‘Break the silence’ tortillas urge women to denounce abuse in Mexico

NUEVO LAREDO (Reuters) – Customers at the Esperanza tortilla factory in the northern Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo found their tortillas wrapped differently this month – in white paper with “break the silence” written in red, urging women to report abuse and seek help.

In a creative response to battling violence against women, the Nuevo Laredo Women’s Institute printed 10,000 tortilla wrappers featuring help hotlines, support center addresses and the message that women who suffer violence should speak up.

Nuevo Laredo is a bustling border city, opposite the U.S. city of Laredo, Texas.

The new tortilla wrappers were timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, when women around the country took to the streets to protest femicides in Mexico, which have more than doubled in the past five years, and other types of violence against women.

“Silence is lethal in the mistreatment of women. Dare yourself, be brave and report it,” the text of the wrapping reads on the side of each tortilla package, which have been distributed to various tortilla factories.

Filadelfo Medellin, head of a local tortilla makers union, said he supported the idea when the Women’s Institute asked him to help.

“Sometimes people stay quiet because of shame, because of fear,” he said. “However, we think with this advertising, a woman who suffers abuse could be encouraged to report it, and could also receive psychological aid to improve her family life or all her surroundings.”

He said shoppers have already remarked on the change of wrapping for the corn tortillas, which are a staple of the Mexican diet.

“When we explain that it’s about women’s issues, about abuse, they start to ask where’s the institute, what types of services does it offer,” said Medellin.

Maria Isabel Maldonado, 56, who bought about 2 pounds (1 kg) of tortillas, said she would recommend that women take inspiration from the socially conscious tortilla wrappers and reach out for help.

“We have to break the silence about women… So that there’s no more killing of women. There have already been so many.”

Reporting by Daniel Becerril; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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