by vanessa saavedra
vanessa saavedra, 1810–?, oil on canvas, 2020.

Since 1810, Mexico has been an independent country, shaped by sexism from the beginning. Gender is culturally constructed through the expectations and values ​​that each culture attributes to men and women. In Mexico, cultural ideals have assigned women to be caretakers of the home and subservient to men.

Feminism was born out of such intuitions of oppression and inequality. Thanks to suffragists’ work, Mexican women gained full citizenship through the right to vote in national elections in 1953. However, gender inequality remains. We see it in unequal pay between men and women. We see it in the average of ten women who are victims of femicide per day in Mexico.¹ We see it in the normalized blaming of victims of rape and femicide and the perpetrators’ impunity. We listen to it from our disinterested government that tries to ignore violence against women as much as possible.

When we ask for equality, we mean the disappearance of gender roles that, after all, are only a social construct. There have been long years of social growth. I wonder if we will ever see that respect that we all deserve. Will sexism ever be talked about as something that disappeared?

¹ Kirk Semple; Paulina Villegas (Feb 19, 2020). “The Grisly Deaths of a Woman and a Girl Shock Mexico and Test Its President.” The New York Times.

Vanessa Saavedra was born in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1997 and raised in Nogales, Sonora, along the US/Mexico border. She received an Associate in Fine Arts degree from Pima Community College, Tucson (2019). She is scheduled to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2-D Studio Art from the University of Arizona in May 2021. Saavedra’s paintings and drawings embody the silenced lives of the women from Latin America, from individual victims of harassment to victims of femicide. Although comfortless in tone, her works are not memorials: Saavedra substantiates oppression, absence, and the lack of legal action. Saavedra’s work is nourished by her Mexican-American identity and her role in the current social-political environment caused by systemic patriarchy. Her most recent body of work addresses themes of feminism and femicides within the Mexican community. Her series México Rojo (2020) serves as testimonies on behalf of victims of femicides. Saavedra is currently exhibiting her work virtually in shows such as the University of Arizona BFA Show (2021). Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally since 2017. She recently earned third place in the statewide contest Por Una Vida Libre de Violencia, Igualitaria, Justa y de Paz, Cajeme, Sonora, Mexico (2020). Saavedra’s most recent in-person show was the SHILO Exhibition, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (2020).