Mexican women protest violence via art, breastfeeding

Women’s groups have protested at cultural institutions in Mexico City ahead of Monday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Dozens of women painted on a protective barricade around the Angel of Independence monument on the city’s main avenue Sunday while others crocheted purple and pink hearts to string up. The wall was erected after feminists used paint to deface the monument with graffiti in August to decry alleged rapes by police in the capital as well as high rates of murders of women throughout the country.

Farther down Reforma Avenue, at the Museum of Modern Art, women protested the museum’s expulsion last week of a woman who was breastfeeding inside the building by breastfeeding inside the museum themselves.

Holding daughter Coco at her breast, protester Fernanda Herranz said she has felt discriminated against while breastfeeding, such as the time a restaurant employee asked her to breastfeed in the bathroom rather than at the table.

Talia Garcia, a member of the Restorers with Glitter collective, which seeks to document the social messages scrawled on the Angel monument, said the graffiti attack in August put the topic of feminicides on the public agenda in a more forceful way. She said it also was adapting the monument to independence from Spain to carry a message that is relevant for modern times. One graffiti message labels Mexico a “rape state” while another calls it a killer of women.

The August protests were dubbed the “glitter protests” after activists doused the city’s police chief in pink glitter.

“It’s unfortunate that cultural patrimony was damaged, but we’re in a very serious situation,” said Garcia, who is the mother of a 2-year-old girl. “We’re raising our voice for our rights.”

Garcia took turns with other young women to trace their silhouettes on the barricades in postures of strength: fists raised in the air or hands positioned firmly on hips like a super hero. The female figures interlocked arms to show that the women are united in their fight.

Mexico City’s mayor issued a gender alert this week for the capital, meaning that 20 of Mexico’s 31 federal entities now have declared emergencies over feminicides. More peaceful walks by activists and victims’ families have become regular occurrences in the weeks since the rowdy protests in August.

Sitting on steps at the monument, Itzel Espindola knitted purple hearts to be strung along the barricade. She said the hearts are “super-symbolic” because they represent the traditional nurturing role of women as well as the embrace that the artist-activists wish to give victims and their families.

“We need to reconstruct the social fabric,” said Espindola, who has been knitting since she was 6.

At the modern art museum, dozens of women first gathered on the grass outside with babies and toddlers suckling at their breasts, and then entered the building itself.

Ximena Rueda, whose daughter Julieta was happily feeding at her breast, said she felt “indignant” when she heard security guards had removed a breastfeeding mom from an art exhibit under the premise that food and drinks could not be consumed on the premises.

Breastfeeding needs to be normalized as healthy and natural, she said.

“This shame we feel is the thought that breasts are for something sexual and not something as natural as feeding,” Rueda said at a museum that frequently exhibits topless images of women as art.

Museum director Natalia Pollak said there is now a policy that clearly states breastfeeding is allowed anywhere at the museum, which she said seeks to be an inclusive environment that promotes gender equality and serve as an inspiration to other public spaces.