Substitute Mother

Greta Rico

2017 - Ongoing

Mexico City, Mexico

Substitute mother

By Greta Rico

Photographic project on the aftermath for Substitute Mothers and orphan children due to feminicide in Mexico.

“Being a mom was never part of my plans, I didn't want to have children.

Sometimes I feel like I don't have patience and it's hard for me to

think that now I have to take care of someone else. " Siomara Rico.

In November 2017, the body of my cousin Fernanda was found on the street in a garbage bag with signs of sexual violence and three-gun shots. This documentary project arises from the most intimate, within my own family and tells the story of my cousin Siomara who became a Substitute Mothers of her (at that time) 3-year-old niece Nicole, since her mother was a victim of feminicide. This project shows how femicide does not end with murder, but has psychosocial impacts that cause trauma in orphan children, in mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts who become Substitute Mothers because of violence in Mexico.

Based on data from the National Femicide Observatory in Mexico, around 30,889 girls, boys and adolescents have been orphaned due to femicide between January 2017 (the year my cousin was murdered) and March 2021. According to data from UN Women, in Mexico ten women were murdered daily victims of femicide during 2020. Currently, Mexico ranks second in Latin America for orphaned children. Given this and based on data from the Orphans for Femicide organization, 98% of the caregivers who are left in charge of these childhoods are women and there is no recognition or support by the law for them.

The story of Siomara and Nicole is one of thousands of cases of Substitute Mothers in the country who, as a result of the feminicide of a close relative, take care of the victim's orphaned children indefinitely and amid loopholes. The care required to bring up and emotionally contain these childhoods often forces Substitute Mothers to abandon a formal job, making their situation as head of the family much more adverse. At the same time, they face the consequences of living in a constant environment of impunity and corruption perpetrated by the State that does not allow them access to justice and that denies that this is a problem that deserves to be addressed.

Socially, SUBSTITUTE MOTHER addresses discrimination against women in disadvantaged situations and the rights of children in a dual and combined way.

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  • Marching against violence.
    Siomara decided to march with Nicole on November 25th, 2019 on the streets of Mexico City with a contingent who marched to denounce the wave of femicides in the country, lack of access to justice and impunity in cases that have been documented.

  • Not one women less.
    Siomara places a candle in a memorial for the victims of feminicide in Mexico, between photographs and stories of women who never returned home like her sister Fernanda.

  • Farewell.
    Siomara helps Emiliano, the eldest of the three children to say goodbye to his mother who is in the coffin.

  • Portrait of a feminicide.
    My cousin Fernanda was killed and found lying on the street in a plastic bag with several gunshots and signs of sexual violence.

  • Giving birth.
    In the picture, my cousin Siomara comforts her nephews during the funeral of her mother who was the victim of a femicide in November 2017.

  • Sad news.
    "We're moving again" That day Siomara told Nicole that they would be moving for the eighth time since they were together.

  • Loneliness in childhood.
    How many girls, boys and adolescents have been orphaned by femicidal violence against women in Mexico? Nicole's loneliness is that of many more, the trauma and the lack of access to justice causes them to carry a stigma that is difficult to remove.

  • Tranquility.
    It has been four years since Siomara became Nicole's mother. "Despite time has passed, there are days when I feel like I can't, it hurts me a lot to have put my dreams aside, but when I think of her, I realize that she needs me, on days like this, the only thing that brings me peace of mind is cleaning and tidy up my room.

  • Tears.
    Nicole cries and wails because she got hurt playing. Siomara hugs and comforts her, but it also catches her attention since she told him several times that he could fall and get hurt for playing so abruptly.

  • Sleeping together.
    Siomara and Nicole sleep together since they are mother and daughter, their house has only one room and Nicole doesn´t like to sleep alone since her mother was murdered. Nicole still has night terrors brought on by the trauma.

  • Nicole´s Bath.
    Like many 6-year-old girls, Nicole does not like bathing, it is a challenge to convince her and already being underwater Siomara has to invent fun times for her to learn to enjoy it.

  • Domestic Work.
    Siomara had lived alone for some years before deciding to become a mother, however, now that she is in charge of Nicole, the work has increased and must be carried out more frequently.

  • Nicole at 5.
    Portrait of Nicole in the streets of the neighborhood where they live since mid-2019 south of Mexico City.

  • Team work.
    Nicole helps Siomara carry bags and small packages for the seventh move in the last four years.

  • New beginning.
    In April 2021, Siomara and Nicole moved in for the seventh time. The job instability that comes with caring for and attending to the needs of a girl with trauma has led them to continue looking for some kind of stability.

  • Hello?
    Learning to play, to listen, to love her as if she were her daughter have been part of the challenges that Siomara has had to face since she became a Substitute Mother.

  • Small farewell.
    Nicole says goodbye to Siomara with a kiss before separating for the Christmas festival at school.

  • One more morning.
    Like many girls and boys, Nicole has a hard time getting up in the morning to go to school and it's always a little battle to have breakfast and hurry up so as not to be late.