MEXICO CITY – Ordinary people are changing the face of Mexico City with projects, known as “anti-monuments,” that are meant to keep alive the memory of tragedies that have shaken the country.
The first to appear, in Spring 2015, was a figure “+ 43” erected on the emblematic Mexico City thoroughfare of Paseo de la Reforma by family and friends of the 43 young people abducted in September 2014 in the southern state of Guerrero.
Presumed dead, the students from Ayotzinapa teachers college have never been found and the official account of their disappearance has been roundly rejected by their families, as well as by independent experts and investigators who reviewed the case.
Municipal authorities allowed the unofficial Ayotzinapa memorial to remain and the + 43 has been joined by other anti-monuments.
Mexico City’s giant main square, the Zocalo, is home to the newest creation: a memorial to the hundreds who died here in October 1968 in a massacre of student protesters.
Outside the Mexico City stock market stands a giant “+ 65” that represents the 65 workers killed in a 2006 mine explosion in the northern state of Coahuila.
The anti-monuments serve the purpose of making people think, passerby Osvaldo Oliva told EFE near the miners’ memorial.
“There are many people who visit these places, domestic and foreign tourists, and they wonder what it means. They give visibility to the problems,” he said.
Roughly a kilometer (0.6mi) away from the stock market is the headquarters of Mexico’s IMSS social-security agency, where activists have raised an anti-monument to 49 children who died nearly a decade ago in a fire at a daycare center in the northern state of Sonora.
Society “is making its voice heard,” photographer Hector Crispin Gonzalez said of the anti-monuments.
“Before, things happened, they were discussed at home and they did not go beyond that,” he told EFE. “Now, society is organizing.”
Mexican authorities catalogued more than 25,000 homicides in 2017 and this year’s total is expected to be higher.
In the face of those numbers, people can become desensitized and lose empathy, historian Roberto Jimenez told EFE, making it all the more important “that society itself participate in the demand for justice.”