Mexico

Stories of Mi Mexico: Life as a Young Woman in Tepic

In June 2020, Latina Republic was fortunate enough to interview G, a young woman from Tepic, Nayarit, whose testimony was included in Garcia-Ramos’ piece on gender violence and the pandemic in Mexico. Although an integral part of the initial publication, G’s narrative possesses a wealth of density that only her words in their most authentic form could do justice by. 

While articles amplifying issues and folks are impactful, in any sphere of work that connects with people, there is no better, more authentic herald than the individual themselves who live the story. To abide honestly by the mission of Latina Republic, of understanding the United States’ Latin American neighbors one voice at a time, it was only necessary to publish G’s interview in its unabashed entirety. Sadly, her story represents that of millions of young women in Mexico, just like G: synonymous in the fear felt daily, frustration with a justice system that has failed them, and united in the fight for a better future. 

While the complexities and nuances of this lived reality will never be fully captured nor felt by those not who do not experience it, to attentively center and read the voices of Mexican young women, for whom these words transcend the confines of an article, is the best way to begin understanding and, furthermore, empathizing. Through G’s vulnerability, she paves this avenue. This is her story. 

Latina Republic: Thank you for speaking with us about the feminist movement, sexual harassment and femicides in Mexico.  What is your name, and how old are you?

G: Hi, My name is [redacted]. I am from Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. I am 20 years old, and I am a law student at the Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit (UAN) in Tepic, Nayarit. 

LR: What does the feminist movement in Mexico mean to you?  What is your personal role within this movement. How and why are you involved? 

G: Well, it is super important for me to be involved in the feminist movement and in the fight against femicides. In reality, a couple years ago, this was taboo. A topic that was not discussed in Mexico, much less in Nayarit, which is a small state that is filled by small towns.

Obviously, in bigger cities this was a conversation, but not here. For example, I would go out onto the street and I would be harassed; [men] would harass me. There is no way to calmly go out. I have always thought this was something normal.

This happens to all women here, because we are women. Lately, we have summoned a special type of bravery. We have realized that things aren’t okay! And they have never been okay! Regarding femicides, the word femicide, you couldn’t use that word a couple years ago. It didn’t mean anything. It wasn’t a topic discussed in Nayarit.

Truthfully, sexual abuse had never happened to me or to a friend, at least that I know of. Or to my mom, or my grandma, or one of my aunts, by their husbands. Nothing of the sort. My closest experience with this issue has been on the streets. In Mexico, I don’t know about other countries, harassment on the streets is so common.

When you go out, wherever you go, to your university, back from your university, to the store, wherever you go, men will harass you and say things about your body. But, horribly inappropriate and crass comments. The things they say are very obscene. They whistle, they chase, they touch with no consent, and well, obviously, they shouldn’t have any authority over your body. Your body is yours. 

In March, “Un Dia Sin Mujeres” (a day without women) took place. We didn’t go to school, women didn’t go to work, didn’t make meals, didn’t go out, places where women worked didn’t open. At school, they excused our absences. It was a day without women, so that men could understand what a society without us would be like. We didn’t respond to anyone on WhatsApp.

Women felt a lot of backlash about this. 

In reality, I haven’t had anything happen to me that became a definitive moment where I realized, “Oh, yeah, I have to join the movement now.” It is simply the fact that I am a woman. I don’t like how our rights are openly violated, or how people disrespect us. I think this is why I am studying law.

May 29th of this year a classmate from UAN was murdered. She was the victim of a femicide. She was in her house. She was someone I knew, personally, and was one of my boyfriend’s best friends. I interacted with her a couple times, and I always saw her at school. While she was in her home, someone entered, and decided that on that day her life would end. When these things happen, you just get closer to the movement. 

LR: Thank you so much for sharing this. You mention instances where you would be harassed, or you felt unsafe going out, and you took that as normal, but as you said, this should not be normalcy. Can you walk me through a normal day for you, as a student at UAN, what your day looked like, moments in which you felt unsafe, or when fear was real for you, simply because you are a woman?

G: I don’t have a car, so I have to commute to the university via public transit. There’s fear in this routine, be it morning, daytime, or night, literally, whatever hour of the day. This fear that you always have to be turning around to look behind you, that someone could be chasing you.

Going out, wherever you may go, the fear that you will be harassed. They think they are giving you a compliment, but in reality, this is the worst thing that they could say to you: they whistle, they yell things at you, they honk at you.

Speaking of, the university is really close to my house. Walking home is something I have to do daily. I have been followed by men in cars, they’ve told me they would take me home, asking me why a girl like me would be walking alone. You have to be constantly alert. Purchase a knife, pepper spray, a taser, because in reality, you live with the fear that you will be the next one that is found dead, that you’ll disappear, that someone will sexually abuse you. It is a constant fear. 

These are topics that are not spoken of, in regards to Mexico’s social situation. For years, women have been affected by this, so it brings me great joy and pride to be part of the movement. Maybe our grandmothers, our aunts, were not able to speak out or fight, because it was much more difficult for them than it is today.

I do this for me, for my friends, for my family, for my children, my daughters, because I know I don’t want them to live in a country where they have to constantly fear that someone could decide to harm their bodies. 

LR: I was under the impression that ‘Un Dia Sin Mujeres’ was a movement mostly focused on the economic impact that the absence of women would create. Was it something more symbolic, for you? How did you experience the day? 

G: Actually, yes. One of the motives for the movement was to show the economic effects of a day without a woman; to make women’s economic contributions more visible. Whether women work as heads of departments, or as gas station workers, we needed “Un Dia Sin Nosotras” to impact the economy. We also needed society and men to realize that we, too, have a voice. We, too, have power and that we can accomplish many feats. 

We needed them to realize: Oh man, I need something from my wife, she’s not there; oh man, I need something from my teacher, she’s not there; I need something from my classmate, she’s not there. We needed them to imagine what it would be like for all of us to disappear or die. 

LR: Thank you again for your vulnerability and your willingness to share your narrative. My first question after listening to your testimony is, as you go about your day, do you carry any personal weapons? Do they make you feel safer? 

G: I just bought a taser, but in all honesty, it doesn’t make me feel safer or more comfortable.  I feel like any man that could assault me is stronger than me, and even if I fought back, he could grab my arm or I wouldn’t be able to take it out in time. I don’t feel more comfortable or protected just because I am carrying this taser. I feel the same. 

As a form of protest against the daily harassment we face,  a group of students from my university, UAN, made a clothesline were they posted anonymous confessions calling out teachers and students that harass us. For example, we pinned posters with stories of  teachers that have asked us  to do “this,” to pass the exam or, “that” to get full credit on an assignment.

We exposed many professors and students that harassed the women on campus with statements like, “If you don’t go out with me, you won’t pass the class.”

This was a movement that did not result in anybody being held accountable.

Professors continue to get  away with this behavior.  

LR: Can you expand on how the professors’and students’ behaviors you mentioned have impacted your academic/professional life?  

G: At the moment, I have a boyfriend. Honestly, he has been a huge help to me. He accompanies me on public transit, or when I go out. A couple of months ago, when the movement started, my boyfriend got really scared that something would happen to me, or  to his sister, or his mom. So, when I would walk or take public transportation, he told me he would take me to school, back home, and to the gym. He didn’t want me out alone.

If I was going to go out, he told me to let him know so he could take me or pick me up, just so nothing would happen to me. My dad also likes to take me places to make sure I am safe. I can’t imagine what life is like for women who are unable to count on neither their dad nor partners, and have to be alone at night, walk alone in the streets, alone on public transportation.

They are some badass women. This is what they have to do to survive or get to school. Honestly, I can’t put myself in their shoes. An unimaginable strength.

To let my guard down at school, and make new friendships with classmates or professors who are men is also a big fear. You never know when they could take advantage of you at a party, when you’re not fully conscious. Or when a professor might try to make a sexual advance.

Sadly, at the university I attend, it is very common for professors to look at women students a certain way, for them to talk to you inappropriately, for them to ask things of you in return for good grades.

More so in my field of study. In my department, law, is where the majority of professors who are serial harassers/offenders are. It is a constant fear for  us. You feel as if all men could want something from you or do something to you at any given moment.  

This is the clothesline that was exhibited. Students with grievances wrote down what they knew or what had happened to them and we hung them all throughout the university. 

 

Student grievances at UAN clothesline. Image courtesy, G. The sign reads: “The Anaya brothers of law school, are  sexual harassers. You will only get a good grade if you agree to go out with them or agree to provide other favors.”

 

Student grievances at UAN clothesline. Image courtesy, G. The sign reads: “Dr. Sergio Moran requests private meetings to review your grade.”

 

Student grievances at UAN clothesline. Image courtesy, G. The sign reads:  “Miguel Angel Gonzalez Rosales, not only abuses students but also takes advantage of the  minors’ innocence. Signed, “man””

 

Student grievances at UAN clothesline. Image courtesy, G.The sign reads: “Professor  Timoteo Rosales Nanni looks at my breast in class. I caught him through a photo.” Law school academic unit.

 

Many of them, well the majority, have been my educators, and yes, I have been harassed by them. A lot of the comments exposed in the clothesline, I have experienced, too. In one of my classes, I had a professor who was openly misogynistic. He never cared about what female students had to say, or what we thought.

One time on an exam, this professor gave me a 7 [out of 10], even when I had completed the exam perfectly,  because he didn’t want to sign off on an assignment from earlier in the semester. However, he did sign off on the same prior assignments for classmates who were men.

These were cases of male students who actually never showed up to class and would submit egregiously subpar work. He gave them a 9. There are a ton of professors that prefer men. 

LR: My next question touches on the themes of your fight. You mention that you fight for a better Mexico, for your future daughters, in the long and short term, what is the future you envision? What changes do you think Mexico can make? What changes can be made right now? 

G: Well, as a law student and future lawyer, I began to realize the sickening inefficiency of Mexico’s penal system. Of all the institutions, the prosecution centers, are the absolute worst. I can’t even put it into words. They don’t do a good job of seeking justice for the women they are supposed to serve.

In reality, it is not the government’s fault if we are harassed or murdered, it’s societies and of the individual, like how they raise their children. However, when it comes time to create justice or enforce laws, the government is utterly incompetent.

In Diana’s case, it may have been her cousin. There is so much evidence to convict him. However, in many cases where there is pressure from the people, the authorities want to inculpate someone just to get the attention off of them. We don’t trust that they are doing their job with integrity. 

One time I joined a lawyer on her way to the prosecution center, and she told me what I have heard many times before, they never take you seriously. You go to report sexual abuse, physical abuse, or another type of crime and they never take you seriously here in Nayarit, and I would imagine the entirety of Mexico.

You arrive and their body language and facial expressions read: I don’t believe you; they never believe you. They tell you this is normal, that it is surely because you aren’t doing something right. They say it’s because you’re out on the street or working too much. They say it’s because you didn’t feed him. They have that mentality. You may go to press charges, but they don’t believe you.

But they should have to believe you; there shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of proof before the staff starts to judge you.

They don’t believe us; they try to find an easier solution that doesn’t involve taking us seriously.

These offices don’t think about who they’re hiring to serve the public. These are very sensitive charges! They don’t think of the victims as real people. They don’t see how this affects their lives, their family. 

As an example, I want to share this video. A police officer wanted to kill his wife and the staff at the fiscalia told her it was because she was not having sexual relations with him.  The staff at the prosecution centers are incompetent. It’s believable, because it’s Mexico, and this is one of the reasons are a third world country. 

 

POLICÍA DE NAYARIT INTENTA MATAR A SU ESPOSA

Posted by Sentido Común on Sunday, June 7, 2020

 

In the long run, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, I would like to dedicate myself to working in the prosecution center, specifically, in the department that prosecutes violence against women.

I think that most law students want to create change, yet everyone laughs at us because they know what the justice system is like in Mexico– you really can’t change anything. Regardless, in hopes that one day there will be change, we continue doing the work. I am involved because I like to defend the people. If there is an injustice that needs to be brought to the light, we will no longer remain silent.

Some dude can’t just come up and decide to  murder or rape you, be it your husband, cousin, boyfriends, truly, whoever. We will no longer stay silent; we will fight for any and everyone.

Whether we know her, if she our friend or not, whatever age she may be, we are going to fight for her and put pressure on the government until justice is served. Our situation will not remain unresolved. Things cannot remain they way they have always been. 

For example, with what happened to Diana, there were so many people who had never met her. Who never crossed paths with her, nothing of the sort, regardless, the movement for her was very big. There were groups made on WhatsApp, groups on Facebook, that organized a physical and virtual protest.

We were all very moved. #JusticiaParaDiana was trending on Twitter. Photos, collages of her were made and uploaded on social media. All of Mexico, and more so, all of Tepic, was sharing these images.

It was very powerful to see the face of somebody you knew in this way. Somebody you had the chance to cross paths with, chat with. Seeing her everywhere, and knowing that someone decided to end her life, simply because she was a woman, because, truthfully, Diana was the most normal, the sweetest, the most easy-going. She never hurt or did anything to earn this. She was so kind and did not deserve the end she met.

We will keep fighting for her, for Leonila, and for every woman that has been murdered, so that nobody will ever be able to decide when a woman’s life ends, when they can touch a woman without her consent, none of that. We are all united. Ever since what happened to Diana I realized the power we hold to raise a city in a day, to create a protest that big.

Many of us feel, “I would rather die at the hands of a virus, than one day have some dude decide he wants to kill me.”  This is why we are fighting so hard to create justice for Diana. The day of the protest was very difficult, emotionally. Her parents went; her dad spoke. He thanked us for fighting for his daughter, but also recognized that there were so many more women that we also had to fight for. He told us we were very strong and powerful. 

In reality, I don’t think that this will be something that will be resolved in a couple years, the alarming rate of femicides that is, neither at the state or national level. Every day, there’s more stories; they’ve increased you know with the effects of quarantine and the pandemic. There’s been so many cases in Nayarit. The day I found out about Diana was very tough, that she had been murdered, killed the way she was, and deprived of her life.

They were very hard days for those that were close to her, for those that were fortunate enough to know her, and for those that had never even met her. Honestly, it was a horribly sad day. Everyone was sharing so much. Nobody could sleep. We all felt horrible, for the way in which her life ended. Diana did not deserve to have her life end that way, and I don’t think that anyone man or woman does either.

I think that we raised a lot of attention for Diana’s name, Leonila’s name, in the context of all the other women who have also died consequently of a femicide.

Whether we know them or not, we are going to fight for our rights, well, the rights we are supposed to have, but nobody does anything to make sure these are upheld. If one day I were to disappear or something worse were to happen, I know that my friends, family, and other women who never got to know me would show up. I am sure this is the case. So I guess, I do this work for the women that are no longer with us, those that still are, and those that one day could disappear. 

LR: Is the school doing anything for Diana, or in regards to the femicides? Is there any institutional responsibility? Do you feel like UAN cares about your well-being? 

G: Speaking of the clothesline, the school did say they would do something about it.  Unfortunately, some students and I saw the chair of our department, a woman, laughing with a group of professors at one of the handwritten notes. To this day, nothing has been done in regards to the students’ grievances.

The students were not able to accomplish anything. The prosecution center says that they are investigating the issue, but in reality, we all know they are not doing anything.

They only made fun of us, and kept about business as usual. The professors didn’t change. Now that I think about it, one of my professors wanted to justify himself in terms of what had been written about him on the clothesline. HE said he wasn’t like that. He blamed women, and their false allegations. So, I guess the short answer is, no. Nothing has been done about the matter.   

 

 

I also wanted to share this song,  Canción Sin Miedo, which  gives me goosebumps. The day following the murder of Diana, all the women of Tepic went out in our cars and on our rooftops to play this song, accompanied by the banging of pots and pans. You truly could hear us in every corner of the city. I was one neighborhood away from where it started and I could hear everything. The day of the protest, in front of the government palace, we played this song. If you listen to the lyrics, wow. 

In the final part of the song, where the women sing about making the center of the earth shake, that is taken from the national anthem. 

We are just so frustrated of being constantly broken, of others wanting to kidnap us, of others wanting to kill us. We didn’t know before quarantine that seeing Diana at UAN would be the last time we ever saw her.

We didn’t know we would never get the chance to see her again, or run into her in the hallways again, never share a smile with her or a hello. Thinking about it makes me very emotional, ella en los pasillos, que te diera una sonrisa, un saludo. 

LR:  In your opinion, how do you think the movement has changed given the pandemic, the context that we are in. What was that like, and the fact that you had to organize on social media, do you think that made awareness easier?  Do you think this is changing the movement, and what does the future of the movement look like? What are your hopes for the young women that are coming of age in the future generations? 

G: Well, for example, in the beginning there were a lot of folks who would criticize the movement. Women and men that blame the possibilities of a longer quarantine and heightened infections on our protests. That is not how it played out.

In truth, I think we were effective, because people realized that even with a pandemic, whether we’re in quarantine or not, we will go out and fight for the lives stolen from us. Whether it’s the coronavirus, zombies, or whatever. We really do have so much power in unity, and it’s time we brought it to the light. 

I feel that in the future, this movement will be even stronger; that we will truly be able to do something so that we are not  killed, harassed, abused. So that people know that we really do demand and intend to realize true justice. An important factor that I believe detains progress, is the close-minded nature of people in Mexico.

For example, what happened in the United States in Minneapolis with the case of George Floyd, where they had a huge protest, burned everything, broke everything. Here in Mexico, the same people that were saying, “Black Lives Matter” in support of the protests, were the same people condemning the feminist movement in their own country. They were the first people to call us property destroyers, but you can repaint a building, but Diana will never come back. Leonila will never come back. Floyd will never come back. 

 

 

Organizing and going to Diana’s protest, we took a huge risk attending, because of COVID-19, but being a part of this moment was totally worth it. Everyone at the protest was socially distanced; it was beautiful. 

LR: Do you know of any community organizations that are committed to enacting change for women? Some that touch on women’s livelihoods, and the way femicide and domestic violence are intertwined with the life experiences of women in Mexico? 

G:  I remember hearing one called, Brujas. There is one in Nayarit. There is a Facebook group called, Vivas Nos Queremos Todas, and there are like 22,000 women there. They expose if someone was harassed or if there is an abuser. When Diana’s assassination happened, they made WhatsApp groups for individual neighborhoods.

They help us stay alert. It helps a lot, because if I am in the area and a man begins to follow me, I can simply text the group and then nearby women open their homes or offer help. We have to take care of each other.

LR: You mention that you don’t believe change can be accomplished in the short term, and that makes sense. These are systemic issues. There has to be deep, root-level change within society.

G: Well, yes. I don’t think this is something that will change in the foreseeable future. This is something that we will have to keep fighting for, until we get tired. I don’t have any hope for real, effective change within the next three or five years.  It really doesn’t matter if they criticize us for what they call, inappropriate forms of protest. The ways in which they kill women are not appropriate either. So  far, neither speaking with our government  nor creating protective groups have created enough change. Creating groups and protests, mid-pandemic and pursuing some form of justice for Diana empowered us. Literally, we all shared our numbers, made small groups, and then divided within our respective  neighborhoods. We basically did this through Facebook, Twitter and using hashtags for our messages to be heard!  We realized our strength.

 

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Women in Mexico are fighting for and in the hope of creating another world. If G’s story touched you in any way, consider these action items: 

Spreading and Gaining Awareness

Becoming and growing informed is crucial to maintaining allyship with this cause. Below are just a handful of organization dedicated to fighting femicides and gender violence against women in Mexico. Follow them, engage with them, share them, donate to them. 

 

Fundación Vive 100% Mujer Logo. Image courtesy, Fundación Vive 100% Mujer website.

 

Fundación Vive 110% Mujer is a non-profit organization whose objective is to provide support for the defense and advancement of human rights and gender equality. Their tenets also include the awareness of family and gender violence within Mexico. To do so, this organization pushes for the empowerment and personal growth of women and children affected by myriad transgressions, all in an effort to disrupt a cycle of gender inequity. They provide shelter, legal representation, and psychological counseling to women in need, free of charge. Their Facebook is linked here. 

Casa Semillas Logo. Image courtesy, Casa Semillas website.

 

Casa Semillas describes themselves as, “a non-profit organization focused on improving women’s lives in Mexico. We dream of a country where all women, indigenous, mestiza, Black, young, migrant, heterosexual, lesbian, mothers, and students alike, can make their own decisions and have access to health services, a decent job, justice, and happiness.” They provide four unique programs to the women they service, that respectively focus on empowering a unique part of a woman’s holistic self: Body, Work, Identities, Land. Casa Semillas receives donations, and maintains a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube

Fundación Diarq IAP logo. Image courtesy, Fundación Diarq website.

 

Fundacion Diarq is a private organization that champions three areas of help: prevention, detection, and attention to domestic and gender based violence. They offer these services completely free of charge. The organization is working towards a vision of a country where men and women can lead dignified lives, live in harmony, respect one another, and are provided equal opportunities. Their mission is to create a space for the protection and recuperation of the physical and emotional integrity of women and their children who are survivors of domestic or gender violence. Their Facebook can be found here and their Twitter here

Signing Petitions

The petitions included below are made my Mexican women for Mexican women in hopes of increased attention to specific deaths that need more awareness, or to further the fight against femicide.  

This petition is to demand #JusticiaParaDiana, and pushes for progressive legislation around sexual assault that would penalize this offense. 

This petition asks for authorities to investigate the femicide of Nadia Rodriguez, a woman who was shot and killed in March 2020. 

This petition is to highlight the danger that Mexican girls are in, and calls for government action. 

Featured Image, courtesy of G. The image reads: “No, she was not found without life; she was MURDERED, in her own HOME. #JusticiaParaDiana.”

 


Kenia Garcia-Ramos | Pomona College
Kenia is a rising sophomore at Pomona College, where she is double majoring in ChicanX-LatinX Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. Born and raised in Southern California’s Inland Empire, Kenia is the proud daughter of two Mexican immigrants. Her father, from Tepic, Nayarit, and her mother, from Apatzingán, Michoacán, taught her to always honor her roots and brazenly embrace her Xicana identity. In her research, Kenia is most interested in unpacking the framework of ChicanX-LatinX caretaking, within nuanced spheres and contexts. As a Latin American Correspondent, she plans to champion gender-focused and feminist issues, creating space for some of Latin America’s most overlooked livelihoods and narratives to be uplifted. Kenia could not be more excited to contribute to Latina Republic by working in tandem with individual folx and NGO’s to (re)count their stories, as every voice deserves a place to be heard.