‘Ni una menos’: For Dia de los Muertos, Iowans speak out against gender-based violence


By Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register

For Dia de los Muertos, Guadalupe Valladores and her family put a photo of her grandfather, candles, some bread, and Mexican Coco-Cola at their traditional ofrenda, an altar, in their living room.

The candles and Mexican Coco-Cola — her grandfather’s favorite — will guide him back to Valladores and her family on Nov. 2, when according to legend adult spirits can travel through the gates of Heaven and reunite with loved ones for 24 hours.

Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is about embracing and remembering the dead, Valladores, 23, told the Des Moines Register, her face painted like a sugar skull — an iconic Dia de los Muertos’ image.


“We remember them for who they were, the love they brought into this world,” she said. “By remembering, they never die.

The same goes for victims of gender-based violence, she said, which is why on Saturday afternoon, she attended the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration that honored and remembered them —  specifically violence against Latina, Black, Indigenous, and other women of color.

Latina, Black, Indigenous, and other women of color gathered at the event to say “ni una menos” — not one woman less.


“We’re lifting up the stories of those lost to gender violence,” Maria Corona, the coalition’s executive director, said in the courtyard at the La Placita shopping center on East Grand.

Behind her, a colorful Mexican ofrenda decorated with candles, flowers, and the photos and names of women and girls who have died or have gone missing in Iowa: Breasia Terrell, Rita Janelle Papekee and Mollie Tibbetts. The names of women from across the country were there too: Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Vanessa Guillén, and more.

“These are the stories that are never told. These are the stories of many Latina, Black, Asian, and native women. LGBTQ women,” Corona said.


According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 in 3 women globally have been subjected to violence in their lifetime.

Speakers at the Dia de los Muertos event said women of color and Indigenous women are at a heightened risk of being subjected to violence. They spoke of the several movements in recent years — including the Say Her Name movement, the Ni Una Menos movement, the Stop Asian Hate movement, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement.


“I hope you can see us, and know that we’re still here,” said Tyra Wanatee-Flores, a descendant of the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa.

“We say ‘say her name,’ because nobody else will,” said Josie Mulvihill, a young Black organizer.

“Hate exists — it’s here. But today … love is here. Strength is here. Courage is here. Resilience is here,” said Christine Her, the executive director of Art Force Iowa.

It’s the community that will help one another, said Brenda Rodriguez, a local organizer and business owner. Rodriguez said she has suffered from gender-based violence beginning from when she was a young girl.

It was the Des Moines community that broke the cycle of violence for her.


“You can get out, and you must get out. The community is here to help,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “We deserve a good life — a life that is free from violence.”

In addition to resources for victims of domestic violence, attendees sipped on hot chocolate, ate cupcakes and Mexican sweet bread, watched Mexican folklore dance, enjoyed face painting and a contest for the best Catrín and Catrina.

Some put the names of their own loved ones on the ofrenda as well.

For more information on resources the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides, visit their website at www.icadv.org.

Andrea Sahouri covers social justice for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at [email protected], on Twitter @andreamsahouri, or by phone 515-284-8247.

Facebook Comments