A Living Archive of Care
In 1978, eighty-three women gathered nervously around Mexico City’s Cathedral, carrying nothing but a bottle of tehuacán and their shawls to protect from the sun. After a long travel from Guerrero, Sinaloa, Sonora, they were the first to publicly display the photographs of their disappeared sons and brothers to the indifferent government and pedestrians that pretended to ignore the large red cloth that stated “We will find them.” Since this first organized hunger strike of the doñas of Comité Eureka, the photographs of the disappeared in Mexico have spread across myriad times, places, collectives and materialities. From the mothers’ and families’ own bodies to riverbanks and trees along hundreds of mass graves, what is it about these photographs, displayed for decades across the wounded geography of this country, that continues to compel us? How has the affective memory of forced disappearance in Mexico been registered, inscribed, and held among the territories and communities that grieve an incommensurable absence? And how do these material memories force us to rethink care, violence and gender as inextricably woven into each other?
We publish these articles as the museums consolidate into one nominal entity, het Wereldmuseum: since the articles were written between 2020 and 2023, they do not yet reflect the March 2023 name change.
All contributors called into the Un/Engendering research project were asked to think outside their respective specializations. Without their courage, openness, humility, and without the peer reviewers’ generous attention, such an interdisciplinary project could have never taken place.
Image: A Chilean arpillera made in 1981 under the Pinochet regime showing a woman, the photograph of a disappeared person, and a lurking soldier. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. Coll.nr. TM-4701-1. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Author | Carolina Cuevas Parra
Carolina Cuevas Parra is a feminist researcher and educator from Mexico. Interested in the relationship between materiality, body-territory and collective memory, her current PhD research addresses the practices of care around rivers as part of the research project “Riverhood: Living Rivers and New Water Justice Movements” in Wageningen University. Cuevas Parra obtained a Master’s degree in Gender Studies (University of Granada/Utrecht University), and a BA in Arts and Humanities (University of the Americas Puebla). She also studied Narrative Practices for Education and Community Work with the community study-group of the Indigenous Peasant Network University in Puebla.