A striking sea of white crosses bedecked with pink ribbons mounted in The University of Texas-Pan American quad during the first day of the Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) March 1 drew many curious on-lookers.
The crosses, explained Camilo Garza, a freshman from Elsa majoring in philosophy, are intended to raise awareness of the more than 400 women, many subjected to brutal sexual violence, who have been murdered or disappeared in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico since 1993.
Dr. Jennifer Mata, a professor in the Department of History and Philosophy and coordinator of the Women's Studies minor program at UTPA, said the students were moved to action and created the campaign and exhibit for FESTIBA after viewing the documentary film "Señorita Extraviada," an examination of what has happened to the women in Juarez. Also complementing the display of crosses during FESTIBA were sculptures by artist Elizabeth Puentes, whose works address the violence against the women of Juarez. Students also got to hear from Michelle Otero, an award-winning writer and poet, who as a Fulbright Fellow conducted creative writing workshops for female survivors of sexual assault in Oaxaca, Mexico. She is the author of "Malinche's Daughter," an essay collection based on her life and work in Oaxaca.
Mata said the project the students developed in class will be part of their community engagement grade in the course and serves as a way they can respond to the situation in Juarez.
"While we can't necessarily stop what is going on in Juarez, we can stop what is going on in our homes, in our own community, on our campus. A lot of what is going on in Juarez is sexism, misogyny, and mistreatment and violence toward women, which does not just happen there. It begins a dialogue for them and they see that it is not right if they are abused or experience any type of violence," Mata said.
In its first year, FESTIBA was designed to encourage literacy and broaden the cultural awareness of South Texas through numerous mediums - books, poetry, drama, dance, music, art, and much more - while also recognizing the talented arts and humanities faculty and students at UTPA.
While the exhibit will not be on display during FESTIBA's Community Day Saturday, March 3, "Ni Una Mas!" students will travel to Reynosa to participate in community outreach efforts at the Casa de la Cultura in the main plaza.
For more information about the women's studies minor, contact Mata at 956/381-2323 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on FESTIBA's March 3 events, log on to http://www.coah.utpa.edu/Festiba/festiba.html.