Women of Juarez art

18 Aug

I wrote about the unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico a few months ago. Over 400 young women to date have been killed in the booming border town, home to dozens of corporations’ factories.  Their stories have been memorialized in novels, films, and other art, but artist Andrea Arroyo has chosen a different way to draw attention to the women of Juarez.

Arroyo has created over 200 chalk drawings so far and intends to dedicate a piece to each victim.  The drawings, white chalk on black paper, are intended to “create a tribute to the women and celebrate their lives” (Womensenews.com).  The stark effect is supposed to be reminiscent of police chalk outlines of bodies and the large scale of the project is haunting.  Since the bodies were often dismembered, (evidence that the criminals specifically targeted women are the bodies with breasts and reproductive organs mutilated) the drawings often focus on just one body part.

Though artists have created work based on the murders before, Arroyo’s work is significant to me because of this quote:

“As I thought about the theme, I was increasingly intrigued by the idea that these women died before their full potential was realized, and that each victim may have become a modern day Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks or Frida Kahlo.” 

These murders have received so little attention in the mainstream media and by Mexican and American authorities.  I believe one reason is that these girls’ (I use the word ‘girl’ instead of ‘woman’ here because so many victims were young teenagers) lives are seen as expendable: they are poor, uneducated, and their labor in the maquiladoras is easily replaced.  But that doesn’t mean they are unintelligent or didn’t have goals.  Who knows what talents these girls had or could have developed if given the chance?

The attitude of women’s self worth defined only by their bodies is present everywhere, but particularly in women of color, immigrants or not.  Arroyo attempts to debunk this myth with her work; I hope other prominent forces will follow her example.  Until the murders stop and are solved, the victims deserve continued attention. 

Photos: womansenews.com

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