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Renowned Mexican Feminists Speak at UTEP Virtual Event

Last Updated on March 30, 2021 at 12:00 AM

Originally published March 30, 2021

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP Communications

Renowned Mexican anthropologist and scholar Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos attributed the rise in domestic violence and intimate partner violence in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic to patriarchal attitudes and gender inequality in the home.

Renowned Mexican anthropologist and scholar Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos spoke at a virtual event co-hosted by The University of Texas at El Paso to promote Women's History Month in March. Photo: Courtesy
Renowned Mexican anthropologist and scholar Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos spoke at a virtual event co-hosted by The University of Texas at El Paso to promote Women's History Month in March. Photo: Courtesy

Lagarde spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic and violence against women at a virtual event co-hosted by The University of Texas at El Paso and the General Consulate of Mexico in El Paso to promote Women’s History Month. Margarita Dalton, a Mexican novelist, historian, researcher and women’s rights advocate, moderated the conversation.

“Violence against women must go through a social transformation to achieve equality between women and men, which I believe is the only thing that can eradicate violence against women and girls,” Lagarde said in Spanish. She was awarded the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz medallion by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. The award recognized her efforts to create a special commission to investigate femicides in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

The virtual talk on March 2, 2021, attracted more than 3,000 viewers on Facebook and highlighted UTEP’s commitment to the Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos International Cátedra (Program) for the Study of Gender Violence.  

Formed in 2016 by a network of universities and one research center, the Cátedra welcomed UTEP in 2017. The program was designed to continue Lagarde’s legacy by studying issues related to equality and violence against women through research, teaching, outreach and political impact.

Collaborators include the Guatemala Foundation, The University of Texas at Austin, the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Juárez University of the State of Durango, and the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS).

Partner institutions host biannual conferences in Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and the United States. Scholars promote research, create public policy initiatives and publish joint research to address gender violence in the Americas.

UTEP’s Department of Social Work in the College of Health Sciences partnered with the General Consulate of Mexico in El Paso to open the conversation with Lagarde and Dalton to consulates and embassies around the world.

“Dr. Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos and Margarita Dalton are feminist icons who boldly call on governments and policy decision makers to be courageous and assertive in their approach to women’s and gender rights,” said Eva Moya, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, who helped coordinate the event with UTEP’s Chicano Studies program and the Women’s and Gender Studies program.

“We need to be bold and courageous and act to ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities,” Moya said. “And we also need to name these patriarchal ways of thinking and acting that continue to oppress vulnerable populations, which are no longer acceptable.”

Consul General of Mexico in El Paso Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon said collaborating with UTEP on this event was essential because the University is an educational institution that cares about empowering women, its students and the community in general through knowledge.

“It was a pleasure to share with the community the conversation ‘Gender Equity, Feminisms and Pandemic’ that had the participation of the distinguished academics Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos and Margarita Dalton, among others, especially in the framework of International Women’s Day,” Ibarra Ponce de Leon said in Spanish. “Knowing the opinions and experiences of some of the most renowned representatives in these matters, they seek to promote the empowerment of women by putting in context both the daily problems they face, as well as the evolution of the legal advances that have been achieved.”

During the event, Lagarde said the pandemic brought public spaces such as schools and workplaces into private spaces such as the home. This led to women and men spending more time together at home working and learning remotely.

Although women and girls and their families were confined to the home as a safety precaution against the coronavirus, Mexico’s emergency response services experienced a surge in domestic abuse calls throughout the country. 

Lagarde said the pandemic exacerbated violence against females in households where men exerted their power over women and girls through abusive behavior. Fortunately, the Mexican government had enacted a law to protect women from such abuse and established programs that provided help and resources to victims of domestic abuse and gender violence.

Despite the increase in gender violence, Lagarde said the pandemic also created a shift toward gender equality. 

“During this terrible crisis, many things that were previously immovable have moved,” Lagarde said.

Dalton echoed Lagarde’s sentiments and said the pandemic was an opportunity to reflect on gender roles and the feminist agenda. She said the pandemic had changed gender roles at home and in the workplace.

“We cannot think that life after the pandemic will be the same as before,” Dalton said, “Not at home, not in gender roles, not at work.”

In closing, Lagarde took a moment to acknowledge deceased feminists who were champions of women’s rights such as Guatemalan poet and writer Alaíde Foppa and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“It is essential that we learn from our ancestors and the progress we have made. Incredible women have paved the road for equity,” Moya said. “We need to continue to work diligently to ensure gender equality not only as a fundamental human right, but as a salient foundation for a more prosperous and sustainable society.”