Feminicides, Insecurity Unhinge Cancun

“We are all Karen.” Those words formed part of the rallying cry of residents of Cancun who took to the streets on Sunday, November 1.

Organized by students from the University of the Caribbean, a crowd estimated at several thousand people staged a silent march through Mexico’s leading tourist destination to protest last week’s brutal murder of 19-year-old university tourism student Maria Karen Carrasco Castilla and other acts of violence.

Cancun activist Teresa Carmona addressed a rally at the city’s Plaza de la Reforma after the march’s conclusion. The representative of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity challenged public relations portrayals of the resort city as a paradise. On the contrary, Cancun is afflicted by death, inequality, poverty and incompetent governments, Carmona insisted.

“We want to see the faces of Karen’s murderers,” Carmona said.  “We want them in jail.” Carmona demanded that the state treat Carrasco’s murder as a feminicide, and declare a gender violence alert in Cancun.

She also recalled the 2014 killings of five sex workers who perished in a fire set at their place of work but were forgotten by society “because they were only whores.”

Victims of violence participated in the November 1 protest, including a woman who had been raped and disfigured and a man who broke into tears over the kidnap-murder of his son. In addition to justice and an end to gender violence, the demonstrators demanded the cleaning of empty lots, better lighting and improved security.

“Today’s march represented society’s ‘Enough is Enough,’ because nobody wants another Ciudad Juarez…this is civil society that acts, that demands,” editorialized the local news site Quitanaroohoy.com.

According to the media outlet, at least 10 people-including two women-were murdered in Cancun during the month of October.

Popular indignation at the Carrasco murder and other crimes has flowed in Cancun’s social media in recent days, with some users even urging the formation of self-defense groups and vigilante actions.

The November 1 march and rally was considered one of the two largest manifestations of public outrage in Cancun during recent times, with the other one being last year’s protest against the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa college students in the state of Guerrero.

The latest demonstration followed a series of crimes against girls and women in the coastal city. For instance, in April, 13-year-old Maria Fernanda Vargas Sanchez was raped and murdered. On October 18, Rebeca Rivera Neri,  a 24-year-old woman originally from Veracruz, was found naked, strangled and mutilated not far from the place where Vargas’ body was recovered. Vargas’ earlier murder prompted a public protest too.

Worse still, shortly after last Sunday’s mass protest, early on the morning of November 2, the body of a young woman with stab wounds and later identified as 18-year-old Paloma Guadalupe Balam Poot  was discovered in Cancun’s Villas del Mar 3 subdivision. Then on Tuesday, November 3, the decomposed body of a woman was reported discovered in a “green” area of Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

Carlos Arturo Alvarez, Quintana Roo state prosecutor, said there were indications Balam Poot was killed in a different spot from where her clothed body was found. Alvarez added that preliminary indications were that the young victim had not suffered a sexual assault, but that it would be up to an autopsy to determine whether such a crime had in fact also occurred.

Despite the existence of a state anti-feminicide law on the books, Alvarez declined to classify the murders of Carrasco and other recent victims as feminicides-the systemic murder of women based on gender reasons. Instead, the state prosecutor’s office has classified the killings as “violent homicides.”

Karen Carrasco vanished October 26 while reportedly headed to her home on public transportation. Her body was discovered the next day in an overgrown path area with no lighting.

Friends described Carrasco, who was an only child, as a personable young woman who liked music and cooking, defended the rights of animals and deplored violence against woman. She frequently listed to Beethoven and played the Beatles’ “Yesterday’ on guitar. According to one correspondent, Carrasco really wanted to study music at the university, “but in a city focused on the service industry, where culture and the arts never figure as priorities, the career doesn’t exist.”

Sources:  El Universal, November 2 and 3, 2015. Articles by Adriana Varillas. Ultimasnoticias/grupoultimasnoticias.com, November 3, 2015. Quintanaroohoy.com, November 2 and 3, 2015. La Jornada (Maya edition), November 2, 2015. Articles by Carlos Aguila Arreola. Proceso/Apro, November 1 and 2, 2015. Articles by Sergio Caballero. Poresto, November 1, 2015. Article by Yecenia Gonzalez. Cimacnoticias.com, October 28, 2015. Article by Andrea Franco.

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