Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. I repeat these words to myself as I walk the streets of Mexico City’s Centro Histórico at night, as if to beat them into my body. I’m back in the city for a short reporting trip to continue my coverage of feminicide in Mexico State. It’s been five months since I’ve been here last, but my apprehension about the violence, and how vulnerable I am to it, has grown substantially. I feel afraid to walk alone at night. Fear, a response to months of fieldwork on violence against women, shapes how I navigate Mexico’s giant capital, my first real love. I see the threat of violence everywhere. Walking to a close-by cafe chino for dinner seems much more dangerous to me than it did a few years ago.
Alone, like Mariana Joselín Baltierra was when she stepped out of her house on a late July morning and walked approximately two-hundred meters to a corner store for groceries. Young, like Lesvy Osorio, an aspiring writer and musician. A woman, like Nadia Muciño, Mariana Buendía and the more than fifteen thousand women killed in the country in the last six years. I’m acutely aware of how women that look like me have been kidnapped, raped and killed in Mexico City and Mexico State. Their bodies thrown into rivers, left in empty lots or torn apart and left scattered by men that destroyed their bodies so that no one would remember them. In Mexico I see the threat, or the capacity for people to be this violent, everywhere. Disillusioned, angry, tired and cynical, I wish I could soften my heart and see more of the beauty of this place I love so much, but the stories are so terrible.
A few months ago, Mariana Baltierra left her house and walked past a local butcher shop at around nine in the morning. She never returned home. Instead, she was found later that day lying dead across a butcher’s table, her stomach ripped open. She was raped and killed by a twenty-eight-year-old man that worked in the butcher shop called Carnicasa, or meat shop, in eastern Ecatepec. Lesvy was only twenty-two when she was found dead last year with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck at the National Autonomous University of Mexico campus. She was found lying against a telephone booth in the middle of campus, killed by her boyfriend Jorge Luis González. Killed by men, forgotten by the government offices and laws created to help bring justice, grieved by families.
As I coach myself to try to be brave while I walk, men verbally harass me, beating my body with the reminder that I do not have complete control over my safety and agency in this city. I walk firm and relentless through the shadowy streets as to affirm that this is my body, my city. Walking alone as to defy the fear and despair that has stricken me during the past months. Beating the fear out of my heart, resistant and brave to mourn the women killed.