It’s a public monument that has a location, a design and a name. But what—and who—exactly is it for? Earlier this summer, a committee announced the winner of a competition to create a “Memorial to Victims” of the war between the Mexican government and drug cartels. The violence has claimed an estimated 55,000 lives, including those of more than a thousand children, and drug gangs have supplanted the state almost entirely in parts of Mexico.
There is little debate over the winning design by Ricardo López Martín, which features a series of large stainless-steel reflecting walls combined with untreated ones that will gradually tarnish. But peace activists objected to the memorial site, which adjoins a military training ground on Mexico City’s Reforma Boulevard. And the committee has yet to decide what text will be displayed on the walls; one activist admitted she would not want the name of her martyred son to appear alongside a slain assassin’s. Defining “victims” in an ongoing struggle is inherently difficult—does this recognize the thousands of gangsters, thugs and corrupt cops who have also died?—but the outgoing National Action Party was in a hurry to leave something behind before the Institutional Revolution Party takes over the federal government Dec. 1.