Violence related to the US-Mexican Drug War has caused the deaths of 80,000–120,000 people in Mexico. Many were innocent bystanders of random or targeted violence. Some were friends or relatives of people in drug cartels. All were children of God, worthy to be mourned and remembered.
Fuentes Rojas (Red Fountains) originated in Mexico City in 2011 to raise visibility for the victims of the US-Mexico Drug War that has resulted in systemic violence in Mexico. To make their voice public, members of Fuentes Rojas formed Bordado por la Paz (Embroidering for Peace) to create a memorial for each victim of Drug War violence. The memorials display information from the official police report about the victim’s death in words hand-embroidered with red thread on a man’s white handkerchief. Handkerchiefs were chosen deliberately because of their function in drying the tears of those mourning losses and/or themselves victimized. The movement has spread around the world, to Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the US.
The first 3,000 memorials became a public art installation, “Embroidering for Peace and Memory: One Victim—One Handkerchief,” in Mexico City in December 2012. The memorials were also shown in Paris. The handkerchiefs are frequently used in public installations and events at various locations in Mexico and the US to make visible the deadly results of the Drug War.
On Sunday, January 20, the first meeting of Bordado por la Paz in Tucson was held around the Labyrinth Fountain at St. Philip’s. About 12 people attended and learned about the history and purpose of Fuentes Rojas/Bordado por la Paz. They received instruction on how to embroider the handkerchiefs, and stitched and visited with one another for 2 hours. Each person left with their “panuelo” (panel) to complete at home and return to St. Philip’s. All completed handkerchiefs have been subsequently sent to Fuentes Rojas organizers in Mexico City.
Now named Bordado por la Paz de San Felipe, the group met monthly, from January to April, to embroider memorials. Many members left for the summer to Minnesota, California, Florida, Texas, and points between. They took their embroidery with them and shared the Fuentes Rojas story with friends and family.
On August 1, Una Noche de Bordar was held at Casa Mariposa, a local intentional community of faith and action based on the tradition of the Catholic Worker Houses and the recent New Monastic movement. After sharing a delicious meal, residents of Casa Mariposa, members of Tucson Solidarity Organizing Network (T-SON), and other guests received instruction in starting their own embroidered memorial handkerchiefs. Only two or three participants had any needlework experience. That was not an obstacle to anyone, including three young men! Commitment, enthusiasm, and willingness were immediately at hand, as everyone learned a new skill so they could participate in and support the cause of Fuentes Rojas. We spent a quiet hour of stitching, often in silence. Our gratitude goes to Rachel Winch of Casa Mariposa, for her hospitality and support in planning Una Noche de Bordar.
Plans for the future of Bordado por la Paz de San Felipe include a flashmob at the University of Arizona; tallers, or workshops, at other local faith communities and sites of public fountains; a delegation from Bordado por la Paz de San Felipe travelling to Mexico City to meet with Fuentes Rojas; and workshops in Pima County Public Library branches.
You are invited to join this movement of remembrance and solidarity with our neighbors who struggle each day to survive the US-Mexico Drug War in their neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities. Contact Suzanne Hesh, BorderImmigrationMin@stphilipstucson.org, and watch the bulletins for information about our next event.