Day of the Dead recently took place on the first two days of November in Mexico. Many Americans think this is Mexico’s version of Halloween, but it is actually an important national holiday and celebration that honors the lives of deceased loved ones. However, while some were celebrating Dia de Muertos, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Mexico City for “Dia de Muertas,” or “Day of the Dead Women,” to protest the pervasive violence against women and girls in the country.
On Sunday (Nov. 3), marchers carried more than 100 purple crosses through the capital, each marked with the name of a girl or woman who has been murdered or gone missing. The names of the victims were also written on the surfaces of two larger purple crosses, both of which were carried through the demonstration toward Mexico City’s main square to set up an offering near a massive Day of the Dead altar; according to the Associated Press, the plan was to bolt the two large crosses to the ground at Monument to Mothers, one of the many informal "anti-monuments" that have been built “to commemorate violence, repression and impunity in Mexico.”
The demonstrators, many of whom walked behind large banners and wore purple shirts with photos of the victims, demanded for justice for their loved ones, as well as improved efforts to investigate their cases. As they marched through the streets, the protestors chanted the names of the victims.
"Not one more killed!" they cried. "Our daughters, where are they?"
According to the United Nations, nine women in Mexico, and 12 women in Latin America, die each day at the hands of “femicide,” or the intentional murder of women and girls because of their gender. Latin America is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world; the U.N. reports that 98 percent of gender‑related killings go unprosecuted.
Sunday’s “Dead of the Dead Women” march was organized by Voices of Absence, a group that originated from an online chat and has grown to include more than 100 families. Led by Frida Guerrera, a journalist and an activist, “the organization … pushes prosecutors to investigate cases and helps relatives navigate the judicial process,” the Associated Press reports. She says that protesters were demanding a “real interest” on the part of authorities to address killings of women.
And despite Mexico’s recent efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, Guerrera argues that progress has been slow.
"We march on 'Day of the Dead Women' to take them beyond just the altars," she said. "They did not die of old age or from illness. They were snatched away, they were ripped from their families, and we want them to be seen. May they not remain in the invisibility of Day of the Dead celebrations."
Before the march began, priest and human rights activist Alejandro Solalinde sprinkled holy water over the purple crosses. He said that “society — governments, schools, the news media, churches — have a responsibility to educate people about macho attitudes that remain prevalent.”
"We have to change the cultural patterns,” Solalinde said. “We have to change our vision of gender.”
Similar protests in Mexico took place in 2016, where demonstrators carried pink crosses and left high-heeled shoes to remember murdered women and to stand against sexism, street harassment, and gender-based violence.
Header photo by Elvert Barnes on flickr
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Safire R. Sostre is a freelance journalist with experience in print and digital media. She writes reported profiles and covers news and culture, usually through the lenses of identity and wellness. Their main goal as a writer is to amplify the stories of marginalized voices.