In November 2019, during the Chilean protests, “Un Violador en Tu Camino,” (A Rapist in Your Path), erupted as a feminist anthem. This song, which was created as more of a performative art piece, was adopted by demonstrators and after being shared on social media, took off world-wide.
The chant is a powerful commentary on rape. Created by the feminist collective, Las Tesis, the lyrics were informed by Argentinian-born anthropologist Rita Segato’s teachings on how to tackle gender-based violence by dismantling power structures that place men above women.
The words identify that patriarchy is embedded in and perpetuated by the system. The lyrics state, “The rapist is you. It’s the cops. It’s the judge. It’s the system. It’s the president.” Then, “This oppressive state is a macho rapist.” During the chorus they shout, “It’s not my fault, not where I was, nor what I wore,” fighting back against victim-blaming.
Performers in Chile donned “club wear” to express autonomy over their bodies no matter how they’re dressed. Others wore green scarfs, a sign for the fight for access to legal abortion. Many wore black blindfolds to symbolize the blindfolding by Chilean police. About three times during the chant performers squat down to mimic the position women are forced to take during arrest and for body cavity searches, often stripped naked. The title is also a play on the police slogan, “a friend in your path.”
One of the most powerful performances of the chant was the one organized by older Chileans outside the national stadium in Santiago. This facility was utilized as a prison camp during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1990 and many were brought there to be tortured and killed. Some of the performers were survivors of the dictatorship and the demonstration drew a large crowd that blocked traffic.
#MeToo gained traction in 2017 after allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Wienstein came to light and celebrities urged women to post #MeToo if they had ever been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, as a way to raise awareness over how widespread the problem is.
In January 2020, Un Violador en Tu Camino was performed outside the New York courtroom where Harvey Weinstein was on trial for rape. They performed it again at Trump Tower, a building owned by the U.S. president who has over 20 allegations of sexual assault against him.
#MeToo was a powerful viral trend as many women felt supported enough to speak out for the first time. But to situate the proliferation of Un Violador en Tu Camino as simply a part of the #MeToo movement would be an affront to Latin American women everywhere. Because 2 years before there was #MeToo there was #NiUnaMenos.
The UN has stated that Latin America is the world’s most violent region for women. The cultural complexity that is machismo results in ingrained sexism that permeates nearly every aspect of daily life leading to extreme forms of oppression and inequality. This manifests in some of the highest rates of femincide and sexual violence in the world, as well as draconian anti-abortion laws.
“Ni Una Menos” means “Not One Less”, recognition that we can’t afford to lose even one more girl to gender-based violence. The name came from the Mexican poet and activist Susana Chávez, who first coined the phrase, “Ni una menos, ni una muerta más” (not one less, not one more [woman] dead) in 1995. She was one of the first to report on the systematic killings in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city where hundreds of women have died due to femincide since 1993. Chávez herself was assassinated in 2011.
Then in Argentina in 2015, a 14-year old pregnant girl named Chiara Paez was found buried in her boyfriend’s yard. He confessed to beating her to death after forcing her to take pills to terminate the pregnancy. A few months earlier the remains of Daiana Garcia, who was 19, were found in a garbage bag by the side of the road. These atrocities, among others, were the catalyst for the first protest of Ni Una Menos which took place in Buenos Aires. But it wasn’t just this single event, Ni Una Menos is a movement that’s alive and well, and is a phrase still used in feminist demonstrations across the region.
The performance of Un Violador en Tu Camino across the globe has put a spotlight on the issue of sexualized violence. It’s encouraging to see South American influences in North American movements as historically ideas haven’t always flowed in that direction. But it’s also important to remember these events are never isolated incidents but rather, they take place in a constellation of resistance.