One of my favorite cities in the world is Mexico City.
Every time I visit this huge metroplex, I enjoy this inexplicable sense of feeling so small in a city as crowded as CDMX. There’s always something to do, the food is indescribably delicious, and its cultural richness is unbeatable.
All my visits to The City of Palaces always feel so short, and although I have been there countless times, I always leave planning the following return.
Everything about Mexico City seems perfect in my eyes. However, if anybody asks me if I would move there by myself, my answer would be a simple, yet harsh “no.”
The reason? Harassment.
As much as I love this city, I have never felt so unsafe around men here than anywhere else I’ve ever been to. And I explore it like a local in the company of friends who live there, but it’s different.
I’m a Latina of Mexican descent who lives in a border city and has always been in direct contact with Mexico – Ciudad Juarez in this case.
However, gender plays a role in how bearable your life is while living in Mexico City. For men, living in CDMX seems like a privilege. My male friends, for instance, say they’ve rarely encountered any type of violence in the city. For the most part, they feel unscathed by a scary reality that paints the magical city. Yet, my female friends don’t share the same sentiment.
One of my best friends – who resides in Mexico City – once told me she considers Mexico City the perfect place to live if it wasn’t for all the harassment women experience. I can’t even imagine what she goes through. She’s there full-time, while I only visit from time to time.
The government tries to help – but does it really?
The times that I’ve used the subway and visited mercados in the city, I have experienced situations in which men have stared at me for minutes that feel like hours. I’ve also heard them make comments to each other about my looks. Yes, right in my face, not even caring about me listening. This always makes me sick to my stomach and also makes me wonder what they really have in their brains (obviously not much) and if they even give a damn about women as human beings.
The public transportation in this metro area is very interesting too. There are sections designated just for women. These seats are identified with the color pink, which in some way is supposed to “protect” women.
These pink seats – and other signs around the city – are trying to raise awareness of the catastrophic situation; they are located on both buses and the subway. Their purpose? In the hopes to prevent sexual harassment against women. I feel a deep sense of disappointment when I see these chairs or signs. It’s not enough.
Harassment is an everyday thing for many women in Mexico City, so it’s almost been normalized. According to a study done by the local government – along with different organizations –, more than half of the women who participated in the study don’t feel safe neither using public transportation nor in the streets and public spaces.
The study also revealed that 77.4 percent feel scared of being sexually harassed while using public transportation. A total of 81.3 percent walk the streets and public areas with the fear of becoming sexual victims.
Harassment is not only present in places like CDMX
As per the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), Latinas are more likely to stop attending extracurricular and sports activities at school to evade any type of sexual harassment. Also, married Latina women “were less likely than other women to immediately define their experiences of forced sex by their spouses as ‘rape’ and terminate their relationships.” This is worrisome, especially since it’s also a form of harassment.
Let’s remember how the lack of bilingual and bicultural guidance, information, and resources plays an important role in why this community tends to experience sexual harassment more often.
Our society – as a whole – has a lot of work to do. Not just in Mexico City and in the United States. Thankfully, as minutes, hours, and days pass by, the word is getting out and we are slowly starting to generate change.