The Disappeared Women of Juarez
By Jennifer Deligne
In commemoration for multitudes of girls that died in Juarez, Mexico due to femicide, the mass killing of women, the Human Rights Institute gallery holds “Las Desconocidas de Ciudad Juarez,” Spanish for “The Disappeared Women of Juarez,” an exhibition created by Diane Kahlo expressing the loss that cannot be said through words.
In the year 2009 alone, 630 women went missing with many of the cases unsolved. There were theories as to why these horrific cases happened; some think it was gang related, while others believe the police were involved in the disappearances. There were even assumptions that the disappearances were due to spiritual rituals.
Regardless of the circumstance, what happened in Mexico was purely a femicide and it becomes clear once in the gallery. The “Wall of Memories” portion of the exhibit is an homage that portrays around 150 of the girls that went missing.
Kahlo, a distant relative of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, has painted the girls in small purple frames displaying them how their families would want to see them- happy. Kahlo painted these girls with the intention to give them the recognition that many people who aren’t wealthy or highly esteemed receive. For the girls with unavailable images, Kahlo painted a butterfly or another symbolic image representing the girl.
The Mandala, a circular symbol demonstrating the cycle of rebirth and life, is made up of discarded bottle caps, representing the bodies of several girls who were also discarded. It is a colorful piece adorned by beads found in yard sales and flea markets. Kahlo’s use of a metaphor in this construction signifies the actual beauty of what was simply thrown away.
A sequin-adorned skeleton figure is shaped so each limb belongs to the “desconocidas,” or the unknown girls, whose bodies have been found but unidentified. Each leg, arm and hand is fashioned with different colored sequins, with a veil placed on the head of the figure.
As dark as this issue is, the colors in this exhibition were anything but. Bright flowers seem like they’re floating under the Lady of Guadalupe. Light pinks and royal purples take over the room, making each and every piece interesting and attractive to the eye.
A huge quantity of people in Mexico lost daughters, sisters, aunts and friends, or are unaware of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Some loved ones, however, have been found but not claimed by their families.
The abundance of missing girls, found and unidentified, painfully reveals how much of a genocide and massacre against women this really was. A video in the exhibition shows many faces of those who went missing as well as the families marching, wanting answers.
Kahlo intends to keep the memory of these young women alive. She immortalizes girls that shouldn’t be forgotten and brings their beauty back to life.