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This Mural Was Created Six Years Ago To Remind Puerto Ricans And Mexicans They Share Common Struggles – And It Still Stands True

During every major disaster, there is often one image that is iconicized as a symbol of struggle or hope. “Soldaderas,” a powerful mural painted by artist Yasmin Hernandez in New York that shows Latin American heroines Frida Kahlo and Julia de Burgos holding hands as their flags rest still and jointed behind them, may be that image for the catastrophes that rocked Mexico and Puerto Rico last week.

On Tuesday, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, killing 331 people and damaging 11,000 homes. Rescuers are still digging out bodies — some alive, many dead — trapped under the rubble. The next day, Puerto Rico weathered Hurricane Maria, the worst storm to hit the Caribbean island in more than 80 years; at least 16 people have been pronounced dead, towns have been left homeless and much of the island is flooded and without power.

Since these disasters, the gripping, almost-prophetic, mural has been shared across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a symbol of accord between both countries. It’s a testament to the uniting and healing power of art. But in the present social media landscape, where stirring images become empathy memes, it’s crucial that the meaning of “Soldaderas,” and the current plight of the woman behind it, is not lost.

To prevent that from occurring, here are a few things you should know about Hernandez and her powerful mural.

1. Hernandez currently resides in Puerto Rico and is one of millions directly impacted by Hurricane Maria.

Love is life and life is living! #nofilter #aguadillapr #prehurricanemonday #happyplace

A post shared by Yasmin Hernandez (@yasminhernandezart) on

While born in Brooklyn, New York, Hernandez currently lives in Moca, Puerto Rico, a small town in the northwestern region of the island. According to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, the destruction in Moca is “massive.” While there have been no reported deaths, homes there have been destroyed and the town lacks diesel for machinery, potable water and food. Hernandez has not been active on social media since early Wednesday morning, likely because there is no electricity, but a sibling has stated that she and her family on the island are physically well. No details on the status of her home or belongings have been given. Those who appreciate and have been sharing Hernandez’s piece can consider supporting her work over on Etsy.

2. Hernandez painted “Soldaderas” in East Harlem, New York in 2011.

The Nuyorican artist first pitched the idea for the mural back in 2008, but the project, supported by Art for Change, Hope Community, Inc and El Barrio Arts Cluster, began in 2011. She started working on “Soldaderas” on June 3, 2011 and completed it on July 6 of that same year. Since then, the mural, located at the Modesto Flores Community Garden on Lexington Avenue between 104th and 105th streets, has captivated residents and visitors of El Barrio, the nickname of the historically Latino neighborhood.

3. Hernandez painted the mural to unite the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities in El Barrio.

At the time Hernandez painted the mural, there was growing tension between Puerto Ricans who long called the neighborhood home and Mexicans who were beginning to move in en masse. To foster a sense of unity, the mural, which includes two of Mexico and Puerto Rico’s most prominent heroines locking hands, symbolizes the joint struggle of both communities and calls for political solidarity. The piece itself is largely inspired by Kahlo’s painting “Las dos Fridas.” In Hernandez’s design, however, Kahlo is sitting beside Puerto Rican poet de Burgos rather than herself.

4. Frida Kahlo and Julia de Burgos were feminist contemporaries.

Kahlo, a painter, and de Burgos, a poet, were both barrier-breaking artists working in the early twentieth century. In their portraits and writing, the two women pushed forward bold feminist ideals, embraced revolutionary thought and shared a deep love for their respective countries. In their lives and work, both women came up against, and overcame, similar battles, from miscarriages and intense romantic relationships to gender and racial discrimination. Like the title of the mural, Kahlo and de Burgos truly were soldaderas.

5. The earthquakes in Mexico and hurricanes in Puerto Rico have brought new meaning to the mural.

In 2011, Hernandez created “Soldaderas” to remind the divided Puerto Rican and Mexican people of East Harlem that they share common histories of struggle. The mural attempted to highlight a connection between the countries that many in the neighborhood did not realize existed in hopes of creating unity. With the ruin in Mexico and Borikén, the shared suffering — in loss of life, homes and infrastructure — is evident. Instead of informing people of a communal struggle, Kahlo and de Burgos holding hands at a community garden in El Barrio shows us that we are already in accord, and, together, we will survive these devastations.

Read: Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

Let us know what this mural means to you in the comments and, if you’re sharing Soldaderas, please credit and support the artist!

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Women In Mexico Have Started Their Own #MeToo Movement

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Women In Mexico Have Started Their Own #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo Movement has arrived in Mexico.

Last week, a young activist tweeted that an esteemed writer had beaten or raped more than 10 women, with her post inspiring hundreds of others to speak out about violence and harassment in their industries.

Ana G. González, a 29-year-old political communications consultant, tweeted on March 21 that Herson Barona had “beaten, manipulated, gaslighted, impregnated, and abandoned (on more than one occasion) more than 10 women.” While she didn’t experience the violence firsthand, she said that women had asked her to speak out on their behalf.

“I knew several women that were just too afraid and not ready to come forth, but allowed me to speak for them and name this person,” González told the New York Times.

Barona denied the accusations, saying “I understand that there is collective pain surrounding the real cases of so many beaten, raped and murdered women” and “unfortunately, in public scorn there is little space for discussion, clarity or conciliation.”

His response didn’t slow down the derision he, and others who have been recently been accused of gender violence and harassment, received on the social network, however.

Since González’s tweet, more allegations have followed under the hashtag #MeTooEscritores, where women are sharing their stories of abuse in film, academia, the nonprofit sector, business, law, theater, medicine, politics and more.

Some women, fearing a backlash from their jobs or their perpetrator, are speaking anonymously or not sharing their attacker’s name. But others, who shared details in their accounts, have caught the attention of the attorney general’s office in the state of Michoacán, which is investigating information published on social media by a network of journalists that “includes acts that Mexican laws consider as crimes.”

Last year, during the height of the #MeToo movement in the US, Mexican actress Karla Souza, famous for her role as Laurel Castillo on the US legal drama television series How to Get Away With Murder, disclosed that she was raped by a director while working in Mexico. She chose to not share the name of her aggressor, which incited skepticism and criticism from many, sending a message to those who might have wanted to open up about their experience with workplace violence or harassment that they, too, could risk similar reprisal.

“When you see how these women have been treated publicly, it makes perfect sense many victims want to protect themselves by staying anonymous,” González said. “Let’s just hope this time it will be different.”

Read: Twitter Is On Fire With The ‘Me Too’ Hashtag And Latinas Refuse To Be Forgotten

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Mixe Author Yásnaya Aguilar Says Mexican Government Killed Off Indigenous Languages In Powerful Speech

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Mixe Author Yásnaya Aguilar Says Mexican Government Killed Off Indigenous Languages In Powerful Speech

Indigenous languages are often characterized as archaic, a connection to a past life, certainly not thriving cultures and communities that exist in a modern society. But this mentality isn’t just wrong; it’s also dangerous.

In a powerful speech delivered by Mixe author Yásnaya Aguilar to Mexico’s Congress last month, the writer explains that in the country, where indigenous languages are largely viewed as backwards, the state has killed off certain tongues.

“Our languages don’t die out, they’re killed off,” she said. “The Mexican state has erased them with its singular thinking, its [promotion of] a single culture, a single state. It was Mexico that took our Indigenous languages, [Mexico] erases and silences us. Even though the laws have changed, it continues to discriminate against us within its educational, health, and judicial systems.”

According to Aguilar, known for works like “Nosotros sin México: Naciones Indígenas y Autonomía” and “#Ayuujk: ¿Lenguas Útiles y Lenguas Inútiles,” by making Spanish, a language forced on the people of the region five centuries ago by Spain, the most important tongue of the nation, the state has created a culture where language discrimination can flourish.

“Languages are important, but their speakers are even more important,” she added. “Languages die because their speakers are subjected to discrimination and violence.”

For Aguilar, the country would thrive if it recognized the beauty and strengths, rather than challenges, that come with a multicultural society.

“Being Mexican is a legal status, it’s not a cultural status,” she added.

Watch Aguilar’s thoughtful speech in its entirety in the video above.

(h/t Remezcla)

Read: This Latina Is Saving The Indigenous Peruvian Language One Computer Game At A Time

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