1,741 Mexican Women Are No Longer With Us

Content note: this post contains reference to extreme violence

Femicide is defined as the murder of women because they are women. 

According to UN Women, this definition applies whether murder is “committed within the family, a domestic partnership, or any other interpersonal relationship, or by anyone in the community, or whether it is perpetrated or tolerated by the state or its agents”.

Femicide is the most severe consequence of gender based violence.

In Mexico, at least 1,741 woman have been victims of femicide in 2017. This statistic comes from geophysicist Maria Salguero, who has been collecting and compiling data in an interactive map showing the geolocations of femicides known to have taken place in the country.

In her map, Salguero has recorded 4,105 cases of femicide to date since January 2004. This data does not include all femicides within that time period, since it only includes information available from google notifications and newspapers. The map represents a huge amount of time, effort and dedication, and I’m very grateful to Maria for all the work she has done. Nonetheless, her map reveals something terrifying, because in reality the numbers are much higher than it is able to show.

In 2016, there were at least 2,099 cases of femicides throughout Mexico. As I’ve shared in previous posts, cases have been almost unbelievably brutal: impaling woman, boiling and cutting breasts, rape and torture, among many other medieval-sounding acts.

There have been 88 femicides so far this year in the state where I live. One took place so close to my house that it made me paranoid for several months. I couldn’t go out without my taser. My friends and I created a WhatsApp group to share our locations when taking taxis or Uber or the metro so that others would know where we were and that we’d arrived safely. I avoided going out at night.

On 15 September, Mara Castillo – a 19-year-old political science student and activist in the fight against gender violence in Mexico – was found dead after a Cabify driver took advantage of her after a night out and never brought her home. She was picked up from a bar 5 blocks from my house. She is now a pin in Maria’s map.

This 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I want to share some heart-breaking statistics from Latin America:

  • Over half of the 25 countries with the highest femicide rates are in the Latin American and Caribbean regions
  • Femicide is considered to be the second leading cause of death of women of reproductive age in Honduras
  • The impunity of femicide crimes is estimated at 77% in El Salvador and Honduras
  • It was the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico – which began in the early 1990s – that led the term ‘femicide’ to be used in mainstream media
  • In 2014, 871 women were victims of acid attacks related to domestic violence in Colombia

This is why we fight. This is why we march. This is why we write.

Maria Salguero’s map documents the age of victims of femicide, their relationship with their murderers, the way they were killed, the location they were found in, and the legal status of the case (whether there has been a prosecution or not).

Please, I urge you to navigate through the map. Read the cases, feel sickened by the numbers, and remember the women who are no longer with us. With every photo or name you see, remind yourself that this is not inevitable, and that we must fight to make it stop.

Being a Woman in Mexico

It starts out when we are kids.

We’re taught that there is no way we can be friends because boys can’t hang out with girls and vice versa. For girls, boys are dumb, and for boys, girls are cry-babies. Later on, it’s not the cooties that divide us, but the ridiculous ideas around gender that society pushes us to believe religiously.

Boys must become ‘macho’. They don’t cry, and they can’t feel anything apart from anger, strength, or arousal. If men make it seem like they are capable of other emotions, like sensitivity or sadness, society immediately admonishes them because they jeopardize our understanding of masculinity.

And at some point, women become objects. Particularly, sexual objects designed for the entertainment of those around us.

According to a study carried out by El Colegio de México on street harassment in Mexico City, about 93% of women declared they had been victims of leering in a public space. The same study unveiled that over 50% of the women interviewed had been touched against their will in a similar scenario. In fact, according to UN Women, 9 out of every 10 women that use public transportation in Mexico City have been harassed during their trip.

And regarding other types of gender-based violence in the country, the numbers don’t get any better.

ADIVAC, a Mexican NGO in charge of assisting sexual-violence survivors, estimates that every 9 minutes an act of sexual violence is committed. In the same report, it is stated that in 2011 over 60% of women older than 15 years-old admitted they were abused at some point in their lives. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that the number of femicides in the country, particularly those in domestic spaces, has remained almost the same since 2007, which pinpoints an unvarying pattern of intimate partner violence.

The fact that many of these crimes go unreported is just as worrying as the rate at which they are happening. The latter is nothing but a direct consequence of our criminal system.

Our authorities and wider society both excel at victim blaming. If you get cat-called it is because you dressed provocatively. If your partner mistreats you it is because you have not been a good companion. If you get raped it is because you paved the way for it to happen. Even if you are murdered, they will find a way to put the blame on you.

Amidst the horrifying statistics, have you ever wondered, “what is it like to be a woman in Mexico?”.

Being a woman in Mexico is familiarizing yourself with the short and vulgar vocabulary of cat-callers and memorizing the routes where you’re most likely to come across them so you can avoid them. It is tweeting #NiUnaMas (not one more) and #SiMeMatan (if they kill me). Being a woman in Mexico is silently hoping you won’t become part of the statistics that tell you that at least five women are killed every day in the country you call home.

But being a woman in Mexico is also finding comfort in people who share your pain or your story. It is going to marches and feeling amazed by how many of you are there. It is constantly discovering new networks or organizations that reclaim women’s rights. It is knowing that for every misogynist comment, there’s going to be a girl who’s got your back and will make sure you don’t fall.

Being a woman in Mexico is people telling you to get used to things you shouldn’t ever get used to because, somehow, it’s always your fault. For women in Mexico, resilience becomes our best coping mechanism and sorority our weapon of choice.

Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Mariana’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world. 

Girls’ Globe is…the Place Where I Belong

I first met Girls’ Globe in New York, a little over a year ago. I was lucky enough to attend the Global Citizen Festival during the United Nations General Assembly Week as one of the Global Young Leaders from Johnson & Johnson.

As one of J&J’s partners, Girls’ Globe was there to document the process and profile the seventeen Young Leaders from around the globe; young people working on empowering projects and representing issues from their communities – issues that inspired them to do more.

I met the Girls’ Globe team – a group of diverse, intelligent and inspiring woman who were there to share our stories, but at the same time, to share their own. I was very interested to learn more about them. How did they become bloggers for this global organization dedicated to inspiring others? I immediately thought: what an incredible project! How can I be a part of it? I remember casually saying, “hey, if you ever need a new blogger, let me know…” but I never actually thought it would happen!

During the week, we took a road trip from New York to New Jersey, and on the way back I was sitting next to Girls’ Globe Founder – Julia Wiklander. Since there was a lot of traffic, we started chatting about our projects and how we wound up where we are.

I told Julia about the time I was counselor of a WiSci (Women in Science) Camp at Peru, an initiative of Girl Up, which is a UN campaign that sees girls from Mexico, the United States, Peru and Chile learning from companies like Google and Intel.

I told her that we had the incredible opportunity to write a few blog posts on Huffington Post about the experience, but also how unfortunate it was that they were posted on Huffington Post Spain, because there was’t a dedicated platform for Latin America (until recently – Huffington Post has since expanded to Mexico). I thought it was a shame because although we share the same language, we have very different realities, and I felt we needed a distinct platform for Latin America.

So I dropped the big question: “Hey, have you thought of translating girlsglobe.org to Spanish?” Without hesitation Julia said: “Oh, I haven’t, but let’s do it!

First, I joined Girls’ Globe as blogger, and the rush of writing my first post about Latin America’s march against gender-based violence was incredibly empowering. Every statistic was painful, but the thought of writing for a global platform about issues specifically affecting my region, my country and of my community kept me going. I was going to be able to share our pain and our joy, and have other women and men from the world join our fight.

I was (and I still am) talking about Girls’ Globe everywhere. We now have several active bloggers from Latin America. We’re adding content about our region, and that is a major victory.

One of the major challenges is something for which I have to applaud the Latin American bloggers: writing and expressing themselves in another language. One of our big goals for the future is to be able to translate content on girlsglobe.org – not only into Spanish, but Portuguese too – as by doing so we will be able to elevate more girls and young women from the region who feel more comfortable writing in their native language.

And so this is a love letter to girlsglobe.org. Girls’ Globe has given me a place where I can raise my voice, without fear and without censure, and for that I will be forever grateful. It has given me the opportunity to bring more women on board to join this unique community and give them a space to express themselves about issues that matter to them. Girls’ Globe is a place where we can all belong.

Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Girls’ Globe is crowdfunding to be able to keep raising voices in 2018. Please support us so that we can continue to share our stories and reach every corner of the world! If you are a Latin American reader and are interested in becoming a blogger, please feel free to leave a comment. 

Día de Muertos: Remembering the Unborn

Día de Muertos, or ‘Day of the Dead’, is one of Mexico’s greatest traditions. Starting on the last day of October and ending on 2 November, the Day of the Dead stands as an ancient tradition to celebrate death and the return of the dead – which our ancestors understood to be part of the duality of life. When the Spaniards colonized our lands, existing celebrations of death fused with Catholisism and created what we know today as Día de Muertos.

We celebrate those who have left this world, but, somehow, still feel as if they are here with us. We honor them with an altar, at which we place photographs of our beloved ones who have passed away along with things they used to enjoy in life. From their favorite drink, to their hobbies, food or music of choice; we celebrate their life and share a night of fun with them in both the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Less well-known is the process to set the altar in line with indigenous traditions. The dates vary from region to region, but from October 28th, specific days are set to honor:

  • Those who died in an accident or very suddenly
  • The drowned
  • The forgotten souls – those without family to remember them
  • Those who were never born or were never baptized
  • Children
  • Adults

On October 31st, my group of friends and I gathered as we do every Tuesday. However, this time it was with the purpose of sharing energies at the end of one month, welcoming the new one, and setting the altar for our dead.

In my family’s history there have been several miscarriages, so I don’t have pictures or anything to set in front of the altar. No favorite food, no favorite music, no favorite blanket. My family and I never knew the babies, but we remind them with love that we count them as part of the family. Without consciously knowing, I dedicated my altar to them, and the next day I found out that October 31st was the day for ‘the ones who were never born’. I felt a chill run down my spine.

I told my friends about this, and we shared stories of women who have had miscarriages or abortions. We talked about how often miscarriages and abortions happen and yet how little we talk about the women affected and their processes for dealing with it. We acknowledged the many different forms the process might take; some women don’t want to share their story, some carry sorrow, some see it as a part of nature, some seek support groups to cope, to name just a few.

One of our friends is an anthropologist, and she always has incredible stories about women from different contexts and cultures. She told us one that I want to share:

The Nahua people – indigenous people from the central region of Mexico – have a vision of the human being as part of the cosmos. They believe that pain, suffering, death and sickness are all consequences of the cosmos. They have different gods, and one of them is Apanchaneh or Chalchiuhtlicue – ‘Woman of the Water’ or ‘Mermaid’ (Sirena in Spanish). Nahua women who have miscarried or decided to ‘secretly’ end their pregnancy throw their foetuses into the river, believing them to become ‘mermaid children’ – sons and daughters of the Mermaid who wanted them for herself. With this belief, Nahua women’s understanding of miscarriage or abortion is different to those of other cultures. Nahua woman know that what happened wasn’t their fault, or their bodies’ fault: it was the Woman of the Water who asked for those children.

These past few days have been magical for me. My friends and I have created rituals to reconnect with ourselves and everything that surround us: the dead and the living. We shared stories, music and new traditions. We have taught each other things that have helped each other grow. Our sorority has become stronger during the festivities as we have shared in knowledge and love.