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Housework-weary Mexican women strike

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MEXICO CITY — Banging spoons against pots, hundreds of women marched down a main boulevard in Mexico City on Friday to demand men share domestic chores and to publicize a one-day household work stoppage.

The protesters — maids, farmers, housewives and professional workers — demanded the government ban sexist depictions of "women's work" from textbooks and calculate the value of household work into in official economic figures.

"No woman should lift a finger on July 22," said Dunia Rodriguez Garcia, one of the organizers of the march and Saturday's work stoppage. Rodriguez Garcia did not offer an estimate on how many women would take part in the strike, first held in 1999.

July 22 was designated International Housework Day by the 1995 U.N. international women's conference in Beijing

A few men showed up at the march carrying placards reading "I'm ready to share the housework."

"I help my girlfriend with the chores," said Luis Cela de la Vega, a 30-year-old retail employee. "This idea that men don't have to work in the house is a very deep-rooted."

"We have to work in the fields, work another job to make ends meet, and then come home and do everything at home," said Blanca Reina, who farms potatoes and alfalfa in Milpa Alta, one of Mexico City's few rural precincts.

"Our husbands only work one job, and they don't bring home much money from it," said Reina. "But they have the right to relax, while we don't have the right to feel tired."

Studies by Mexico City's Program for Equal Participation of Women have shown Mexican men are among the least likely to do housework among Latin American countries, although an increasing percentage of Mexican women work outside the home.

For the estimated 1.7 million maids who work in Mexico City homes, respect for housework is also a class issue.

"There are a lot of disrespectful names used for maids, so we consulted our members and decided they should be called 'home employees'," said Gaudencia Valdez, of La Esperanza, a maids' association.

"Home employees don't get health care, benefits, or vacation," Valdez said. "Our work must be recognized as being equal to any other kind of job."