Last September, in the middle of a roundabout along Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma, feminist activists climbed up to an empty plinth and installed a wooden carving of a woman raising her fist to the sky. For months, the hand-hewn, purple-painted silhouette presided over a wall of metal panels covered in the names of mothers, daughters, activists and historic figures — all victims of Mexico’s epidemic of violence against women and those now battling for justice.
On March 5, just days before International Women’s Day — which is expected to draw thousands to the streets — activists carrying ropes and harnesses scaled the monument once again, this time to replace the wooden figure with a more permanent version made of steel. With the city government planning to install its own new, official statue any day now, the feminists’ defiant actions echoed the message of an earlier gathering at the roundabout.=
“Any attempt to alter the makeup of the roundabout will be considered as an act of direct aggression to the demands of justice, memory, and the fight of all families,” Lorena Gutiérrez, whose 12-year-old daughter, Fátima Quintana, was brutally raped, mutilated and murdered in 2015, told dozens of women who rallied on Dec. 7 to protect the new symbol of women’s struggles for equal rights and social justice. “La Glorieta de las Mujeres que Luchan is here to stay.”
La Glorieta de las Mujeres que Luchan, or the Roundabout of the Women who Fight, is what activists now call this prized location. It has become a flashpoint in the ongoing feminist uprising that has transformed the Mexican capital.
For the past three years, the city has been rocked by massive marches, roadblocks and building sit-ins by activists who say they are desperately seeking an end to gender violence and justice from a system that allows such crimes to go mostly unpunished. Spray-painted metro stations, broken turnstiles, graffitied walls and makeshift anti-monuments are some of the lasting marks on the landscape.
While political disruptions are nothing new in Mexico City, the sustained feminist uprising stands out for the disruptive impact, the large number of supporters it draws and the strained response it has elicited from officials. As countries around the world reassess the values embodied in monuments and other forms of patrimony, Mexico’s feminist protesters say they are reclaiming public spaces as evidence of the threat to their bodies and the failure of the state to meaningfully respond.
“They are changing the discourse imposed by the state of what the representation of vulnerable women should be,” said Ayahuitl Estrada, the founder of Restauradoras con Glitter, a feminist collective of architects, historians, archaeologists and restoration experts. “The feminist movement has managed to transform national symbols and monuments into something entirely different.”