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Thousands of feminists march in Mexico City: ‘I am scared to simply be a woman in Mexico’

Protesters hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration on International Women's Day.
Protesters hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration on International Women’s Day on Tuesday in Mexico City.
(Karen Melo / Getty Images)
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Thousands of women took to the streets here Tuesday, demanding an end to gender-based killings they say are rooted in a culture of machismo and urging the government do more to protect them.

“Not one more assassination!” they chanted as they marched down Paseo de la Reforma, pumping their fists.

A typical sign they carried: “I march because I’m alive and I don’t know for how long.”

The feminist movement has been gaining ground across Latin America in recent years. The protest, held on International Women’s Day, focused on femicide — a term used to describe the killing of women because of their gender.

The Mexican government logged 1,006 such homicides last year, up from 978 in 2020. Activists say the real numbers are higher.

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A 2021 report by Amnesty International on femicide in the state of Mexico found that authorities often failed to conduct tests to determine whether a victim had also been sexually assaulted, a factor in classifying a killing as a femicide.

Adriel Vazquez, 20, marched wearing a white dress that she had stained with red paint, symbolizing what she described as “the blood that has run through Mexico that no one has paid attention to.”

“We are tired of this,” said Vazquez, who studies psychology and industrial design at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “I am scared to go out every day. I am scared to simply be a woman in Mexico.”

Leslie Garin, a 25-year-old architecture student at the university, said that she began participating in the annual marches after a classmate was killed by her boyfriend several years ago.

“This made me realize it’s ... not only a section of the population,” she said of deadly violence against women. “I think we have to fight for our rights.”

Similar protests were held throughout Mexico and Latin America. In the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende, the water in fountains was dyed red to represent the blood of women who have been killed.

In Argentina, the protests came amid national headlines that a 20-year-old woman had been gang-raped last month in Buenos Aires’ trendy Palermo neighborhood. Elizabeth Gomez Alcorta, the country’s minister of women, gender and diversity, tweeted that the men “aren’t monsters” but people who grew up in a sexist culture.

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“It’s your brother, your neighbor, your father, your son, your friend, your colleague,” she wrote.

The criminal known by the alias “El Uber” is a 24-year-old U.S. citizen, according to Baja California Attorney General Ricardo Iván Carpio.

March 7, 2022

Feminist collectives in Mexico have grown increasingly confrontational during protests in recent years, with activists vandalizing monuments and buildings.

In the spring of 2020, a series of killings in Mexico City, including the murder of a 7-year-old girl, fueled a massive protest that ended in clashes with police.

Months later, activists stormed the National Human Rights Commission, ripping paintings of revolutionary heroes off the walls and covering the facade with anti-police slogans and posters commemorating women who were killed or disappeared.

In the days before Tuesday’s march in Mexico City, officials erected barriers in front of government buildings, including the national palace, as President Andr´es Manuel López Obrador warned that women intent on attacking his government were arming themselves with hammers and preparing Molotov cocktails.

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“That’s not defending women, that’s not even feminism,” he said. “It’s a reactionary conservative position against us, against the politics of transformation,” as he calls his administration’s political agenda.

Hundreds of female police walked alongside the protesters. That didn’t prevent activists whose faces were covered with black cloth from spray-painting government statues with the gender symbol for women.

Once the procession reached the Zocalo, the city’s central square, protesters banged against metal barricades in front of the National Palace and lighted small bonfires.

“AMLO, don’t be afraid of us!” they shouted, using the president’s initials. “AMLO, you are a liar! You don’t care about women!”

Mothers who said their daughters were killed were given microphones to share their testimony.

“You’re not alone,” the audience chanted.

Activists said their tactics are justified in a country where those who kill women are rarely held accountable.

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“The city seems more important than women,” said a 24-year-old woman holding a can of spray paint who declined to give her name.

She motioned to the buildings around her. “Is all of this more important than me?”

Special correspondent Cecilia Sánchez in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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