A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Mexico. Leer en Español.
“We’re not all here; we’re missing Heydy,” reads the caption on one image, followed by the date of death, state of residence, age, and name of the woman in the illustration. Other images just like it are circulating around the web and being shared on social media, and each illustration has one thing in common with the next: All of them depict Mexican women who are no longer with us. Each one is a victim of femicide, a problem that has long plagued Mexico and has intensified over the past 10 years. According to data from the National Femicide Watch Group (or Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional de Feminicidio), seven women in Mexico are assassinated every day.
The objective of No Estamos Todas (“We’re not all here”) is to make femicide visible by putting a face and name to each of the victims, presenting each person as a human life lost rather than a statistic. Since November 24, 2017, the day the first illustration was posted, the project has published one illustration every day on Facebook and Instagram, including the name of the victim depicted.
The project was started by two 24-year old illustrators who asked to remain anonymous for the purposes of this interview. After reading a list of the victims that was compiled and distributed Frida Guerrera, an activist and journalist who has investigated and documented cases of femicide in Mexico, they both felt the gravity of the issue. So, they invited their colleagues and friends to participate in an illustration project with a goal was to “start a conversation about the lives that machismo violence have taken from us,” they explained via email.
“The list that Frida Guerrera circulated affected us and we wanted to do something in response; we wanted people to keep talking about what’s happening in [Mexico]. No Estamos Todas was our response to the need to be heard,” the creators explained. “We [want the project] to be a celebration of their lives. We want to remember [these women] as people with aspirations, histories, and dreams.”
Different illustrators and artists participate continuously, and anyone who feels moved by the initiative is encouraged to get involved. The murder cases for each illustration are obtained primarily through the femicide map created by activist María Salguero and the database of Yucatán Feminicida, which logs cases in that state. No Estamos Todas has also illustrated several cases of disappeared women, which were requested by the families of the disappeared.
In order to create each illustration, the artist is provided with any and all available information about the case, including press clips. In some cases, the identity of the departed is withheld. The illustrations aren’t based on photos of the victims; each one is more of a homage rooted in the creativity of each illustrator whose goal is to honor the lives of these women.
To date, the gallery has more than 60 illustrations, each drawn in a different style and with a different technique. The No Estamos Todas network includes artists (some of whom don’t necessarily identify as illustrators) from Mexico and a variety of other countries. In many of the illustrations, the use of color stands out the most, inspiring strength, vitality, and creativity.
Melissa Zermeño is one of the artists who contributed to the project with an illustration of Lizeth, a 32-year old woman from Puebla, a city in east-central Mexico. “I wanted to show her face as calm; I used the color blue to give a somewhat nostalgic tone and red to give her strength, so that she didn’t just go unnoticed,” she said. When asked about the initiative, she added, “I think this type of collective art functions as a network of support that, cumulatively, makes the problem visible and simultaneously keeps alive someone who has been lost, so that they’re not forgotten.”