Diana Aldrete and Christina Heatherton on “Invisible Suffering.”

5 min read

Olivia Papp ’23

Features Editor

Professor Diana Aldrete and Professor Christina Heatherton had a conversation about “Invisible Suffering,” on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at the Austin Arts Center. This lecture was the fourth and final of Trinity’s new Social Justice Initiative.  

Diana Aldrete is a Visiting Lecturer in the Language and Culture Studies Department at Trinity. She earned her B.A. in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, her M.A. in Hispanic Literature from Marquette University, and her Ph.D. from the University at Albany, SUNY. Aldrete is passionate about human rights in Latin American literature. This passion led her to a dissertation focusing on the representation of the female body in texts concerning the femicides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Aldrete’s research is focused on contemporary Mexican literature and culture, 20th and 21st Century Latinx/Queer representations in Mexican and Latin American narratives, and transnational feminist studies in Latin America. Aldrete’s new phase of research involves a dissertation that examines the justice in literary texts on femicide, violence, and activism in Mexico.  

Diana Aldrete has taught at small community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and research universities. Each of these experiences has helped Aldrete develop an interdisciplinary methodology in her pedagogies. 

Aldrete noted that she was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her family would drive from Milwaukee to Mexico when she was a young child. In doing so, Aldrete had to cross the border many times. It was about a 1600-mile-long drive, and she was able to see the landscapes and surveillance of the border. Her parents would prepare her by saying, “if anyone asks, make sure you say you are an American citizen.” Aldrete also noted that most of the femicides that happened were at the border. “The border has a big connection with my work and my identity,” Aldrete remarked. 

Aldrete mentioned her time at the Ballet Folklorico, the Mexican traditional dancing school, in which she and her sister were enrolled. The space has beautiful murals of Mexican art on the walls and ceilings. Now, the space is a museum. The artist of these murals was Jose Orozco, a famous, revolutionary Mexican artist. Orozco’s work was centered around violence.  

Speaking about Orozco’s artistic ability, Aldrete said, “There is always an element of violence in his paintings. He was one that, aside from the Mexican revolution, focused on the mythical and mystic. He always pointed to the effects of violence from industrialization or the depiction of conquest and colonization.” There is always a price to pay, and Orozco greatly influenced Aldrete’s art.  

The topic of the conversation then shifted to femicides. First, Aldrete remarked that these terrors often hide in plain sight and are regarded as an invisible social issue. “Femicides can be described, technically, as the killing of women, because they are women, so these are misogynistic acts of hatred towards women,” said Aldrete. “This means that sometimes the bodies are mutilated beyond recognition.” The areas that are targeted on the female body are usually areas where genitalia are located.  

The term “femicide” was first coined by Dr. Diana Russell in 1992. Russell highlighted the gender dynamics of the term, saying that for the most part, men were killing these women.  

“For me, looking at the global market, particularly at the neo-liberal market, the economy is complicit on the violence against women, especially black indigenous women of color trends with folks of color.”  

The term began to gain more traction in the mid-1990s when the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994.  

Aldrete then said that visibility was racialized and showed a picture of an illustrated Gabby Petito and colored woman side by side, holding up the same sign that said: “She Is Missing.” The colored woman was off to the side and had no media attention while the white woman depicted as Petito had many microphones over her. This shows that white women get much more media coverage about femicides than colored women do.  

Aldrete said, “Ten women are killed every single day in Mexico and because the numbers keep rising, we don’t talk about them.”  

When reflecting on her own artwork which she displayed for the audience, Aldrete said that she tried to make her artwork somewhat controlled in the painting. The painting features thin lines in the background, and many ambiguous shapes in bold colors in the center. In the background, a river is running through ambiguous shapes. The shapes in the middle were supposed to serve as an act of violence of those points of contact. This painting is supposed to reference the layers of suffering. Each of Aldrete’s paintings each had a symbolic touch.   

“These lines in the background show the direction of those transits but also focus on north and south migration,” said Aldrete. Aldrete’s work was intended to make viewers interact with her own artwork. The only section of her artwork that Aldrete could not control was her depiction of water. She thought the water element was the most uncontrolled.  

Reflecting on Aldrete’s own work, she said she is reminded that “there is much need for justice and to push and create spaces that we can collectively imagine together, hold space for each other, and reflect upon.”   

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