Growing more radical, Mexican feminists seize control of a federal building
Masked demonstrators outside the National Human Rights Commission office in Mexico City, which protesters have been occupying since Sept. 3. (Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)
By Kate Linthicum, Staff Writer, LA Times, Sep. 9, 2020
MEXICO CITY — Dressed in black hoods and armed with spray paint, the women stormed into Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and seized control.
They evicted government workers, ripped paintings of revolutionary heroes from the walls and declared that from now on, the federal building in downtown Mexico City would be a shelter for female victims of violence.
The dramatic takeover last week was the latest in a series of bold actions by feminist collectives in Mexico that have grown increasingly confrontational over the last year.
In a series of demonstrations beginning in August 2019, masked protesters have defaced national monuments, attacked the attorney general’s office and splashed blood-red paint on the doors of the National Palace.
The activists say their tactics are justified in a country where an average of 11 women are slain daily and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, and where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other officials frequently dismiss their demands for protection.
“We’re here so that the whole world will know that in Mexico they kill women and nobody does anything about it,” said Yesenia Zamudio, who is still seeking justice for the slaying of her 19-year-old daughter four years ago.
Zamudio, a member of Not One More Woman, a group that gets its name from a protest movement that emerged in Argentina about five years ago, helped lead the takeover of the human rights commission building on Thursday.
She has been living there since, camped out on cots along with 30 other women and several children.
Gender violence activist Yesenia Zamudio, standing beside an image of her 19-year-old daughter, who was killed in 2016 in a suspected femicide, throws office supplies out a window at the National Human Rights Commission building. (Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)
The activists have transformed the building — covering the facade with anti-police slogans and posters commemorating women who were killed or disappeared. “My friend didn’t die,” each poster says. “She was murdered.”
To the hordes of national news media posted outside 24 hours a day, the activists have showed off the generous cuts of beef that they discovered in the office freezers — proof, they say, that public officials were living the high life.
Freshly adulterated portraits of Mexican historical figures are also on display. In one, Francisco Madero, a leader of the Mexican Revolution who became president and was later assassinated, appears with green eyeliner, red lipstick and purple hair.
Those actions have outraged López Obrador, who has so far resisted sending in police to clear out the activists.
“Of course I don’t like it,” he said at a news conference this week. “How could I like seeing Madero defaced?”
He expressed sympathy for the plight of the activists, but said their strategy of seizing the building was “the wrong way” to protest.
The activists say the president’s focus on property destruction rather than on their demands simply proves their point.
“He thinks a painting has more value than a woman’s life,” said Erika Martinez, who joined the protest movement three years ago after she told police that her 7-year-old daughter had been molested by a relative and authorities refused to act.
She said she had come to the realization that extreme acts of protest were the only effective means of bringing attention to a cause that feminist activists have pushing since the slayings of hundreds of women in the border city of Juarez beginning in the 1990s. ... (continued below)