The reconstruction of the image of women in the Puente Grande prison, Jalisco

    Received: February 12, 2018

    Acceptance: May 12, 2018


    The role that women play in today's society is the result of an ancestral assignment; However, this role is increasingly questioned by women themselves and it seems that the more they question, the more violence is generated against them, placing them in a staggering situation between being a victim or a victimizer. This is a project that delves into the construction of female identity through photographs of women who have been violated in various ways; It is an experimental proposal made with the inmates of the Puente Grande Center for Women's Reintegration, Jalisco (Mexico), with the aim that the participants were able to reconstruct their identity and link it with the violent environment where they grew up. We take into account subaltern and gender studies, as well as research based on art and methodology Between voices, so that this accompaniment was from horizontality.

    Keywords: , , ,

    Women's Image-Reconstruction At Puente Grande Prison In Jalisco

    The role that women play in today's society is the result of an ancestral allocation, however, more and more often this role is questioned by women themselves, and it seems that when most violence is questioned is generated against them placing them in a shaky situation between being a victim or victimizer. This is a project that explores the construction of female identity by means of photographs as a proposal for women Women's Rehabilitation Center in Puente Grande (Mexico) were able to rebuild their identity. We consider subordinates and gender studies as well as research-based art and methodologies Between voices so that this support out from the horizontality.

    Keywords: woman, prison, identity, photographs.


    The identity, the gender role and the image that each individual builds of himself and that projects in the public space depends on many factors, circumstances and contexts, so that each society expects that according to the stereotype that was assigned to the born (male or female), the person must behave and assume their role and responsibility in accordance with what is politically allowed within that society; But, what happens when those assigned roles conflict with the identity and image of the individual? What happens when economic, political and social circumstances push women to play a role different from the one assigned to them, and temporarily lose the dimension of your identity, the one that tells you who you are and what society do you belong to?

    Traditionally, masculinity and femininity have been conceptualized as opposite extremes in a bipolar dimension that places the individual on one side or the other of the dichotomous classification (Bem, 1981). Historically there has also been the division of jobs, duties, responsibilities, expectations, etc., where physical differences have defined our passage through society, which has created a society ruled by men and where women used to be the complement, the part maternal and sentimental of the relationship; however, many factors have led to a change in the role of women today. One could speak of new reforms, of the integration of women into working life, literacy, the characteristics of each political system, political and economic changes on a global scale, the media and a long etcetera, elements that could explain this slow but gradual change.

    Given this scenario, it would be convenient to ask ourselves about the impact that each of the aforementioned factors has on the image of today's women. But that cannot be possible without first reviewing the history behind each society, and for this there is room for endless explanations and interpretations. Of all of them, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on understanding the contextual changes that have pushed Mexican women, specifically those who live temporarily in prisons, to build or deconstruct their image, and with it their new identity. .

    To delve into these stories it is necessary to sharpen our eyes and understand the social context of each one, and only then will we be able to perceive where the gender changes are pointing, which many authors assure there will be in the short term; For this, it is important to identify the various gender worldviews that coexist in each society, each community and each person, as Lagarde (1996) states:

    It is possible that a person throughout his life modifies his worldview of gender simply by living, because the person changes, because society changes and with it values, norms and ways of judging the facts can be transformed ”(Lagarde, 1996: 2 ).

    From this gender perspective, we could then delve into the statistics to understand what is happening in Mexico and what marked differences are developing; for example: women who have a university degree are still below men. ”According to figures from the Ministry of Public Education (Sep), in the 2015-2016 school year, 49.9% corresponds to women enrolled in the basic level; at the middle level there is a slight but higher proportion of registered women (50.2%) versus 49.8% of men, while at the higher level only 49.3% of women are studying professionally "(inegi, 2017) (Sep, 2016).

    The figures might be encouraging, but when contrasted with employment opportunities and the difference in wages between men and women, the situation is rather tragic. "The economic participation rate is 43.9%, which means that about half of women of working age have a job, but this percentage of working women report an income lower than that of men by around 30 percent less" , according to statistics regarding International Women's Day (inegi, 2017).

    To better contextualize and focus on the situation that this study aims to expose, it is necessary to talk about other forms of structural violence, less visible but equally present. We refer to economic violence, since this type of violence triggers a series of factors that have to do with discrimination. Economic and labor violence is considered to be the payment of a lower salary to women for carrying out a job equal to that of men (Millennium, 2017). This type of violence is closely linked to inequality, because it has to do with who has control of money and economic resources, or access to them and their distribution. These types of situations generate tension, because when gender roles affect control and access to resources and reduce women's capacity to act and make decisions, their vulnerability to violence increases, which increases the gender inequality gap. gender and economic.

    In recent years there has been a statistical rebound that is directly related to women who are physically violated, because in this sense they have had to seek other illicit sources of work, either out of solidarity with their partners or out of necessity, hence according to reports from the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (inegi), from 2000 to 2015, 28,710 violent murders of women were committed, that is, five daily homicides.

    The figures reflect an increase of 85% in these crimes. And seven out of ten women are victims of violence; Following the same source, every four minutes a woman in Mexico is raped or sexually abused. Many of these homicides and crimes are directly related to organized crime.

    The categorization and analysis of the aforementioned data reflects an increase of 400% in the number of women incarcerated for various crimes, and highlights the strong link between violence against this sector of the population, according to data from the un. That is, according to Hernández (2009), women are linked to crimes because they themselves are victims of gender violence, a component that has not been studied in depth and that also is not part of the ministerial investigations, nor in the integration of criminal trials against him.

    The reading of the exposed data sows a reasonable doubt about the connection that exists between violence, crime, imprisonment, victims and perpetrators; that is, words and figures that show that something is happening in our country and that the role of women is changing or is being pushed to enter more dangerous relationships, which threaten not only their own safety, but also their lives. , with the shock wave that this generates. But before continuing, it is necessary to take a journey through history to understand where the role, image and identity of current Mexican women come from.

    The image of Mexican women

    To talk about the construction or transformation of the identity of Mexican women, it is necessary to scrutinize history as an antecedent to explain contemporary problems. To reconstruct the historical circumstances of women in Mexico from their image, things are not easy, because there are few serious studies that make reference to this field; However, for this work I will take as a reference four crucial events that have left an indelible mark on Mexican society and that have given rise to rethinking the role that women have in society. The events are: the Revolution (1910), the student movement of 1968, the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (1994) and the repression in Atenco (2006).

    The epigraph in particular, and the article in general, do not pretend to be an absolute truth, but to give clues from the images of what has happened to Mexican women. We assume that there is a great variety of aspects from which we can focus or build an image, however, for this case it is important to delve into the elements or circumstances that led women to participate in crucial events in the history of the country, in order to land this construction in the image that women in recent years have projected. We believe that there is a direct relationship in the socio-political, economic and cultural context that is affecting the growing statistics of women and violence (both victims and perpetrators).

    We then start from the fact that events are delimited through spaces, roles, attitudes and values for both men and women; However, some facts define the nuances in gender identities that largely shape the lives of those who are immersed in a criminal world by choice, necessity or conviction. Of course, these constructions do not imply that people wear them as such, but they do direct the decisions that many of them make, and their actions and discourses are shaped through the relations of power and violence that affect the lives of thousands. of women.

    Having said the above, we will begin by defining the stereotypes of Mexican women from the revolution (1910), which were coined thanks to the hundreds of films, photographs and images that for many years characterized postcolonial Mexico. The iconic image of those times is “la Adelita”, that woman with well-combed braids, impeccably ironed dress, a warrior and ready to do anything in order to be at the height of her man; at the same time she was compassionate, submissive and homely. As a photographic example we have the image of the soldaderas on the train. The whole picture is a set of women with baskets. The story tells (although there is no certainty about it) that the soldaderas were those women who fought alongside their men in battles, if necessary they held the rifle in their hands and their son on their back.

    It took many years for the image of Mexican women to be updated, and this does not necessarily mean that there was no evolution or that they did not defend and advance their rights, or that they did not participate in the democratization of Mexico; on the contrary, their participation was important, and although the incursion of women was not much in the universities, the student movement of 1968 was an event in which the participation of women was decisive. The movement took place in an international climate in which protests raged throughout the 1960s.

    It was not only the political struggle in the streets, in the squares and schools, it was also above all the cultural battle of the youth and women to break with the traditional authoritarian and oppressive society of governments, businessmen, clergy, the family, school and the party in turn; This is how the decade can be characterized as a cultural and political revolution in the USA, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Mexico; different parts of the world shared protests and a common code, such as free love, psychedelia and freedom (Cruz, 2011: 2).

    Although little has been written about the role that women played in the 1968 movement, it is known that from the beginning their participation was one of solidarity and camaraderie; But after the massacre, society was engulfed in a feeling of anger, rage, and helplessness, emotions that made mothers, sisters, and wives empower themselves and take to the streets to claim their men. The filmmaker Verónica González (in Delgado, 2013), affirms that in the many interviews carried out for her documentary The women of '68: butterflies in a world of words he discovered that

    Mothers who, without any political training, became involved in the movement, it was due to this feeling of protection and solidarity with their children, sharing the same interest: a search for justice. The grandmother, sister or mother became politicized by that bond of solidarity with the son or daughter. We can notice it, shortly after, when the Committee of Parents was created or, for example, the students who planned and carried out the brigades to inform the people of the movement, the monetary collection of propaganda (Delgado, 2013: 1) .

    Of the images that circulated in public space from June to October 68, 60% featured women in action. A posteriori, the statements of women who participated in the movement assure that their participation was crucial; Although they did not necessarily have to excel as leaders, they assure that their work was just as important as that of men, they were part of the dissemination of information, in the bouncing to get resources and memory, because it was very important that what happened in that black October not be forgotten.

    By far, the 68 movement was a watershed in the history of women in Mexico that sowed precedents, since in the mid-eighties, in hiding, the movement known as the uprising of indigenous peoples was conceived, with the formation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (ezln), which came to light on January 1, 1994 and proclaimed the Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle; Among their demands they raised justice, freedom and honesty for indigenous peoples, in addition to declaring war on the Mexican government and army.

    The movement, from its birth, was a demand for equality, and indigenous women, mostly Mayans, were the ones who sought to be taken into account. In this panorama, they struggled to integrate themselves into the new conditions that arose in the communities; To achieve this, they built a network of actions and demands within their own communities, reluctant to change in the relationships between women and men; This process was called voice-demand work to community grammar (Padierna, 2012).

    Since then, women organized and wrote the Revolutionary Law of Women of the ezln.1 It was the indigenous women of southern Mexico who, through their example and organization, showed the world that gender equality is not only analyzed and discussed in congresses, but that it is practiced and transformed from the daily routine of their lives. I agree with the author Silvia Marcos (2013) when she explains that “the struggles of Zapatista women and the demands for their rights do not fit well in any feminist theory or practice; they transcend and encompass all ”(Marcos, 2013: 18).

    The images that went around the world were those of Zapatista women with their faces covered by a ski mask, dressed in their traditional clothes and carrying weapons. They were the protagonists, and despite the fact that in those early years of the uprising much press was not allowed in, there are photos that show the solemnity and importance of the moment, and the Zapatistas allowed them to be portrayed in their military training as well as in their daily work.

    On the other hand, the manifestation of the people of Atenco in 2001 exploded in the administration of President Vicente Fox, who without consulting the population decided to build a large airport. The protests in defense of the lands were present from the first day it was announced. At first, a group of more than 500 peasants from Atenco and Texcoco, men and women, took to the streets, and quickly hundreds of supporters joined their fight. Along with the social mobilization, there was a legal and juridical struggle over the right to land and territory; Finally, and after five long years of demonstrations, the peasants won, but not before having repressed the people with a strong beating that made international news.

    Sadly, the result of the victory of the people of Atenco had a balance of hundreds of men beaten and imprisoned with sentences of up to 65 years, in addition to dozens of women raped, beaten and imprisoned.2 cases that, although they were presented before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to date there is no one responsible or sentenced for such atrocities.

    After the repression, women assumed power and had to spend another five years (until the last person was released from prison), time in which they did not cease to demand justice, participate and actively demonstrate in every corner of the country and in other countries to tell what had happened to them.

    The images that traveled the world were of women with peasant hats, machete in hand and expressions of exhaustion and fatigue on their faces. Women were news in all the mass media and on social networks; leadership did not fall to just one, all together were spokespersons, united they achieved change and recognized in their actions the flavor of empowerment.

    As Lagarde (2007) states, when forms of oppression and violence are concentrated or increased in society, women are left in a vulnerable situation, as they are pushed and forced by circumstances to act demonstrating courage, character, dedication, independence and sisterhood. . In many cases, the social importance of women's intervention is dismissed on the grounds that women should stay at home, because the social order, that is, the organization of social life, is patriarchal.

    It is about a solid construction of relationships, practices and social institutions (including the State) that generate, preserve and reproduce powers of male dominance (access, privileges, hierarchies, monopolies, control) over women, themselves, who must also suffer from the imposition of social powers (sexual, economic, political, legal and cultural) (Lagarde, 2007: 147).

    Faced with this globalizing panorama, it is perceived how the current image of Mexican women has had to adapt to each socio-political and cultural situation, like that of any member of society. Scrutinizing the peak moments of Mexican history allows us to glimpse that the female presence has always been there, rather history and the events of life have not mentioned them enough; women only excel when they have had to show what they are made of.

    Another aspect that has also remained in the shadows is the veiled violence of which they have always been victims. Not being mentioned enough runs the risk that many stories are invisible, it is only when we search that those stories come to light, as in recent times, for example, the statistical spikes on women who have been violated, imprisoned and murdered are not easy. to shut up.

    This work aims to focus on the identity of Mexican women as a process of social construction, in which historical structural, social and economic changes influence the identity of the individual in the micro-social sphere due to the ruptures of the same system, where the becoming a positive and more equitable identity for women; For this reason, it is important to set precedents to delve into more complex stories, which although they are not the majority, they are an important number that must be taken into account.

    Identity, self-image and female roles from the theory

    As we have seen, the prevailing socio-political situation in the country has had a special impact on Mexican women, who have had to transform and adapt to each historical situation. To delve into the role, identity and image that Mexican women have built through their lives, it is necessary to contextualize and qualify their environment, otherwise we run the risk of doing the same thing that the government has done when it comes to dictate sentence: impart "justice" without taking into account the antecedents surrounding the situation of each inmate.

    From the gender perspective, this research opts for an epistemological conception that approaches reality from the perspectives of the genders and their power relations, and the inequalities that are reflected in all areas of culture, such as work, family, politics, organizations, art, business, health, science, sexuality, history, etc. (Gamba, 2008).

    We understand gender as the cultural expression of what is naturally masculine or feminine and that, therefore, can undergo variations, depending on time and place. The usefulness of the gender perspective is broad, as can be seen throughout this text, since it implies not only the way in which the cultural symbolization of sexual difference affects the relationships between men and women, but also how the relationship is structured. politics, economics, the legal legal system, state institutions, private life, privacy, ideologies, science and other knowledge systems.

    The theoretical debate on gender has often addressed how gender identities are built, fixed or transformed in process, influenced by power or conflicts through which individuals embody, appropriate, update or reject roles and stereotypes legitimized as feminine and masculine, such as the case of revolutionary women, the Zapatistas, the women of '68 and those of Atenco; For this reason, it is important to take this perspective into account, since this helps to rescue a more neutral aspect of social life and make necessary distinctions about what is happening with women today, but not with all, but with those who they are in jail, the relevance of which has not been considered with sufficient attention.

    Women who challenge roles have a problem, and many of them contextual situations have pushed them to assume other roles. The problem arises when they are questioned about what they are socially expected to accomplish, without considering the resources or contextual aspects. They do not take into account what has become evident in recent decades: that there are no universally "appropriate" female roles for all women, but rather that these depend on factors such as race and social class, factors that, in a patriarchal society affect each woman differently (Lagarde, 1998).

    When we speak of roles we speak of gender, behaviors, differences and collective acceptance, terms that converge in social identity as part of the individual and are derived from the knowledge of belonging to a group or social groups together with the associated evaluative and emotional meaning to this membership (Tajfel, 1981). That is, as Cirense points out:

    Identity is not reduced to a bundle of objective data; rather it results from a subjectively operated selection. It is a recognition of oneself in […] something that perhaps only partially coincides with what one actually is. Identity results from transforming data into value. It is not what one really is, but the image that each person gives of himself (Cirense, 1987: 13).

    Identity, in the case of Mexican women, as Marcela Lagarde explains, has been built and adapted at every moment: “[it is] the people subjected to particular forms of exploitation, oppression and marginalization who, by recreating their stories and own identities, they criticize modernity and its most valuable promise: development ”(Lagarde, 1999: 6).

    In this sense, each subject is a reflection of the society that has lived from three levels: “the level of thought, feelings and behavior. Each woman thinks, feels and acts according to the ways in which those around her do and with whom she continually interacts ”(Lagarde, 1999: 129).

    We then have that behind each woman there is a universe of feelings, attachments, customs, traditions, jobs, activities, roles, preference groups, powers, symmetries, accesses, religions, knowledge, loyalties, communications, endless things and reasons to through which they evaluate their world, and in this universe perhaps there is a feeling that on the surface could seem contradictory, but which was the common denominator that came to light during the work with women in prison: love. Yes, love was the feeling that moved them to commit crimes: the love they felt for their children, for their partners or for the people who often push them to break the law. Later we will explain the contradiction about this feeling.

    When women step on jail, their world changes, their self-esteem is vulnerable and their image fades before society. It is not easy to work on the reconstruction of the (physical body) image of women from the confinement, because first there must be a retrospective in their lives in order to reinvent themselves, not only in the process of creating their current image, but in the wider process that involves recognizing, identifying and later rebuilding.

    The objective of this study was that, through photographs, women, after many years of not seeing themselves portrayed, made a series of images in order to take stock of their lives and visualize themselves in the future. It is explained in detail later.

    We start from the fact that the body image defined by Rodríguez is like “a mental photograph that each individual has about the appearance of the body together with the attitudes and feelings regarding that body image” (Rodríguez, 2000: 73); However, there are more factors that intervene to build a self-image, that is, although it is true that the body image starts from the biological and the physical, there are more details that allow transcending said image, among other things the image will reflect the shape in which each individual perceives himself.

    Thus, self-image is fundamental in our lives, as it largely determines the way in which we relate to ourselves, with others and others, and the way in which we face life. That is why it is essential to work on this issue with women, since many of them the last image they remembered of themselves was the photograph of the criminal that appeared in the newspapers or with which the file was opened in prison.

    We have then that the appreciation that each person develops depends on the self-image. It is necessary to understand that each person builds (according to their personal history) an ideal to achieve. Self-image can be close or far from this ideal, or take very different directions: becoming a constructive ideal for personal development or destructive for it (not every ideal constructed by individuals has positive connotations; it may be the case of people who pursue ideals that involve risks to their own integrity).

    Thus, according to the construction of the self-image, and, therefore, depending to a great extent on the context and on a series of connections (among other things) that have occurred in childhood and later in youth, each individual goes to esteem oneself to a greater or lesser extent, thereby generating a series of actions, thoughts and feelings that directly affect the greater or lesser vulnerability of this individual.

    Therefore, self-esteem does not necessarily have to do with who you really are, but with who you think you are, and this is built throughout life. People learn to esteem themselves and manage to overcome difficult moments with enough appreciation for themselves to meet their needs, develop and build a more fulfilling life.

    However, often some women who are in prison have suffered such violence that as a consequence their self-esteem has been damaged, so it is necessary that they be allowed a reunion with themselves that helps them to take ownership of their desires and needs. A reunion that allows them to accept and respect each other with their qualities and defects and that allows them to try to improve and change the things that they can change.

    Photography as an intermediary

    From the link that exists between image and self-esteem, it was thought to carry out a project whose objective was based on the reconstruction of identity, thought from experience, and that had to directly answer two questions: who am I? And who am I in front of the other? However, for a full understanding of the process, the recognition of one's own specificity in contrast to the "other" is not enough. It is necessary to study how this specificity is constructed and recreated.

    The central idea was to delve into the context of their lives to unravel the image they project, with the aim that when they see themselves reflected in prison they could see themselves in the mirror and retake that image to project themselves into the future. To delve into this topic, we proposed an experimental project that, beyond the interviews, would allow us to know how women are assumed, but not as any woman, but as women who have been attacked, imprisoned and victimized. Women who, perhaps along the way, due to economic, sentimental or social circumstances, lost their essence, their identity and, without thinking about it, also their freedom.

    On these bases, working with photographs, dramatization and storytelling allow us to return to their lives, reflect the effects and weight of their decisions on them and on the shock wave they generate, in order to look at the future with new eyes. Voices and images offer an important alternative both in the field of photography and in that of analysis and storytelling.

    The process of taking photographs within the prison environment became an opportunity to develop personal and collective stories that had been silenced, or rather told privately to lawyers or judges, who will finally only take into account the facts to judge them.

    Making use of photography in this project allowed us to delve deeper into the life stories of these women, visualize some social problems, discover family dysfunction and even provoke social action. Following De Miguel and Ponce (1998), we consider that photography contributes substantively to the construction of social reality. The image is increasingly important in the ideas that are had of society, of social roles, of social norms.

    There are three types of photographs: window, ruler and mirror, according to the sociologist Jesús M. de Miguel (1998). Window photographs portray reality as it is seen; that is, the image reproduces reality exactly. They are often used in criminal cases as evidence or to show a beautiful landscape. The rule photos are those that are used in advertising, they are those that are produced from the unreal world. These photos not only have meaning, they produce meaning. And finally, mirror photos project what the photographer feels about a social reality.

    In the mirrored photos,

    the photographer tries to persuade any viewer of something. Mirrors are good for investigating human nature, people's vital values. Real reality doesn't matter as much as what it communicates. The mirror can then be used as autobiographical material, even for the psychoanalytic analysis of a person or a social group (De Miguel, 1998: 90).

    In this case, the women had to build an image like a mirror that could reflect their feelings. The group, for its part, had to not only look at the photo but also analyze it carefully and explain what feelings that image produced. Looking at a photograph is not the same as stopping to observe it for several minutes; then other meanings are discovered, and when the details of the photographs are verbalized aloud, the image takes on another dimension that is often related to the state of mind, what the person is thinking or what they are living in that state. moment.

    Frozen images facilitate processes of exploration of new aspects of the personal, sometimes denied, relegated to an emotional oblivion whose origin is unknown, summoned to retreat in favor of a blurred identity. We agree with Serrano when he talks about the therapeutic potential of artistic media, including photography: “We consider that this potential put at the service of a therapeutic relationship and a frame defined from art therapy can favor change processes that will resonate in all vital dimensions. of the person ”(Serrano, 2014: 158).

    Prison, voluntarily or not, allows a pause in life; Sometimes that pause is very long, painful and unfair, and at least in the case of Mexico, this time is not accompanied by workshops, therapies, activities or classes that allow to rearrange the grudges, feelings or failures, which help to rebuild the identity. For this reason, it is important to understand what happens to the identity of those women who, throughout their lives, have dedicated themselves to satisfying the image that others want to see, that is, they have been concerned with projecting an image of themselves that they only want or desire. see others, without putting your own feelings, desires or needs first. This is the case of women who are in jail for various reasons.

    Workshop description, topics, examples and testimonials

    It is not easy to access the Female Rehabilitation Center with an experimental project that will explore the interior of the dams with artistic techniques and photographs. Despite the fact that from the beginning it was proposed to work with the accompaniment of the Department of Psychology of the prison itself, the opening was never comfortable, everything was always questioned and monitored. Paint, sculpt, draw, make collage, speaking, writing is tolerated, but taking pictures are major words. The photographs should always be between them.

    The selection of the participants was voluntary. Twenty women between 23 and 50 years old participated in this project, of which only three decided that their work and testimonies should not be exhibited. The crimes for which the participating women were prosecuted were: 45% for organized crime, 35% for sale of drugs or narcotics, 30% for robbery at home, banks, businesses or cars, 10% for parricide, 10% for fraud, 5% for homicide, 5% for trafficking in women, 5% for attempted murder and 25% for carrying a weapon for the exclusive use of the army.

    Of the total of women, 17 of them are mothers and only three planned motherhood, the rest became pregnant very young (around 16 years of age they had their first child), they were single mothers, they no longer had a relationship with the couple, or they had children of different parents.

    The characteristics of the group collected in the first months of work through interviews and surveys gave us background information on the group with which we were dealing. For this investigation, relating crimes to motherhood, the past and the social context was of vital importance; Thus we discovered that around 75% came from unstructured families, 82% had a violent childhood; 93% had not had any kind of sexual, moral or educational orientation in his life, and only 3% received visits to jail.

    Delving into the background of these women reveals many family, social, political, economic and cultural mitigating factors that pushed them to make hasty decisions, but above all they tell us about the emotional state in which they have lived all their lives.

    The workshop allowed women for the first time to be able to tell their stories and their intimacy in front of others without feeling judged. They discovered limits, convergences and similarities that, despite living together, they had not discovered; They recognized the absences and emotional poverty that they have had throughout their lives and that are exacerbated by the isolation they live.

    In order for someone to be reintegrated, they must first be aware of their situation, what behaviors are inappropriate, what are the limits that cannot be crossed and the limits that they must know to avoid transgressions against their person. An artistic workshop is useful for participants to "rethink" and project themselves in a more integrated way.

    The discourses generated from artistic creation or from Art-Based Research allow us to review “the imaginary and access the symbolic universe of each individual. Likewise, they facilitate the person in a situation of social exclusion to realize their difficulties, elaborate their conflicts and make a path towards autonomy ”(Moreno, 2010: 2).

    Baste the stories, discourses, feelings and images from the methodological construction Between voices It allowed social actors, in this case women, to decide and present their positions, since the important thing is communication. “It is not about mastering the same reality, nor having the same knowledge, nor behaving in the same way, nor doing the same thing, but simply knowing and being able to transmit what I am and what I want, as well as knowing how to listen and dialogue ”(Corona, 2009: 17).

    Having raised the above, we proposed that formal and technical aspects, as well as expressive ones, be addressed, which would allow them to explore the aesthetic sense of the works or productions, in order to strengthen the imaginary and promote the critical capacity of each one and free communication.

    For the workshop, different visual artists were invited to teach various disciplines. In the photography area, the participation of Aldo Ruiz Domínguez and Natalia Fregoso Centeno, who have outstanding careers in anthropological and documentary photography at the national and international level. Their experience was decisive in introducing women to visual literacy, since the work of both could be categorized in mirror photographs.

    Although the central theme of the workshop was photography, over the course of six months we relied on other artistic techniques, such as painting, sculpture and collage, in order to introduce women to visual literacy. The journey through the various artistic expressions introduced them to the world of visual communication; This helped to clarify the creation of mirror photographs, so that when they saw each other they not only recognized themselves, but were also able to include elements in their images that would help them communicate their messages.

    Visual literacy is defined by Hortin (1981) as the ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images. This literacy involves the ability to decode and interpret visual messages and encode and compose meaningful visual communications; that is, make evaluative judgments against each reading of the reality that is presented.

    Classes were held twice a week and we were only allowed to use a small room in the infirmary area; We always had the presence of a custodian, therefore, the students had to make use of their imagination and make use of the few objects that they are allowed to have in order to build their photographs.

    There were three major issues that we addressed with the inmates, trying to ensure that in each one of them they were able to deepen and link their emotions as much as possible by making use of objects, angles, lights and expressions. It should be noted that the testimonies presented in this article have all the authorization to publish them with the original names, only one of them preferred to appear with a pseudonym.

    Recognize and name

    Through various exercises we connect the self and the image that the inmates project. They were given basic instructions on the use of the cameras and asked to portray themselves however they wanted, in order to create a first sketch of their person. During the exercise, the participants had to first choose an image to represent them, and then as a group all the participants had to say how that image was perceived, what emotions it aroused in them.

    The idea was to work with the information that is generated from the subconscious, because from there the participants are able to show themselves as they are in relation to the chains and people around them. The objective was for them to become aware of their present, of what sustains them, in order to understand what they can solve at this moment. Your concerns should not be for the past or for the future, because that is something that cannot be changed.

    Being the first exercise, there was a lot of emotion; The women were eager to take pictures of themselves and ran in all directions: they photographed flowers, they threw themselves on the floor, they got witty. Normally, this type of work reflects the mood and attitude of the person doing it at that time.

    The images were diverse, there were those who were photographed sitting in a meditative pose, leaning against a tree, holding a flower in their hands, pointing to the sky or simply reading or writing. But when observing them more closely, the companions were able to find dozens of messages, expressions and feelings that a certain photograph projected on them and that coincided with the mood and the situation that is being lived.

    The photograph that Marichuy chose was where she appears sitting with her hands joined holding her face looking at the camera. Introducing it, he explained that he had chosen that photograph because he liked the way it appeared. Her companions thought that it was a photo where she looked dead in life, without any expression. Even though she looks at the camera, it seems her thoughts are elsewhere. Finally she acknowledges: “I'm not having a good time, I have been mired in depression for months and I signed up for the workshop in search of hope. I do not see the end of this sentence and I do not believe I will endure the 35 years that have been imposed on me ”(M. Lomelí, personal communication, February 19, 2015).

    Marichuy and Pera. Marichuy Archive. Author: Ileana Landeros. Title: Marichuy's thoughts. Year 2016.
    Pear file. Author: Ileana Landeros. Title: Angel and Demon. Year 2016.

    Another case was that of Tere3 (who requested anonymity for the crime he is accused of). She appears behind a fence with half her face covered by her hair, her gaze directed to the ground and in one hand she holds a rose. He explained that the photograph seemed very beautiful to him, especially since he had never posed like this before: "as very romantic." Her classmates said that the image reminded them of someone with a double personality, half looked like a very pretty and pleasant woman, and the other a darker being, which was scary. The comments did not sit well with him and it took him a few minutes to resume speaking; When she did, she explained: "Yes, I have two personalities, I have done very horrible things, of which I am not proud and maybe I deserve to be here, but deep down I am good and I want to be so always, more than anything for my daughters" (Tere, personal communication, March 5, 2015).

    Tere's immediate environment since her childhood has been organized crime. It comes from a family of bonnets where his uncles, brothers, cousins and father are the only reference he has as examples to follow; It goes without saying that she has been the victim of a contextual violence that surrounds her since she was born.

    We could well analyze Tere's behavior from the perspective of the behavioral theory of Ronald Akers (1968), who suggests that criminal behavior, like all behaviors, is shaped by the stimuli or reactions of others to this type of behavior. In this case, Tere herself reports that the positive and negative reinforcements came from the most powerful influence: peers and family.

    Objects and context

    The objective of this practice was for them to begin to meet again. Recognize that decisive things have happened in their life, they have had results and losses, and the important thing is to start working to build a different future and recover the essence (sometimes confinement, sadness, depression and loneliness isolate them from their memories and strengths) that makes them human.

    The practice forced the women to remember. Although several exercises were carried out, the most significant was to portray their belongings and establish a relationship between their belongings and their environment; that is to say, each thing had to refer them to some contact, event or person who is or was in their life. When they portrayed their things, they were free to make a composition in which they explained why it was worth taking a photograph and why it was important to keep it among their belongings.

    It took a lot of work for women to open up and acknowledge unhealthy relationships just by looking at a phone number. Some objects referred them to the pleasant presence of family visits that they claimed were honest and heartfelt visits, since they agreed that very few people are the ones who stay by their side when they fall into jail.

    When it comes to assigning meanings to the things portrayed, some were very thorough, many of them managed to verbalize with ease, for others it was a difficult process. Eli, for example, was able to name, identify, remember, and explain the meaning of everything. But when she had to explain the mirror and the relationship it had in her bag, she started by saying that it was an object she never used. Eli was not ready to see herself in the mirror, and she burst into tears saying, “I can't see myself; each thing is very significant and I cannot see my face in a mirror. The mirrors remind me of the things that I have done wrong and of the people that I have harmed in my life ”(E. Padilla Muro, personal communication, May 26, 2015).

    Eli file. Author: Adriana B. Title: My things. Year: 2016.
    Domérica Archive. Author: Socorrito. Title: There is my life. Year: 2016.

    Domérica, on the other hand, had very few belongings; Despite this, she portrayed her bag that she herself had painted by hand, and said that that bag had a drawing that summarized her life: “The roses are my children, the clock is how long I need to be here. The skull, the stars and the dice is my destiny, it is chance, what awaits me from life, what destiny brings me. But of one thing I'm sure: I never want to come back here, and I don't want to be separated from my children again ”(D. López, personal communication, June 17, 2015).


    Photography was the door to rebuild themselves, to visualize themselves in the future, to recognize themselves as they are and define how they want to appear. For this practice, the inmates made use of their few personal belongings, as well as the little space they provided us, since photographs are strictly prohibited within the reintegration center. For the participants, the simple fact of seeing each other in an image after a few years motivated them to rethink, this was the push they needed to stimulate their creativity and imagine a life outside of prison.

    After a long journey of feelings and confrontations with themselves, the workshop allowed the women to point out their pain, lack and resentment by name. It was like a jolt that they finally analyzed everything they carried and it was time to decide what they were left with to move on with their lives. One of the last exercises consisted of printing five photographs that they had previously chosen, which they had to place as they wanted on a rigid paper as a collage. The message was that they should rebuild and recognize themselves in that collage photographic; they could scratch it, paint it, cut it out, and so on.

    All the cases were surprising. From his different styles, through his images and final reflections, we could see that hope and dreams reappear. For example, in the case of Marichuy, accused of patricide and sentenced to 35 years. Her work was a retrospective that, as she says, shows more confidently than ever that she is innocent, she says:

    These eight years here I have been angry because of the injustice, because there was not a good investigation, and because I did not have money to hire a good lawyer. But now I understand that my life is not over. The journey of my life (throughout the workshop) made me reinforce now more than ever that it was not my fault, it was an accident, and what I am living in this place is only temporary (M. Lomelí, personal communication, 26 July 2015).

    The collage shows photographs of his personal belongings on the grass, and only one foot on the ground, his face smiling, his hands caressing a rosebud, and explains: “Although my body is here, my thoughts, my love and my dreams belong to another world, a world in which I do not give up ”(M. Lomelí, personal communication, June 26, 2015).

    Another case was Samantha, who throughout the workshop was hermetic and not very expressive; however, its composition was a tour of very thoughtful and carefully ordered images (almost all in black and white). She shared the following: “All I can say is that it was stupid that I did it, I just wait for a second chance to use all my intelligence to finish a PhD. I never thought it would end up in Mexico and in a place like that ”.

    In this case it is important to say that the absence of colors in his photographs and compositions also reflected his emotional state. She specifically in photography decided to use only black and white, because that is how she saw her life: “There are no colors because at this moment my life is dark, like when the sky gets cloudy. The colors are not the same when the sun is bright ”(S. Smith, personal communication, June 26, 2015).

    Marichuy Archive 2. Author: Ileana Landeros. Title: Free. Year: 2016
    Samantha file. Author: Margie Novelo. Title: My passion. Year: 2016

    Linking photography with personal decision-making is a step for women to be able to imagine living in an autonomous and socially integrated way. We discover with this practice that it is possible that they project themselves into the future as if it were a goal, and thus direct their aspirations there.

    Visual discourses accompanied by adequate therapy can be an alternative to rethink the successful reintegration of women. Sports, religious ceremonies and the occasional leisure activity that women have access to are not an option, because they only make life in prison bearable, but they do not provide them with any other tool to rethink their lives.

    The pseudo-workshops (mainly sewing) in which women work, which the prison authorities define as “occupational therapy”, as Aída Hernández (n / d) explains, is nothing more than a new alternative of legal exploitation within the prison. , which is far from being a rehabilitation strategy; on the contrary, he ties their hands, because they have no other remuneration alternatives, and instead they do have the need to continue sending money to their homes and also pay their expenses within the prison.

    Life in prison for some of these women is no worse than outside; some confessed that at least inside the jail they felt safe and at peace:

    It is harder to survive outside, when you are a single mother, men are always after you, just harassing you, and my life since I was 9 years old was like that, I had to defend myself from men who wanted to abuse me, and I was always worried about how to maintain to my children; at least now, although little, but I'm sending them (M. Novelo, personal communication, June 2, 2015).

    The previous one was one of the last testimonies we collected, and it portrays the stress and violence experienced by this group of women from an early age; We also discovered that since their arrest and during their legal proceedings, the violence did not stop until they were transferred to the Women's Prison, where they were able to find a haven of peace.

    The image of women in prison

    Defining the image of Mexican women in general is a great responsibility, because there are a great variety of nuances. To define them, it would be necessary to take into account the contextual situation to which they are subjected, the place where they live, the roots, the economy, the color of the skin, the socioeconomic level and the school education, just to name a few points.

    When we talk about the image of Mexican women, we find similarities and convergences that reveal a pitiful and discriminatory contextual framework. The participation of women at different moments in history arose from movements generated from violence, disagreements and repression. Their presence was taken into account only when they had to raise their voices, fists, machetes and rifles to assert their rights.

    So we have that revolutionary women, the participants of the 68 movement, the Zapatistas and the women of Atenco have a common denominator that united them and gave them a place in history: "forced justice." Their participation, in many of the bloody cases, was provoked by the State, it was the State that in those events exercised brutal force against them. It has been the State that has discriminated and humiliated women when it is supposed to provide facilities, promote equity and protection.

    This framework then serves to analyze the image of women in prison. As we described in previous paragraphs, most of these women come from a social breakdown; We are talking about women who represent the weakest link in the criminal social chain. They are victims of constant violence and victims of an aberrant judicial system, the product of an unjust economic system.

    We cannot generalize that all women in Mexico are victims of violence, but it is necessary to recognize that a large number of them, who meet certain characteristics, are now real stories that exploit us in the face and that ironically lead us to wonder why the increase of women in prison, when the real question should be what is happening to society and what are the government, institutions and all the organs that make up society doing to provide security and equal opportunities to women.

    It is necessary to scrutinize the image that each one projects of himself to realize that the image of women in prison is nothing more than a reflection of the great mirror of our society. Discovering true stories through a photograph allows us to understand that beyond a pose there are unresolved disagreements, altered roles and overlapping identities.

    The image that society knows and recognizes of women in prison is possibly the one that appeared in some media where they are pointed out as alleged guilty parties; Those photographs are not so different when compared to the images we remember of women who have participated in different movements. At the time, they too were judged, an effort had to be made to unravel the context and then award them a reality and a place in history.

    Constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing an image has many edges, and in any case gender prejudices or stereotypes are the most vulnerable because we live in a patriarchal society. From this perspective, we assume that it is essential to understand the disadvantageous positions from which women commit crimes that condemn them to spend long periods of time or the rest of their lives in prison.

    The last image that the women in the prison remembered of themselves was that of the legal files where they were recorded as criminals; If we compare these photographs with the images that they themselves took, we will then notice great differences. The photographs taken by the prison system are the ones that society sees and judges, the ones that they built inside the prison are the ones that give them hope.

    The women of the revolution fought alongside their men out of love for them and their country. The sympathizers of the '68 movement were comrades, sisters, mothers and wives who out of love sought and demanded justice in the face of the massacre of the youth of Tlatelolco. The Zapatistas knew how to demand their rights out of love, at the right time, just as the men with whom they were going to sow, fight and live shoulder to shoulder. And the mothers, wives, sisters and hundreds of women sympathizing with the Atenco residents out of love demanded freedom and an end to persecution of an indolent government. The women in prison, out of love, allowed and agreed to commit illicit acts, most of them trying to solve economic problems quickly.


    Let us remember that the objective of this research was for the participants to be able to reconstruct their identity and link it with the violent environment where they grew up, and thus be able to project themselves into the future; However, recovering identity is not an easy task, it is about rebuilding self-esteem, it is to love again, it is to recognize what they did well in their life and what they did wrong, what limits were transgressed and why.

    In this direction, we recognize that photography favored the work of rebuilding the image of women in prison, since it fostered the emergence of self-esteem, renewed team participation, and technical knowledge aroused critical awareness. From this study we cannot affirm that these components arose only through this methodology, however, we do believe that taking photographic images will allow the transmission of a situation of injustice to the rest of society.

    Taking photographic shots (from the choice of sites, composition of elements, framing, etc.) and the creation of the image itself stimulated memories as well as conversations, which allowed a new construction of the meaning towards which women direct their lives, important for people in general, but mainly for people who are going through or have experienced moments of social breakdown.

    For the women in prison, rebuilding their image was to rediscover their essence, it was to recover their memory, it was to understand that they face an indolent society and system where the economic situation is pressing and there is no alternative but to fight like the soldaderas did. for recognizing a free country, or the women of '68 for achieving equal rights since then, or as the Zapatistas did, who from their roots and traditions want an egalitarian coexistence, or as the women of Atenco, who beyond fighting Because they did not take away their lands, they prevented them from taking away the security of a family made and rooted in the traditions of that people. Prison women fight for contextualized justice.

    In this case, the images and the accompaniment showed the possibility of reviewing his life from another perspective, where the reinsertion is viewed as successful, as long as he is clearly aware of what was done wrong by his own decision. We believe that this experimental project can work, since it is not an occupational alternative, but an excuse to seriously review and rethink what they want to do with their life. The women who participated in this workshop have been visually literate, so the images will always be a reminder to give them hope or to show them what they can correct.


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