Voices for the Silenced

Teresa reflects on different landmarks and voices in recent Mexican feminism through the chants, signs, and speeches of Mexican feminist marches in 2019 and 2020.

“We are the voice of those who are no longer with us”. Mexican feminism is a chorus of many voices that seek the same thing: an end to relentless femicide. Our feminism is rooted in a responsibility to ensure that even death will not silence us. As a Mexican feminist living abroad, my duty is to bring the voices of Mexican feminism with me. These are some of the voices that speak for the women who were silenced by femicide:

 

“I have every right to burn and deface (the city), I won’t be asking for permission. I am doing it for my daughter.” Yesenia Zamudio’s daughter is one of the thousands of victims of Mexico’s femicide epidemic. Every day, 10 Mexican women are murdered because of their gender. Despite efforts from Mexican feminists like Marcela Lagarde, who helped introduce femicide as a distinct hate crime into the Mexican penal code, femicidal killers rarely face justice. To be born and raised a girl in Mexico is to carry the fearful weight of this reality every day. But when the Mexican president kindly asks that women refrain from protesting their extermination so aggressively, the burden lifts momentarily and women are no longer in fear- they are feared. In unified protest, amongst the defaced statues and burning flags, women found their safety and their rightful catharsis.

 

“Machismo is terrorism.” Many men object to feminist protests in Mexico- we’re being killed too, they say. They’re not wrong: violence has long been a brazen part of the Mexican experience for all genders. Daily, the news serves us graphic reminders of the horrific things that happen under the unbothered eyes of the government, leaving us Mexicans desensitised and paranoid at once. Rampant violence in Mexico is the communion of ‘gore capitalism’ and machismo, according to Sayak Valencia, a transfeminist philosopher from Tijuana. She proposes that the capitalist commodification of bodies, working in tandem with hegemonic masculinity have founded Mexico’s violence crisis. What Valencia believes is that femicide is the ultimate expression of a ‘macho gore capitalism’, and that to address the issue of femicide and to dismantle patriarchal systems while embracing a transfeminist approach would bring about the end of Mexico’s violence as a whole.

 

“It was all of us!” When footage of the aggressive protests in November 2019 hit the media, something unexpected happened: feminism in Mexico became mainstream. Even pearl-clutching mothers of the upper-middle class agreed: they too would burn down the city if their daughter was taken. Brujas del Mar, a controversial feminist collective, called on women to join a national strike on the 9th of March 2020. An estimated 22 million women joined forces in one of Mexico’s biggest protests to date. 

 

“Let’s agree to stay alive and keep on fighting, each of us in our own way, our own time, our own world.” Although not expressly a feminist movement, the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN for short) and their radical socialist militant movement have served as a means for indigenous women to fight for the advancement of their rights. In 2018, feminist Zapatistas held an international gathering for ‘fighting women’, a space for women of all origins and identities to share their experiences within a safe space and engage in political, artistic, and cultural discourse. With nearly 8,000 women in attendance, the underlying message of the gathering was one of strong unity: To create a worthwhile feminism is to create a feminism that all women can lay claim to.

 

“We don’t forget nor forgive.” The walls of the Mexican Human Rights Commission have been decorated with feminist phrases since September 2020, when the Okupa black bloc turned the building into a refuge for women. Despite threats from the government, the offices continue to serve as a safe space for women escaping violence. Occupying this space belonging to a government that has failed its women, and transforming it into a community project that can truly serve the people… that’s Mexican activism at its best in my mind. 

“Don’t worry mum, today I’m not walking alone.” The fragmentation of Mexican feminism is in no way surprising; the experience of Mexicans is vastly stratified along the lines of race, religion, class, and geography. The challenge for Mexican feminism will be to continue to find common ground on which to fight the patriarchy and not to allow ourselves to demonise each other for our diversity of perspectives. I’m with Marcela Lagarde when she advocates for a “collective feminism”, one in which activism is informed by academia and where we can draw from shared pain to tackle a shared enemy that is killing 10 of us every day.

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