"I am forever dead from a death... that was not mine".

Cintia Bolio, from her latest e-book Erótica
which can be ordered here
Cintia Bolio was in Copenhagen on invitation of the Danish Cartoonists to lead a workshop with Siri Dokken. When I took leave of Cintia on her final evening in town, she was nervous for my being alone in the street at night, insisting that I should take a taxi and that I should call her as soon as I was safe at home. As women we all recognize her concern, but this time it was furthermore a corner to an insight into the deadly situation of Mexican women. International organisations speak not only of women murdered in Mexico, but of their being violently murdered.

Let us give the word to Cintia Bolio in an interview she and I did for the Danish comics online magazine Nummer9.dk: Cintia Bolio, a Danish workshop and a Mexican one. Please share the objectives for your teaching with us:

Cintia Bolio: The Wine of Immortality.
Self-portrait, printed in Erótica, 2018
On my workshops I tell the men among the participants: "I am the mother of a boy, of a man. Don't be afraid. We feminists do not want to take away not even one of your rights. For many generations we have had to struggle for rights, such as civil rights, electoral rights, political rights, productive and sexual rights, but we will not take away a single right for men. No".

I never say it out loud of course, but I think these men are brave going to a place where they will hear some painful stuff and they have to reflect about it and they know I won't spoil them "Ah! My students!" NO! They hear terrible things. Okay, so let us take the responsibility that everyone has and no more.

Our goal is to find balance and justice for women, so it is a workshop for everyone to do their own comics, but it is also a way for men to learn about the situation of women; the different types of violence against women, because there are so many and especially how to prevent them. How we are not even aware that we support or allow it to happen such as from the very start symbolically from our parents and the educational system so that we can break down that cycle of violence through comics.

A vital task for comics?

This is why comics are so important because it is a great way to make a statement through humour. This element of humour is much needed, in that for instance in Mexico the society suffers so from the corruption of the political class. People are depressed that there is no solution and then we have to encourage them that OF COURSE there is a solution. Let us go marching and let us go yelling, beginning from inside our houses. We have to work from inside our houses, from ourselves. It is not in the hands of the government that some day it will be honest, oh no.

Mothers grew up being girls first before becoming mothers, within a structure named patriarchy, you cannot escape patriarchy; you can escape nothing about it. It is like trying to escape – I am an atheist, it is like trying to escape religion, you cannot, you are born in a culture that comes with religion, and the patriarchy is the political religious economical structure.

We can change it of course. It is a structural situation created by humans. I teach my students to love women because teachers in Mexico teach girls to love and worship men and hate women. And they teach men to love and worship men and hate women. We have to struggle with this idea because that is unconditional. Whatever the man does, the man is magnificent. If the man kills a woman, ah! Poor man, she must have done something to him, and on the other side even if a woman gets raped or killed, surely she did something to provoke it.

Now we have that tragic situation in which the mothers of the murdered women are learning forensic technics, imagine the pain and then have to learn about DNA, taking evidence, and search for the killer because the government just says, "We don't have the budget" or "Women are always nagging, don't bother me". In one case the mother [Marisela Escobedo] searched for her daughter's [Rubi Marisol] killer for years, found the killer, put him to justice and the justice released him. He got away and became part of organized crime, but the mother organized marches from Chihuahua to Mexico City with pictures of her daughter, sometimes she was half-naked, only wearing the portrait of her daughter. She made a camp in front of the government of Chihuahua, and she was killed. Shot. So now we have the killing of the daughter and the killing of her mother asking for justice.

We have such terrible stories and the numbers are increasing. Two years ago six women were killed a day, last year one more, this year eight every day. We have lots to do.

Cintia Bolio, Re-Killing Society, 2017.
On the headstone are listed all the reasons for the "guilt" of the woman murdered
- and she is murdered yet again on social media, a place for defending femicide.

Why are the killings increasing now – and let us include she whose tale gets me every time, I see her

Because of corruption. There is no punishment. Part of corruption is another great problem named impunity, so when you do not punish the criminal act, many men take example: "Oh, I can dispose of the life of a woman, because the life of a woman is worthless, and I am entitled, because I am the man".

The statistics say 5 out of a 100 killers are caught. 95 killers are living like it was nothing, calm, tranquil, nobody is after them, nobody, impunity total. You are working among killers. You do no know if you are meeting with a killer in in the tortillas line, in the market buying food, in the streets, you do not know whom.

Women are dehumanized from childhood. We are the property of men and men can do whatever with a thing that is not human.

The media doesn't help with the photos of the victims, these women torn apart. We write to the media, please do not use the photos. They are disrespectful for the families and do not help us as a society.

Cintia Bolio,
Detail of the page immediately below
For my first comic on femicide in 2005 I used the image of a doll. I was invited by the Feria ARCO in Madrid to do a six-page comic with absolute freedom as to the content. I imagined a field of the six crosses when the images were seen together on a wall as a memento to the dead. The pink crosses are placed in a landscape with floating vignettes on the story of a woman employee, with no education and lousy payment; describing her life day by day. For her death I used the image of a doll pulled apart and thrown away like garbage. She keeps telling us: I was a human being, it may not have been a good life, but it was my life. I was given a death that was not my own death. Her hand is caressing her own face on the missing perso
ns poster

The exhibition organizers got a deadly serious comic. There is always rain in the parade. They wrote to me that it was beautiful and invited me back the following year. Spain was the first to say: This is good!

Cintia Bolio, the final page of Memento, 2005.
The murdered woman says: "I would do anything to return, but there is nothing
left for me... only the colossal silence of the desert. I am forever dead from a death
that... was not mine".

How did The Rebel Uterus come about?

I first drew her in 1998. Women are seen as fragments in our society, never as a complete human being. When they need you for sex, they only see your boobs, vagina and arse, and if they want to profit from your work, you are only your hands. And if they want you to reproduce and serve the community you are just a uterus.

Feminist groups achieved legalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2007. It was historical. It is said to have saved thousands of lives coming from other states in the country, where it is forbidden. We have about 300 women in jail for practising clandestine abortions, intended abortions and even those who miscarried.

Imagine that. You miscarry, you go to hospital and before they attend to you, they call the police. Women are in jail accused of murder in first degree. Most of the women aborting in Mexico are poor women. The rich women can abort safely in the best of hospitals. Women have always aborted. It is not a problem of morality or of a religious nature. It is a problem of health and most of these women are poor women and already mothers. It is her fault, if she gets pregnant, according to the man. It is my pleasure but not my responsibility. So the responsibility is always on women's own shoulders, why it is so important to have the Mexico City law. It is now a human right.

You cannot take away a human right, period. But of course now the politicians are playing with the presidential election this year, playing with the idea that if you vote for us, we shall put it to a referendum.

The gay community do what they can for the orphanages. The right wing to not adopt, they don't put a penny. They are just against abortion. They should support a raped girl; ensure the child's education, because you are going to be a mother, often a single mother. Instead the girl is expelled. They don't give scholarships to single women.

Cintia Bolio, Conscientious Objection, 2017

You are an example of a woman succeeding in spite of the odds

I am a self-taught artist. I was 19 when I became pregnant and had to leave school so I learned through the masters: Rius, Helio Flores, [Rogelio] Naranjo. From childhood I wanted to become a political cartoonist, because of the love in the humorous drawings. I understood they were showing love, even if I did not understand a thing. I asked my mother, who explained them to me in the simplest words; how this one is about the government and that person, and I read everything I could. So I fell in love with making funny things. Lovingly funny things. Rius was censored everywhere so he made books, and I learned from them. I loved to make drawings, donkeys and rabbits and many mermaids inspired by the mermaid in the Mexican lottery. I drew her with breasts without a bra such as she looked in the lottery and my family was what?! But I was not depraved, it was just how she looked and they were Okay then!

I was doing permanent training in a craft I still did not know was training. I went to my teacher and told him I wanted to become a political artist. What you?! At the next class he very generously brought me a big book from France on Daumier and generously allowed me to take home the book: You copy the cartoons you like and I started learning. Of course we in Mexico have the artists of the school of the revolution period and I love very much [José Clemente] Orozco. He was a cartoonist before he became a muralist. He was charging against corruption in a savage style. He is one of my inspirations, because I am really not a delicate woman. In my work I am loud. There is nothing subtle or delicate about it.

Cintia Bolio, page from the satirical magazine El Chamuco, September 2016 on male abortion.
Cintia is seen sailing the white sea, calling it a burial ground, while the appalled
genital judge is debating with Death, the latter interested in the sudden prospect of a new type
of customer base.

You use the linguistic and visual codes traditionally ascribed to men?

You have to. All cartoonists were men. I never thought of it. I wanted to go there. You learn the tough language naturally, you find your own style, but in the beginning you copy what you love. We own a lot to our teachers.

Rius used a simple language with popular, common words, I followed that path. As for the colour codes of pink for girls, I use my pink to say what I wish to say. Ok, you insist on your pink, you shall get it.

You have to be provocative. I am very clear in my comics that I do not wish men to feel guilty about sexual pleasure. On the contrary I want everyone to be happy about their sexual life, to have as many orgasms as they want. It is not against sex, nor pleasure, but about how our bodies work. We are biological beings. Men don't want laws against them. That was why the uterus came alive. Then came another of my subjects: Biological or Male abortion.

When men run from their responsibility that is abortion! We are biological beings, but sperm is not considered in the law. That is when I get reactions that I am a feminazi bla. bla., and that it is absurd, you cannot abort a man from ejaculating every morning etc. But my point lies in the exaggeration. Every time you ejaculate, you are guilty of killing a life. Every time you ejaculate, you must go to jail. It is putting up these mirrors. Imagine, if it was the mirror situation.

And a final word?

I am sure I will be drawing the uterus for many years to come. You just need a piece of paper and some ink to say something important through humour. It is very cathartic to do as a woman activist. I have to speak up!

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Cintia Bolio and must not be reproduced without her permission.

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