SHOUTING INTO THE STORM – Artist & activist Lorena Wolffer’s work to end violence against women in Mexico

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Lorena Wolffer (Photo: Lorena Wolffer)

By Greg Evans

Less than two months ago hundreds of women marched in protest of President Obrador’s support for a politician accused of raping multiple women. Many of the women that marched were carrying children while others carried baseball bats, hammers, and even blowtorches. They marched on President Obrador’s home and the seat of government. As the crowds increased and tension grew, police fired flash-bang grenades into the women creating a panic injuring nearly twenty civilians and over sixty police. As the women marched, they chanted, “We fight today so we don’t die tomorrow.” And that is not just hyperbole, that is reality. In 2020 there was an average of 10 women killed every day in Mexico. There are women out there that are standing up to the government and the misogynist culture, many at peril to their safety. I recently sat down with one of these women, Mexican artist, and activist Lorena Wolffer, to discuss this ongoing problem of violence against women in Mexico and her contribution to the fight for equality. Born in Mexico City, in 1971, Lorena was lucky to grow up in a home where gender equality within her family was the status quo. Her father treated her mother with respect.

Their friends behaved as they did. That is what Lorena knew when she was young. “We were open,” Lorena said. There was no discrimination. This openness was normal for Lorena, but within the Mexican community, it was not. But as she grew up, she would see that the country that she loved had a far darker side than she could have ever imagined. For many women in Mexico, each day they live in fear of physical and mental abuse and far too often murder at the hands of their husband, boyfriend, or significant other, the man that is supposed to protect, honor, and love them unconditionally.

But as Lorena grew up, she bore witness to the reality of the state of sexual inequality in Mexico City. It was troubling and prevalent. “I began to study and have an interest in gender constructs,” Lorena says. At an early age, Lorena realized that she was gifted. She was an artist and would learn about the power of art as an expression of bringing to the forefront a problem that was in plain sight, but that people avoided. Lorena uses performance art to challenge the status quo within a misogynistic culture that for hundreds of years misrepresented and mistreated women. “The problem is cultural. This is a culture that has normalized rape and femicide,” Lorena says.

Lorena Wolffer (Photo: Lorena Wolffer)

Lorena’s goal is intervention and providing women a refuge for being able to exercise their rights safely and publicly. For twenty years she has advocated aggressively for women’s rights. She has produced and curated numerous projects to foster change within a social fabric and her work has gained considerable traction. One such performance, “If She is Mexico, Who Beat Her Up?” was first presented to the public in 1997 and 1998. Lorena appeared as an abused fashion model. Her clothes were the color of the Mexican flag and her music a hybrid of United States Senate hearings on the drug trade with hip hop. Her performances are powerful and have gained widespread popularity.

“This is not a problem where we can only point fingers at men but a national problem,” Lorena says.

According to the Secretariat of Citizen Security over the past year, 3,752 women were murdered. Nearly a thousand of these deaths were considered femicides. And with the pandemic raging, the violence against women has only increased. In one month in Mexico last year there were over 26,000 reports of attacks against women. “There has to be a change to the justice system,” she said.

Women are often targeted by organized criminal organizations and in the states where these gangs are prevalent, the rate of femicide is higher. Despite these reports and statistics, the government has not been taking adequate steps to deal with the problem. Measures taken to combat the violence against women, due to the pandemic, have taken significant cuts in financial support. The reality is femicide is not a priority, but women with voices like Lorena are trying to change that.

by Greg Evans

Mexico Daily Post