A British friend asked me if it’s true what he reads in Twitter about violence against women in Mexico, if it’s real that women suffer so much harassment on a daily basis. I have to tell him that it is, there’s no sugar-coating it. A great majority of women have gone through a situation of harassment at least once. But how bad is it?, he asks. What has happened to you? I’ve been grabbed while riding the subway, someone chased me down the street at night, a man locked me inside a storage room but a friend came and got me out. Estarás tan buena (Roughly:You are not that good looking) is the answer one sometimes gets when speaking about this, both from men and women. It has nothing to do with looks. My friend can’t believe his ears. I wish, for a moment, that I lived where he does and found these stories so alien. He wants to know the details, to write about them, to understand #MiPrimerAcoso (My first harassment) and #VivasNosQueremos (We want us alive).
I tell him one story. Just a single one. One of my own.
It was the year the Zapatist Liberation Army came to Mexico City for the first time. My partner, a photographer, and myself, arrived at the Zocalo at dawn to document the arrival of the police force, the attendants and finally the Zapatist Army. By midday the place was packed and we were surrounded by a slowly shifting sea of people. We could hardly lift an elbow. There were so many people that someone fainted next to me and had to be removed held high above everyone’s head like in a 70’s rock concert. While Commander Ramona was giving her speech I felt a fluttering movement right against my back. I looked around. 4 or 5 men were right behind me and they were all listening, or pretending to listen, to the speech. I thought: My mistake. We were there to listen to a proposal of a different way to conduct our country, or so I thought back then. We were among equals, like-minded people, friends, even. Then I felt it once more followed by an unmistakeable moisture dripping down my lower back. This can’t be happening, not here, not now while I’m surrounded by people. I was stunned, couldn’t move a muscle for a while, long enough for whomever did it to vanish. When I looked around there were other people behind me. I told my partner. He was furious. Why didn’t you say something? Why, indeed? When the people around us grasped what had happened they tried to identify who had done it. I think he was long gone by then. Or I hope he was. Someone handed me a black tshirt with a drawing of a Zapatist woman that read: Women for dignity. I took off my soiled shirt and stood there half naked while my partner helped me put the black tshirt on. We were so far into the sea of people that we couldn’t leave. Needless to say I can’t remember the rest of the speech. I was in my early twenties.
It’s been more than a decade since that happened to me and I have to say that things have not improved, if anything they have gotten worse. I have a daughter now and I’m not sure how to go about teaching her to defend herself. I guess I don’t want to. She shouldn’t have to. That’s why today she walks with me.
I write this in English because my friend asked me to. There is a forest of testimonies like mine, in Spanish, moving through the Internet today. I’m sorry for that. I wish it wasn’t so. But if you can read Spanish go ahead and read them. These voices need to be heard.