Photo: Scarf protest in Mexico
Activists will display hundreds of scarves embroidered with blood-colored thread at a memorial here this weekend, a protest that calls attention to the tens of thousands of drug-related deaths during departing Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s six-year term.
“Embroidering is a reflective action in which every time you go back over the name you’re sewing you make it your own and identify with it. It’s an action that humanizes the victim,” Rosa Borras, member of the group Embroidering for Peace, based in the central city of Puebla, told Efe.
Family members of victims and peace activists involved in the movement, launched last year, have sewn hundreds of scarves that tell the stories of drug-war fatalities who fill the newspapers one day and are forgotten the next.
Each scarf contains four or five short phrases that describe who, how and where the individual died.
“Our goal is to give voice and visibility to each victim so they are no longer thought of as a figure and a statistic, so there’s awareness that this is a person who died, who left a family behind,” Borras said.
More than 2,000 scarves will be displayed in a memorial in Mexico City’s Alameda Central park on Saturday, when the conservative Calderon hands over power to Enrique Peña Nieto.
“We want to stage a peaceful, civic, non-partisan demonstration to bid farewell to Calderon with the trail of dead bodies he’s left us with and let Peña know that we’re not going to tolerate six more years of the same,” Borras said.
Mexico has been wracked by a wave of violence that has left some 60,000 dead since December 2006, when Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the country’s violent, well-funded drug cartels by deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers to drug-war hotspots.
Calderon has come under heavy criticism by international rights groups for using the military to battle drug gangs.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, for example, said in a report last year that “instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country.”
The first collective embroidering session took place in August 2011. Since then dozens of people have gathered in public squares across Mexico to sew scarves with information about drug-war victims reported in the media.
“We know the act of embroidering and demonstrating is not going to change government structures or policies, but it has helped us to forge a lot of ties among ourselves, among citizens. It’s succeeded in rebuilding the social fabric,” Borras said.