Aug 23, 2014

Reclaiming Life from Streets of Death

FSN News: On a recent afternoon, dozens of pretty white handkerchiefs fluttered in the breeze from the fence of the Benito Juarez Monument in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Embroidered in beautiful blue, green and red letters, the words spelled out very ugly messages:

October 13, 2013 Juarez, Chihuahua
A man known as Lucky was executed in Lomas de Poleo…

Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
October 4, 2010

Eileen Armendariz
6 years old
Murdered during a robbery
She was a student of Canutillo School, where she was going with her sister..

And on and on the handkerchiefs went. The display was the work of Bordeamos Por la Paz, or We Stitch for Peace, an international movement of people who meticulously sew socially relevant messages for public viewing. In Mexico, the movement’s goal is “to preserve the memory” of victims of “homicides, femicides and forced disappearance,” said local activist Hazel Davalos. Every second Sunday, activists exhibit the handkerchiefs at the Benito Juarez Monument, she added.

Davalos’ colleague, Madga Rojero, elaborated on Bordeamos Por la Paz’s goal. “It is to construct a memory,” she said. “Every dead or disappeared person has a right to be on a handkerchief. It’s a silent protest. It’s an act of love.”

The handkerchiefs selected for display at the monument document the fates of Mexicans, some named and some anonymous, who fell victim to violence during the last few years. They were cops, gang-bangers, hamburger sellers,  students fathers, sons, daughters and mothers. Many of the cases are from 2010- an especially violent year among many- and most happened in Ciudad Juarez or elsewhere in the state of Chihuahua.

A few other samples:

Jimenez, Chihuahua
October 16, 2010
2 people decapitated…

Urique, Chihuahua
October 4, 2010
6 men murdered with firearms..2 are minors

January 30, 2010
Victims of Villas de Salvarcar (Ciudad Juarez)
Jaime Rosales Cisneros, 42-contractor-saw hit men blocking off the street and ran toward the party where his son was but was shot in the back.

“He died shot in the back but managed to save his son.”

Rojero considers the handkerchiefs a small contribution in the reconstruction of a shattered social fabric, and a tool for teaching future generations not to repeat the mistakes of previous ones. “Every little grain of sand makes a difference,” she told Frontera NorteSur. “I can’t allow my heart to stop.”

Bordeamos Por la Paz’s handkerchiefs are not the only visual social messages that occupy public space in Ciudad Juarez. In July, women from across Mexico and South America converged on the border city for Feminem 2014, an event dedicated to opposing war and gender violence/oppression through urban art and other creative forms of expression.

As part of the encounter, women painted a block-long mural on Vicente Guerrero Avenue directly across from the Benito Juarez Monument. A striking image of an indigenous woman holding a flower rises from the center of the artwork on a busy street. “From Brazil with Love,” reads one message signed in Portuguese.

Other writings painted on the new mural protest the murder and disappearance of women: The “Not One More” phrase that has become the slogan of the international anti-femicide movement is joined “We Want Them Alive” and the poetic “I miss your breath that turns into a desert.”

In Ciudad Juarez, the artwork and accompanying words are not abstract representations. The mural stands one block down the street from the Allende High School, a private school where several female victims of disappearance and murder once attended.

While Feminem 2014 was in progress, the artist/activists transported their pain and paint to other sections of the city as well.

Very close to the downtown Cathedral on September 16 Avenue, which is nearing re-completion as a pedestrian walkway, the same messages as the ones on the Vicente Guerrero Avenue mural also appear on concrete barriers, one of which is right around the corner from the Hotel Plaza where Dutch tourist Hester van Nierop was murdered in 1998.

Downtown is the zone where dozens of young women have vanished over the years, many later turning up murdered at mass burial sites; new and old missing posters that plaster the streets testify to an ongoing issue that’s left a searing wound in Juarense society.

One of the most recent posters, or pesquias as they are called in Spanish, is for 23-year-old Iliana Carrillo, a U.S. citizen residing in Ciudad Juarez who was reported missing after she left her home in the Bellavista neighborhood for work early on the afternoon of July 31 of this year.

Alicia Andares, who was a participant in Feminem 2014, penned an essay on the event for the Spanish-language website Andares placed the Ciudad Juarez gathering in a global context:

“The social fabric has been eroded, destroyed and broken by a technology of war that is more powerful and sophisticated all the time. And the erosion, destruction, rupture and war that is provoked in modern society now is not  able to be narrated, and it is difficult to admit, to feel, to understand. In the entire country-and the whole world-we are becoming closer witnesses to the degree of stupidity, cruelty and impunity that the rapacious powers are capable of coming to…”

For Andares, art is a collective and non-commercial response to an unjust death and the silencing of peoples. Feminem 2014 she wrote, allowed the flowering of urban art in a city whose “heart wanted to be caressed.”

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

No comments:

Post a Comment