Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


Since 2006, at least 130,000 men, women, and children have been killed and another 27,000 have disappeared in the “War on Drugs” in Mexico. This violence affects all “socio-economic levels [who are being] plagued by kidnapping, extortion and murder.” Many connected to those who have gone missing or died have been demanding that authorities locate their loved ones. Frustrated with the lack of action, a Mexican activist group of artists called Fuentes Rojas Red Fountains came together in January 2011 to “raise the visibility for the victims of the US-Mexico Drug War” by, among other things, dying fountains red. Later that year, a subgroup from Fuentes Rojas formed calling themselves Bordados por la Paz #Embroidering for Peace. Their goal is to create an embroidered memorial for every victim of the drug war. On large white handkerchiefs, embroiderers parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and colleagues come together in publics spaces to stitch in red thread information about a victim’s death or disappearance. Shortly thereafter, this movement spread around the world to Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the US; groups are still going strong today to meet this colossal goal. In this presentation, I analyze this movement as one of a growing number of contemporary heteroglossic strategies of activism that involves textiles craftivism. Specifically, I examine practice making the embroidered handkerchiefs to show how this material praxis is saturated with conflicting traumatic emotions: anger, frustration, protest, discomfort, uncertainty, love, desire, and relief. In short, this paper demonstrates the robust emotional investment and release that embroidering manifests. Perhaps one of the craftivists, Teresa Sordo, captures some of the complexities well when she explains: “We embroider, perhaps, because a few hands can transform things and we need to transform them into beautiful things because so many hands are already doing appalling, unmentionable, incomprehensible things.”