Mural raises awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women

By Bethany Freudenthal, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES - She stands proudly, wind blowing through her hair, dressed in indigenous regalia: a maroon top with orange, yellow and white stripes, a blue, beaded necklace and a feather in her hair. 

Her fist raised, she's screaming with every strength of her being: "NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!"

You've seen her

You may not have known who she is, or why she's there, but chances are if you've driven Lohman Avenue recently, you've seen her.

Painted by artist Sebastian VELA Velazquez, she is part of the mural being painted on the Cruces Creatives building, 205 E Lohman Ave.

The mural, created in conjunction with the eighth annual "Illegal" graffiti art show, hosted each year by Las Cruces artist Saba, sends a powerful message. 

She stands front and center of the mural, a reminder that indigenous women are going missing and being murdered.

"The news gets turned off and Facebook gets put down and turned off, and those issues kind of disappear, and everything that comes with it. Having that piece up there, and why we sponsored it, is because you can't really turn off a mural. It's there every day and every night," Saba said. 

An indigenous woman takes center stage on a wall mural at the Cruces Creatives building, with a strong message, "NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS." The #MMIW hash tag atop stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (Photo: Bethany Freudenthal/ Sun-News)

The issue and reason for awareness

The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center reports that Native women suffer from violence at a rate two and half times greater than that of any other population in the United States.

Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to develop a task force to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Mexico.

New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women, Rep. Andrea Romero, the bill's sponsor, told the Farmington Daily Times.

Saba said he wants the community to remain aware of this issue.

"It does happen everywhere, and I'm speaking for Mexican people and Mexican women as well, because they're also indigenous," he said. 

A part of a larger mural

But she's just part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the building. 

To her right is another woman, wearing a hoku lei and holding a dove; and to the left of the indigenous woman is a vein-like creature wearing a helmet and surrounded by flowers. 

A bike mural just outside The Hub bike repair shop located in the Cruces Creatives building. (Photo: Bethany Freudenthal/ Sun-News)

Also a part of the mural: The word "CREATIVE," which will eventually be filled in with collages. 

The enclosure for the business's dumpster is being beautified, and around the back of the building, there's a mural of a woman surrounded by butterflies and clouds. 

Hub Bike Shop is in the Cruces Creatives building. Now, you can't miss their shop entrance, which is now adorned by a mural of bicycles. 

Also in the mural: A calavera portrait and hot air balloons. 

The eighth annual "Illegal" graffiti art show 

This is the eighth year Saba has hosted the "Illegal" graffiti art show. Annually, about 75 to 100 artists from across the country participate. 

"Art is medicine to people of color. I think aerosol art is a healing method, rather than a criminalizing method," he said. 

Source: Las Cruces

Related to SDG 10: Reduced inequalities and SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

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