Counter-mapping and Refusing Silence How artists in Ciudad Juárez protest and denounce feminicide.


Y LAS MUJERES DE MI CIUDAD? Painted in large, bold black capital letters on a bright yellow concrete wall strip below a fence guarding a nearly vacant parking lot, this question is a visible reminder to anyone walking or driving by on this busy street that women (and girls) in this city continue to go missing. A pink cross, the symbol of what has become known feminicide1 in Ciudad Juárez, the rest of Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is painted along the right side. The painted pink cross and its variations such as the black crosses painted on a pink rectangle and the pink wooden crosses planted in the ground are all interpretations by various local activist groups of the first cross, “La Cruz De Los Clavos” or the Magenta Cross2, which was installed in 1993. This memorial, which still stands today in downtown Ciudad Juárez right at the entrance of the U.S./Mexico border bridge Paso Del Norte, marked the beginning of a movement that has continuously and persistently demanded an end to the kidnappings, sexual and physical violence and murders and justice for thousands of girls and women who have gone missing and their families in this border city. This movement was started by the mothers of the missing and has, despite government impunity and death threats, grown into a massive wake-up call all throughout Latin America forming new and radical forms of activism that bring families, communities, artists, journalists, scholars and human right advocates together to defend and protect the lives and integrity of all girls, women, gender non-conforming and transgender people.

In Ciudad Juárez this wake-up call started as what I call site-specific, visual and embodied counter-mapping radical art practices that have refused silencing and invisibility for three decades. In other words, artists (and non-artists) work with the pink cross, in any or all of its various renditions, as a long-term and enduring symbol, to make it known in a public way that a girl or woman went missing or was murdered by painting or planting a pink cross at the site where they were last seen or known to have been.

Laila Espinoza
Publication date: 
August 15, 2023
Publication type: 
Student Research