Something Unexpected on International Women’s Day

Photo taken by the author in Mérida Mexico

On my first night in Mérida Mexico I stumbled upon two groups of people that couldn’t have been further apart. The larger was comprised of thousands of women and girls. All dressed in black. The other group was also dressed in black … but they were carrying guns and riot gear.

It was the evening of International Women’s Day and the sheer number of participants was astonishing. I would guess in the thousands. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand the potential police response. Not being from Mexico, I didn’t have a lot of history to fall back on.

We watched the main group in Parque de Santa Ana for some time that night. Lots of cheering and chanting. And at the time I just assumed that it was a celebration. I was wrong.

The next day while wandering around the city, looking for things to film for my YouTube channel, I saw the aftermath of the park. It was absolutely covered in painted graffiti. Signs were strewn everywhere and there were hundreds of black and white photos strung up between the trees.

Photo taken by the author in Mérida Mexico

It became apparent very quickly that the message wasn’t just one of empowerment, but one of anguish. These women were standing up for sexual and reproductive rights.

Recently Amnesty International reported this on their website:

Mexican authorities repressed women who were peacefully protesting against gender-based violence in 2020, violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by using unnecessary and excessive force, arbitrary detentions and even sexual violence.

We personally didn’t see any signs of that occurring this year in Mérida, but officers and riot squads were definitely present in what I assume was more of an attempt to intimidate than to enforce safety.

The signs and graffiti mostly told a tale of “Boys Being Boys”. Rapists and sexual predators being allowed to either walk free or to be given minimum punishment by authorities. The photos were just a sample of those that the crowd identified.

As I was standing there in the square, the day after the rally, it was surreal. Quiet. A row of cafes had the usual patrons eating and chatting. A few people were strolling through the park. And the messages plastered everywhere stood in grim silence to what had been screamed the night before. It seemed so completely out of place.

Photo taken by the author in Mérida Mexico

I’m not hysterical
I’m not menstruating
I scream because they are killing us

My first instinct was to condemn the vandalism. The enormous amount of graffiti that someone was going to have to remove. I couldn’t figure out how to film a segment that spoke to Women’s Rights while standing in the midst of so much debris. So much damage. And then I read the message above … and everything became clear.

Should it be “allowable” for a crowd to damage public property? No, not really. But on the other hand these women have been begging for justice and protection for centuries. Here in Mexico and around the world. And they haven’t been getting it.

Blaming the victims. Looking the other way because the rapist was popular/wealthy/some other insignificant trait. And having men of power dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies. So yes, I understand their anger. I support their pleas and demands. And I can indeed look past the graffiti when the only way for these women’s voices to be heard is for them to move outside what might be considered lawful boundaries.

No one was physically hurt by these women’s actions. The municipality is going to have to spend some unbudgeted funds cleaning it up. But perhaps while they’re doing that they should not see the park as a crime scene, but rather as a pointer to the real ones they have been ignoring.

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