights, no make-up artists, no post production. Just them, ordinary women. In half an hour, they would take a coffee with me and pose without shame, because at this age we are aware of our power and our joy of living.
The story is also a tribute to one of our friends, who was hurt by cancer. She was the first to pose and the one who wanted to do it on bare chest, showing her scar. Serenely, with the conviction that life gives you, you shouldn’t have to hide it, but accept it and move forward.
It is not the first time I have my friends doing photographic performances. Last 8th of March we photographed us all as the model from the poster “we can do it”, we used some yellow cards and wore a denim shirt, then we posted the pictures on our Facebook profiles.
How have people reacted to this project? What kind of feedback have you received?
We’ve had all sorts of reactions: people to whom it seems wonderful that we are able to portray ourselves without shame and be sexy; and others who consider the photos tacky or of bad taste and who only see the morbid.
Same as with that “we can do it” photo, which received many friendly comments but also some very aggressive one.
In these cases, I answer with one of my favorite phrases: “Well, so what?”
Do you expect to do this project with more women?
This particular one is over, but there will be more, of course, as soon as I have another idea.
What is the message you want to convey with “El encanto de la mujer madura“?
The message is very simple, any woman at any age is precious. We do not have to hide wrinkles, sagging, or fat rolls or illnesses, because beauty standards say so.
What about plans for the future? Can we expect more initiatives of this kind or do you plan to engage in other areas?
No idea so far. But whatever life brings my way.
Do you have some a message that you want to transmit to women who have an interest in doing the same type of projects?
I do not like giving advice, but if there is a message is that I can transmit is that I firmly believe that the time has come for women to act as we want, without molds or corsets to trap us under the politically correct, and the role we have always been expected to perform.
And to young women, stop body shaming yourselves, and, work for real equality, and a world where female values are as important as the male ones, a world where we do not have to apply male tactics to reach positions of power, because the patriarchy does not work. Society continues to have the same problems it has had over the centuries: wars, conflicts, and power struggles and I am convinced that the values traditionally attributed to women can be the remedy for so much pain.
See some more of Elisa’s work here:
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