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Mexico: Embroidering for Peace

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

Threads, needles and fabrics have become warriors for peace in Mexico. In cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City, men and women of all ages have decided to speak out and share their thoughts and experiences on violence by participating in a collective relief effort through embroidery.

In her blog Yo también quiero opinar [es], Liliana Sánchez says she discovered the project while walking in the Coyoacan area, a bohemian and artistic neighborhood in Mexico City:

Esta vez, el proyecto que llamó mi atención lo encontré caminando por Coyoacán. Unas personas bordaban unos pañuelos, y aunque en principio pensé que eran las típicas manualidades para abuelitas, después me percaté de lo que decían los bordados. “Bordar por la paz. Un pañuelo una víctima” es el lema del colectivo “Fuentes Rojas”, quienes proponen bordar pañuelos con los nombres o descripciones de cada uno de los cincuenta mil muertos de la guerra contra el narco.

This time, a project caught my eye when walking through Coyoacan. Some people had embroidered handkerchiefs, and although at first I thought they were typical crafts for grandmothers, I realized what they were saying  through embroidery. “Embroidering for peace. A handkerchief per victim” is the motto of the group “Red Fountains”, who  propose embroidering handkerchiefs with the names or descriptions of each of the fifty million dead in the war against drugs.
Photo by Carlos Ortega, used with permission.  Click image to see more photos.

Photo by Carlos Ortega, used with permission.  Click image to see more photos.

She also explains the project's main objective [es]:

El objetivo del proyecto es, en sus propias palabras, “bordar esperanza y memoria”. Una vez logrado un número considerable de bordados, se mostrarán en las plazas públicas del país.

The project aims, in their own words, “to embroider hope and memory.” When they get a considerable number of embroidered handkerchiefs, they will be display them in public squares all over the country.

In the same post, Liliana writes about how therapeutic this activity becomes [es] for people who participate in the project:

Manifestaciones culturales (o no) en las que la gente se encuentra cara a cara con otras personas que cargan el mismo desazón, la misma incertidumbre. El gritar al unísono, el reir o llorar, sin pena y sin freno porque el de al lado es capaz de comprender, se convierte en algo terapéutico y muy necesario.

Cultural manifestations (or not) where people meet face to face with others who carry the same discomfort, the same uncertainty. Shouting in unison, laughing or mourning, without shame and without restraint because the person next to them is capable of understanding, it becomes a treatment that is very necessary.

In another blog, + Allá de la Marcha [es], Martín Javier Oviedo Hernández narrates an episode that took place during the the activities of the ‘Lucha por Amor, Verdad y Justicia’ (Fight for Love, Truth and Justice) collective, in the northern city of Monterrey:

Un cálido día de Mayo, llama la atención un grupo de mujeres bordando, sentadas, platicando entre ellas, los curiosos se acercan: tres jóvenes  de Barcelona, Aram, Gabriel y Guillermo.

-¿Que hacen?-,  preguntan  a las damas.

- Bordamos por la paz-, contestan en coro.

-¿Entonces es cierto que están en guerra?…  -

- No solo en guerra, nos han arrebatado a nuestros hijos…-

Ellas son madres, hermanas y parientes de personas desaparecidas, organizadas en el Colectivo LUPA (Lucha por Amor, Verdad y Justicia, Nuevo León), se reúnen cada jueves,  a las 10 de la mañana, en el kiosco Lucila Sabella, en la Macroplaza de Monterrey.

On a warm day during May, a group of women knitting, sitting, talking, draw the attention of onlookers who come closer: three young men from Barcelona, Aram, Gabriel and William.

- What are you doing? – they ask the women.

- We are embroidering  for peace-, the women answer in chorus.

- So is it true that you are at war? … -

- Not only at war, they have taken our children … -

They are mothers, sisters and relatives of missing people, who come together in the collective LUPA (Fight for Love, Truth and Justice, Nuevo León), and they meet every Thursday at 10 am, at the kiosk Lucila Sabella, at the Macroplaza in Monterrey.

Martín finishes his post documenting dialogues [es] between the women who were embroidering in Monterrey's main square. Their conversations cover everything from invitations to participate in the project to complaints about the current situation of violence in the city:

Photo by Carlos Ortega, used with permission. Click image to see more photos.

Photo by Carlos Ortega, used with permission. Click image to see more photos.

-Se contactaron con nosotros, nos citaron en una Iglesia, pagamos el rescate, después de dos llamadas, perdimos el contacto-, concluye.

-No hay avance en la investigación, como en la mayoría de los casos, no se puede confiar en la autoridad- coinciden todas.

-También los hombres bordan- comentan ellas, invitando a los tres jóvenes, que escuchan con atención:

-El olvido es muerte…-

-Este bordado va en rojo, es en memoria de Don Alejo Garza Tamez, quién perdió la vida en esta guerra, enfrentando con dignidad a los sicarios que pretendían despojarlo de su propiedad…

Aram, Gabriel y Guillermo toman los bordados, “hilando” las historias escuchadas, cada puntada representa la memoria, la huella tangible. Bordando por la paz, convierte la desconfianza en esperanza. Temor y dolor se transforman en amor.

- They contacted us, we were called to a church, we paid the ransom, after two calls, we lost contact with them – she concludes.

- No progress in the investigation, as in most cases, you cannot rely on the authorities – they all agree.

- Men also embroider – they comment, inviting the three young men, who listen carefully:

- Forgetting is death…

- This is embroidered in red, in memory of Don Alejo Garza Tamez, who died in this war, facing with dignity the assassins who sought to strip him of his property…

Aram, Gabriel and William take the embroidery, “spinning” the stories heard, each stitch represents a memory, tangible footprints. Embroidering for peace makes distrust become hope. Fear and pain are transformed into love.

The blog Red por la Paz en México [es] describes the same embroidering for peace movement in Guadalajara:

En Guadalajara hay un grupo que se dedica a Bordar por la Paz. En Facebook aparecen muchas fotos de gente bordando: abuelitas de anteojos, papás con sus niñas, parejas de novios. Hasta una señora en silla de ruedas aparece. Unos están bordando parados, otros medio recostados en el césped, otros sentados en un banco. Bordan en un parque los domingos. Llevan su pañuelo blanco y  bordan ahí, en hilo rojo,  el nombre de alguna víctima de la violencia.

In Guadalajara there is a group that is dedicated to Embroidering for Peace. On Facebook there are many pictures of people embroidering: grannies with glasses, girls with their dads, couples. There's even a lady in a wheelchair. Some are embroidering standing, others half-lying on the grass, others sitting on a bench. They embroider in a park on Sundays. They take their white handkerchief there, and in red thread, they stitch the name of a victim of violence.

The movement has also expanded to various cities around the world, like Tokyo, Japan.

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

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