News

Feminists Take Over Federal Building in Mexico City and Use Painting as a Weapon

In protest of femicide, the artists painted over portraits of all-male historical figures hanging in the National Human Rights Commission.

MEXICO CITY — On Thursday, September 3, Marcela Aleman and Silvia Castillo entered the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico City (CDNH) and decided not to leave. They had been ignored for too long in trying to seek justice for their children, one who had been raped as a child, the other murdered. In Mexico, where 11 women are murdered a day and where 98% of murders go unsolved, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insists that the movement to stop femicide is nothing but a conspiracy against his administration.

This is what the feminist activist groups #NiUnaMenos and Aequus have been fighting against and why, together with other families of victims of violence including children and seniors, they entered the offices of the CDNH to back up the two mothers last week and have been occupying the building since. After asking all employees to vacate the premises, they got to work, converting the office into a women’s shelter for victims of violence and their families. Already around 100 victims have come to seek lodging and legal counsel.

They also got to painting. They painted over the name of the agency on the front of the building. They painted “We do not forgive or forget.” They painted “Justice.” And they painted, “duuuude, not the wall!!” — a reference to public outrage over the graffiti left in the wake of past feminist protests, an outrage much louder than that over violence against women.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, 04SEPTIEMBRE2020.- De manera pacífica Integrantes del colectivo “Ni una menos México” tomaron la sede de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) ubicada en el Centro Histórico, con el fin de que autoridades correspondientes resuelvan por completo las demandas de varios de familiares de víctimas de abusos. Luego de la reunión con Rosario Piedra Ibarra, presidenta de la CNDH el pasado miércoles, madres llegaron a un acuerdo y dejaron las instalaciones. Esta mañana sólo quedaba al interior del inmueble la señora Silvia Castillo, madre de un joven asesinado en 2019 en San Luis Potosí, pero alrededor de las 13 horas integrantes de diversos grupos feministas que permanecían afuera del edificio, manifestando su solidaridad con los familiares, decidieron ingresar y continuar con la toma. FOTO: ANDREA MURCIA /CUARTOSCURO.COM #fotoperiodismo #fotografas_latam #fotografaslatam #everydaymexico #everydaylatinamerica #fotofeminas #worldphotoagency #womenphotograph #womenstreetphotographers #photojournalist #documentary #cuarentena #coronavirus #everyday_covid19 #covid_19 #coronavirusmexico #México #everyday_covid19 #poylatam #revistapoylatam – – -#covidlatam #mirardistinto @fotografaslatam

A post shared by Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko) on


And then they painted over portraits of all-male historical figures. They adorned them with lipstick, eyeshadow, purple curls, “ACAB,” anarchy symbols, and flowers. They brought the paintings outside of the building, and displayed them in a row, upside down.

The images of the paintings have gone viral. “We never expected it to be such a hit,” the artists said in an interview with photojournalist Andrea Murcia Wednesday night. “It was improvised, we’re just working with what we’ve got around us.” The groups are auctioning off the paintings to fund their shelter. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Insistir, persistir, resistir y nunca desistir. La toma de las instalaciones de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) de la Ciudad de México ha representado un logro y avance a la organización del frente nacional feminista #Niunamenos quienes llegaron para apoyar a las madres de víctimas de desaparición forzada que se mantenían en huelga de hambre en uno de los salones. Aunque sea un avance en tomar los espacios para ser escuchadas aún no lo es para sus casos en espera justicia y esclarecimiento. En la toma hay mujeres de todas edades, niños y algunos hombres familiares de las mujeres de tercera edad. Al llegar no podían creer la alacena con la que cuenta la CNDH: cortes finos, botes de helado, latas de chongos zamoranos, azúcar importada, verdura y fruta de gama alta. Alimentos que hace años los familiares (que también son víctimas) no habían probado por la limitación en gastos de transporte y seguimiento en búsqueda de justicia por su parte. Gastando sus ahorros y el más importante, desgaste emocional. Yesenia, madre de Marichuy, asesinada hace 5 años presuntamente por su maestro de la IPN, dice que ella no entiende cómo sigue viva, la búsqueda de justicia la mantiene de pie. Erika su hija pequeña es víctima de abuso sexual por un familiar. Desde hace tres años su agresor sigue libre y las autoridades han revictimizado a la niña de apenas 10 años. Ha dejado todo y por ahora no tiene casa, creo una línea de muñecas con la que a través de ellas muchas mujeres le han contado su historia. Ella quiere ser recordada por sus muñecas y con ellas sacar adelante a sus hijas. Flor es artista callejera, apoya a la Colectiva feminista y cada noche deleita la pupila con sus actos de fuego y malabarismo. Son mujeres que no quieren dinero, tampoco forman parte de ningún partido político. Les mataron, violaron y desaparecieron a sus hijas. Quieren justicia. La que se les ha sido negada por años.- FOTO :ANDREA MURCIA /CUARTOSCURO.COM – – – – – – – – #fotoperiodismo #fotografas_latam #fotografaslatam #everydaymexico #everydaylatinamerica #fotofeminas #worldphotoagency #niunamenosmexico #womenphotograph #feminismo @fotografaslatam

A post shared by Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko) on


The painting that has gotten the most attention is that of Francisco I. Madero, the 33rd president of Mexico, by an artist who goes by Jomanu Art. He posted in response on his Facebook, “The most outrageous thing is that they believe that losing respect for the characters who made our Mexican history will solve the lack of the kind of government that we all deserve.” 

President López Obrador said at a press conference that he respects all protests but that he does not agree with vandalism, with what the protestors did to the painting. “Whoever knows the story of this social fighter would know that we should have respect for him … he paid for his work with his life. You can’t fight violence with violence.” 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Segundo día de la toma de las instalaciones de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) por el frente Nacional feminista #Niunamenos y familiares de víctimas de desaparición forzada. Ellas piden justicia por las que ya no están, por las desaparecidas, violadas y violentadas. Resistiendo y acuerpandose. 🔥 – – – – – – – – – – #fotoperiodismo #fotografas_latam #fotografaslatam #everydaymexico #everydaylatinamerica #fotofeminas #worldphotoagency #womenphotograph #niunamenosmexico #feminismo #feminist #feminicidio #cndh #womenstreetphotographers #photojournalist #documentary #cuarentena #coronavirus #everyday_covid19 #coronavirusmexico #covid19mexico #covid19 México #everyday_covid19 #poylatam #revistapoylatam FOTO: ANDREA MURCIA /CUARTOSCURO.COM – -#covidlatam #mirardistinto @fotografaslatam

A post shared by Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko) on


In a viral video, one of the mothers leading the takeover, Erika Martinez, observed that the president doesn’t recognize the difference between violence against an inanimate object and human being. She walks in front of the buildings and yells, “This painting, these lips, these flowers were painted by my daughter who was sexually abused when she was seven years old. I want to know how the president is outraged about the painting. Why isn’t he outraged about the abuse of my daughter?”

Later, in a TV interview, she went on to say, “My daughter’s pain cannot be compared with that painting. When my daughter painted that painting, I didn’t hear it scream with fear. It didn’t say no. That painting is not alive. And my daughter, when she was raped, she screamed with fear and she said no. You can’t give more value to something that doesn’t feel than to a little girl who is going to suffer for her whole life.”

Another of the mothers leading the takeover, Yesenia Zamudio, responded in a public statement, “If he doesn’t agree with us painting the painting, I don’t agree with that my daughter was murdered and that for five years nobody has helped me.”


Press access to the takeover has been extremely limited. Most of the images leaving the building have come from photojournalist Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko) who says she has access to these groups, “because [she] was showing up to their tiny protests and actions and meetings and treating them like their stories mattered before they were burning or painting anything.” 

Murcia’s iconic photos from inside the takeover have inspired hundreds of illustrated versions and even T-shirts in just a few days. She may have created icons, but was never out to take the spotlight. “I’m a photojournalist, not an artist. I’m not trying to create images for the likes. I just want the women to see themselves reflected as they are. If they do, then I will feel like my work is complete, I’ll be happy. Nothing else matters to me.” About the paintings, she says: 

We live in such a patriarchal machista country and men were always the heroes of our stories … Specifically with this administration, history is extra symbolic. And now they’re complaining about the damage to the paintings and disrespect to history without talking about who painted on them: women who have been raped, abused. But they’re not victims anymore. And they’re not weak. They’re strong. They are putting their bodies into the movement to create space. Their paintings represent more to me than the original paintings. It’s the new history. The history of women taking up space. We’re not scared anymore. That’s what the paintings represent. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

“Solo una amiga nos falta para hacer la revolución” El número 60 de la calle cuba ubicada en el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México antes CNDH hoy se ha convertido en Casa Refugio Ni Una Menos a 6 días de la toma. El Frente Ni Una Menos, es una organización feminista enfocada en los feminicidios y otras violencias de género. Miles de mujeres de todo el mundo se han solidarizo acuerpando a la resistencia de las encapauchadas. La toma siempre se mantiene en movimiento. Lectura de poesía, denuncias, pintura, baile, personas trayendo víveres, se ven durante el día. La organización entre tantas mujeres se realiza a través del diálogo y de pensarse en la otra y que consecuencia tendrán sus acciones y palabras. Se encuentran cansadas físicamente pero sabiendo que la toma no es para siempre que llegará un momento en que se sumarán más compañeras con las mismas convicciones y que también serán cumplidas sus demandas porque ya no aceptaran menos que justicia y reparación de daño que se les ha sido negado desde siempre.

A post shared by Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko) on

comments (0)