A well-known feminist mural in the Madrid district of Ciudad Lineal was vandalized sometime before Monday morning, in an act timed to coincide with International Women’s Day.
The faces of the 15 women depicted in the mural were covered with black spray paint. The perpetrators, who called themselves Revolutio, left a note describing feminism as “one of the bêtes noires of our era.”
They have attacked the neighborhood, which is the one that voted for this initiativeMiguel de Andrés, local from Ciudad Lineal
The mural, titled La unidad hace la fuerza (or, Unity through strength) had recently drawn media attention after the far-right party Vox suggested removing it and replacing it with another one showcasing Paralympic athletes. This idea received support from the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens), although the latter reconsidered after a citizen movement to preserve the original artwork attracted around 56,000 signatures.
In a bid to signal their continuing support for the mural, some local residents on Monday printed out the faces of the featured women and stuck them to the wall with duct tape to cover the dark blotches.
The 15 individuals featured on the mural represent women “from various backgrounds who overcame challenges, broke barriers and became reference points in the defense of women and equal rights,” according to the project that was voted on in June 2018, before the political bickering erupted.
They include US tennis champion Billie Jean King, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the American singer Nina Simone, the Guatemalan human-rights leader Rigoberta Menchú and the civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The artwork also includes several figures linked with communism and anarchism, such as the Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko or Comandante Ramona, a commander of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico.
María Luisa Sacristán, a neighbor, called the act of vandalism “an aberration.”
“These people spend their time walking all over the rights of women. In the end, it’s always us who get the raw deal, as we’ve seen with today’s [women’s day] marches, the only ones they have prohibited,” she said, in reference to the government’s decision to ban all demonstrations in the Madrid region due to the coronavirus pandemic. Events in other regions will go ahead.
Earlier in the year, the far-right party Vox had tried to have the mural removed and replaced with another one showcasing Paralympic athletes
Miguel de Andrés, another local, said that these incidents only serve to increase hatred. He feels that public institutions have encouraged this type of action. “They have attacked the neighborhood, which is the one that voted for this initiative,” he noted.
Noelia Jiménez, another Ciudad Lineal resident, said that politics is also to blame. “Everyone is using it, even feminism, to do politics. And that undermines the basis of feminism,” she explained.
Rita Maestre, a Madrid councilor for the leftist group Más País, showed up at the site on Monday morning and talked about an act of vandalism by the far right.
“The PP and Vox had their sights set on this mural, and this is what they have achieved,” she said, in reference to the parties’ earlier plans to remove the work. She also noted that the feminist movement must be quite strong in Madrid because the vandals felt forced to do their action at night, not in broad daylight.
Maestre, the spokesperson for Más Madrid in the Madrid City Council, has asked Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida of the PP for protection measures for the mural and for others like it, following a barrage of “hate messages” on social media. She said that sexism “grows through the complicity of those who whitewash it.”
The incident has been widely condemned on social media by leftist political groups, including the governing Socialist Party (PSOE). This was the third act of vandalism registered in just a few hours: on Sunday, another feminist mural in the nearby city of Alcalá de Henares was damaged after being inaugurated just two days earlier. Mayor Javier Rodríguez Palacios, of the PSOE, called the attack “an assault against all of society.” A plaque honoring trans icon Cristina Ortiz, known as La Veneno, in the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, was also spray-painted with a message against the government’s draft law on trans rights.
Last week, vandals also damaged another mural in Gandía, in the region of Valencia, that celebrates the achievements of women such as the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir or the singer Violeta Parra. Attackers drew swastikas on the women’s foreheads and scrawled insults against the feminist movement.
English version by Susana Urra.