CONTENT WARNING: violence against women
The first three months of 2020 marked some of the highest-ever recorded numbers of femicide in Mexico: in just a little over two months, 267 women were murdered. In February the nation was traumatized by three consecutive horrible and brutal murders of young women (including a 7-year-old girl), leading to weeks-long riots in Mexico City calling attention to the issues of impunity, gender-based violence, and femicide in Mexico and Latin America as a whole.
Several weeks later on International Women's Day (March 8th 2020), mass protest marches took over the streets across the nation, when thousands of women made public their rage, fear, demands, and most importantly their solidarity with each other. The following day, there was a national labor strike and boycott that cost the Mexican economy billions of pesos throughout the course of the day.
I put a rose against the wall of the graveyard, beside hundreds of others on the altar. Candles illuminated countless names and crosses that spanned the entirety of the wall. Every flower represented a womxn who had either been murdered or was missing, all victims of gender-based violence. Behind me was the roar of thousands of women, muxes¹, and children, who had taken to the streets in protest of the increasing number of sisters, daughters, and friends who have gone missing, the fear they feel every day to be next, and the indifference shown by the Mexican government. No men were allowed to participate in the march. The percussion of pots and pans banging and the echoing of chants vibrated through the pavement. Almost everyone was shielded with sunglasses, scarves and bandanas hiding their faces. A sea of womxn spanned as far as the eye could see.
As we moved through our camino with the force and power of a great storm, women in droves pulled out concealed spray paint and stencils to defile the walls of the city with denunciations and cries for awareness. Bank windows were smashed, government vehicles demolished, and every wall we passed was marked with the faces of local men–los violadores. The police dared not attempt to stop the masses. They stood and watched from a distance, some of them seemingly understanding of the show of public rage.
Marching through the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico on March 8th for International Women’s Day feels like a lifetime ago. Days before global coronavirus shutdowns, the sweat and tears of others brushed past me in a wave of bodies that flooded the city. In that moment, womxn proved to the state that they hold immense power, and demanded that their pain no longer go unacknowledged.
From Juntas Somos Todas [Together, We Are All] published June 2020 in Works in Progress
The manifestations in Mexico on International Women's Day attracted historical numbers of women, in countless cities across the nation and the world. The march that happened in the city center of Oaxaca was just one part of an ongoing international movement against violence against women, felt especially in the countries of Latin America where women suffer some of the highest rates of femicide and gender-based violence in the world.
The pandemic has only made things worse in many cases, with victims of domestic violence forced into confinement with their abusers, and access to support systems limited or overwhelmed. Public health officials of the Mexican government held and educational press conference about these increased risks and created hotline numbers for emergency situations, but it is not and has not been enough to make a real difference. The Mexican government continues to negate violence against women as a real national issue, and therefore have failed to take tangible steps toward addressing the sources of the problem. In fact, current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said on national television that "women are treated better than ever" during his administration.
Across Mexico, women are demanding better education, justice for the sisters that have been lost, and an end to the impunity that perpetuates these atrocities.
If you want to read more about the International Women's Day protest in Oaxaca, and how the pandemic has affected women and children in domestic violence situations, see the article I co-authored for local (Olympia) volunteer-run newspaper Works in Progress about this topic here.