This past weekend I attended the Day of the Dead celebration at Wychwood Barns or as Spanish speakers call it Dia de Los Muertos/Difuntos. This day is celebrated in many parts of Latin America to honour their loved ones who have passed. The celebration varies from country to country. For instance in El Salvador, it is usually a more somber occasion where family members visit their loved ones and pray at their tombs, whereas in Mexico it is more celebratory, colourful and grandiose. I usually love going to Mexican inspired events to watch the beautiful indigenous dances and visit the beautiful altars. However, there was something that caught my eye at the celebration; an art installation by LACSN - Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network that brought awareness to femicide in Latin America.
This art installation was held in a small hallway away from the main Day of the Dead activities. On one side they had red dresses and shoes to represent the murdered women and on the other they had piece of chart paper to list the frequency in which women were killed in many Latin American Countries. As I learned, femicide is a huge issue in Latin America. In fact, as reported in insightcrime.org, Latin America has the most female murders in the world, with 7 Latin American countries in the top 10 countries for the highest female murder rate with 98% of cases going unprosecuted.
The installation also had a section in a stairway, where members of LACSN gave spectators the opportunity to hold a plaque that said: “Vivas nos Queremos” which translates to “We want her alive.” This slogan is a protest that has spread in Latin America to shed light on disturbingly high volume of violence against women. Before I got up to hold that plaque to take a picture, Maria Magdalena Diaz Arce, a member of LACSN, informed me about a prolific case in Argentina that is one of the most heinous crimes against young women to date. The murder of 16-year-old Lucia Perez.
On October 8, 2016, Perez was allegedly abducted by a local gang then drugged, raped, tortured and killed. After she was attacked, her assailants washed and cleaned her to make it seem like she had a drug overdose, and dropped her off at a rehab clinic. Upon closer inspection, the doctors realised there was signs of torture and two suspects who initially dropped her off, Matias Gabriel Farias, 23, and Juan Pablo Offidani, 41, were arrested. When this news was made public, woman across Argentina went into protest. This protest spread to other parts of Latin America such as Mexico, El Salvador and Colombia as it reignited the anger concerning the issue of femicide. Huffington Post reports that as of October 19, tens of thousands of people across Latin America would take to the streets with signs that said ”Ni Una Menos,” translated as “Not one more.”
As I heard Lucia’s story, I felt such profound sadness and realized that one of the purposes of Day of the Dead was to spread and honour the stories of these victims. Lucia represents the injustices against women in Latin America and it is our duty to spread her story. The dead have a voice and it’s our responsibility as the living to keep them alive.
To learn more about how you can help, please help fund organizations that directly help women and those that apply pressure to Latin American governments to do something about this issue. For more information please visit: