Mexican women knit hearts at memorial for murdered females

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A dozen women spread across the grass of Alameda park in the capital Saturday knitting hearts for a memorial to murdered girls as Mexico grapples with endemic violence against females.

Hands worked quickly looping canary yellow, blood red and turquoise yarn. The women then strung the hearts together, with the flick of a knitting needle, and suspended the creations from a marble urn that commemorates a Mexican freedom fighter.

The hearts twirled in the wind next to images of young girls who have been slain. Votive candles burned below messages scribbled onto Post-it notes.

The knit-in came on the heels of rowdy protests sparked by outrage over bungled investigations into alleged rapes of teenagers by police officers in the capital.

In one protest a week ago, dozens of women trashed a bus station, defaced the Angel of Independence monument with spray paint and set a police station ablaze. While the protests led to greater commitments to stem violence from Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, they also prompted widespread debate about how best to push for action.

A 2018 government survey found that four out of every five women in Mexico don't feel safe. The United Nations says that 41% of Mexican women will experience sexual violence, such as unwanted groping or rape, during their lifetimes and that nine women are murdered on average every day in the country.

Like many women in Mexico, the knitters feel frustrated, angry and concerned for their safety. So they embraced a traditionally female craft to create a narrative without words, each stitch an expression of love for those who have been taken — the stolen hearts — and an offering of support for those who live in fear of violence each day in Mexico.

"We are many hands knitting this," said one of the women, who would give only her first name, Teresa. "We are a lot of people who are thinking about how to solve this problem. We are tired of living in an environment of violence."

Teresa, 30, compared being female in Mexico to a rat trying to escape from a bucket of water. If she lowers her guard, if she stops fighting, she fears she will slip under water. She told of being groped by a man while riding the subway at age 12 and then being reprimanded for punching him.

There is knowledge and skill behind the knitting, Teresa said, making this form of activism feel like it is a useful way to pass the time.

It's also a way to stitch together a community, to create the social fabric necessary for change, said knitter Mónica Ortega.

The sticky notes on the impromptu memorial carry messages like "Let the fight continue" and "Not one more."

Among the slain whose pictures are posted is Lesvy Berlín, a young woman found dead on a college campus in Mexico City. Investigators initially ruled the case a suicide by phone cable despite video evidence showing the 22-year-old being hit and strangled by her boyfriend minutes before her 2017 death. Mexico City's chief prosecutor, Ernestina Godoy, has since apologized to Berlín's family. The boyfriend faces homicide charges.

Among the knitters was Miriam Mabel Martínez, who began knitting when she was 7 and is author of a book titled "The Message Is in the Knitting." She finds the process meditative as well as constructive, producing perhaps a scarf or blanket that someone will be able to use, if only for a time.

The monument she helped knit on Saturday is likely temporary. She expects that thieves, the police or the wind will carry away the knitting, but that doesn't trouble her.

"This is a hug, a memorial, for those who are no longer here, but also a hug for those of us who are still here and hope to be here for a long time," Martínez said, while her fingers assembled a purple banner. "In the end knitting forms some type of garment that embraces another."

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