From an enraged Mexican woman

Cal in Color

Photo of Marina Román Cantú

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This was the first year I couldn’t be in Mexico for the International Women’s Day march, breaking my five-year streak. FOMO was a big thing for me this past Tuesday. 

Call it culture shock, but it was a weird experience having people congratulate me because of International Women’s Day. “Happy International Women’s Day” is not something you can say in Mexico, and if you do say it, all you’re going to get are weird looks and maybe even a scolding. For us Mexican women, March 8 is a day of commemoration — but not celebration. There’s little to celebrate when 10 women are dying because of feminicidios every single day in Mexico. 

On Tuesday, I attended the “Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights” protest that started near Sproul Hall. The protest was the closest thing to the march I usually attend back home. From people dressed in monarch butterfly costumes to high schoolers who walked out of their classes, we all rallied against the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade. 

Seeing green bandanas among some of the attendees made me homesick. That symbol carries so much political power in Latin America — it’s a sign of solidarity with Marea Verde, the Latin American movement that has campaigned for women’s right to abortion since the early 2000s. I missed the chants in Spanish and the sense of community of the protests back home. 

While we were Downtown, I realized what an immense privilege it is to rally for abortion rights as a main cause of protest. I thought of my mom and how radically different the march she was about to attend would be. In her march, there’d only be women allowed (since men are not allowed in feminist protests in Mexico), ready to destroy monuments and burn everything to the ground in an attempt to seek justice for the women we’ve lost to normalized, gender-based violence. You could even notice these radical differences in the smallest of things. For instance, UC Berkeley students marched with signs reading “My body, my choice”; back home, my mom’s sign read, “Violence leaves marks, ignoring them leaves feminicidios.”

Women in Mexico not only need to rally for access to safe and legal abortion, but they also continue to tirelessly march for their lives. Mexican women protest for their rights to live a violence-free life, and sometimes, they protest to just be able to not be killed. 

Last week, in one of my gender and women’s studies classes, we reviewed the massive gender violence crisis along the United States-Mexico border that arose in the late 1990s. Now, 30 years later, that same crisis has spread out to the whole country. 

During class, we watched “Señorita Extraviada,” a documentary on the relationship between maquiladoras — factories operating in Mexico owned by foreign companies — and the violence against the Mexican women who work in them. This documentary was made 20 years ago, yet it shows the cruelest realities of being a woman in Mexico even in the present day.

I’m familiar with the border. I’m a fronteriza; I’ve lived near the United States-Mexico border almost my entire life. The numbers and statistics don’t surprise me anymore. As news headlines and missing women pamphlets overflow my feed, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed — yet numb. 

As I sat in class watching the documentary, I realized how desensitized I was to the cruelty against women occurring in my own country. As sad as it sounds, I guess that’s what happens when something so horrific becomes a simple aspect of reality: I internalized it and accepted it because I didn’t know any better. 

It wasn’t until the end of the film, when I saw my classmates’ eyes filled with tears, that I realized most people are not used to being exposed to such an explicit depiction of violence, let alone accustomed to it. Watching that documentary allowed me, for the first time, to disassociate from my own background and experiences and see that the reality Mexican women inhabit cannot continue. Thank God we’re enraged — we deserve better. 

Toward the end of the class, when the professor asked for our opinions regarding the documentary, one of my classmates spoke up about how sad what we’d just watched was. She could barely form a sentence through her tears and ended up walking out of class. 

At first, I didn’t understand why I was irritated by her response. It wasn’t fair to be annoyed by her reaction; she had no clue about what was happening down the border until this class. And that’s when it hit me: My classmate had the privilege of walking out of that classroom and deciding whether or not to forget about what she just saw. For her, feminicidios and other violent crimes against Mexican women are merely just another case study seen in a lecture. For me, and millions of Mexican women, there’s no way of dissociating those “horror stories” from our own realities.

Marina Román writes the Friday column on being a person of color at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected], or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.