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The Red Lips Rebellion against Daniel Ortega

Red Lips

Thousands of Nicaraguans of all ages and genders have united behind the PicoRojo [red lips] initiative to demand the release of the political prisoners



#YoSoyPicoRojo [I’m redlips] is the new form of protest that’s united hundreds of internet users in solidarity with the political prisoners. This initiative was born from activist Marlen Chow’s response to the National Police officials during the interrogation she was subjected to in the cells of the El Chipote jail last Sunday, Oct. 14, when she told her insistent interrogators that she belonged to the Pico Rojo Association.

According to some feminists, the idea has “raised the spirits” of the protesters, since the government repression has increased to the point that it’s now forbidden to demonstrate in the public spaces.

“It seems to me an original technique which a lot of us can participate in, without risking our personal safety. In my case, I’ve distanced myself from the marches due to the threats and harassment, but schemes like this allow us to continue being part of the struggle. Clearly, it’s a unique way of remembering that women are and always will be a fundamental key to the fall of the dictatorship,” states Maria Gutierrez, a Facebook user.

For her part, Hazell Davila, who also participated, affirms that this form of protest “did lift the spirits of the protesters, because it shows that we haven’t lost hope, that we’re constantly looking for ways to peacefully support any protest method. The huge response that the initiative has had is an example of that. It gives us a way to help from different spaces, and in accordance with our possibilities.”

In the six months that have passed since the protests began, a number of initiatives similar to this have arisen: the blue and white balloons on the streets, for which several people were momentarily arrested; graffiti on the walls; the appearance of cobblestones painted with “justice and freedom” in the streets of Leon; and the wearing of sandals and socks in a parody of Rosario Murillo, among other things.

Several local celebrities have joined in on this scheme, such as Valeria Sanchez, Ivan Pena, Nastassja Bolivar and Luis Enrique, among others. On his Facebook page, Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy even presented a preview of his new song: “The women with the red lips”.

“This project expresses our collective disapproval of the dictatorship. Effectively, it’s an initiative of peaceful protest that mocks the rigidity of the dictatorship’s mindset and for the moment doesn’t put us at risk physically like the marches. We’ll see if they’re going to start carting women off for using a red lip pencil. This is the first campaign where diverse women from the peaceful blue and white resistance have all joined together, both feminists and non-feminists. I also believe it’s the first campaign where we got together in such a massive way,” stated Maria Jose Diaz, a feminist activist and director of the Association of Local Survival and Development.

For the political prisoners

The phrase came out of the jail experience, and internet users have used it as a way to demand the release of the 400+ political prisoners that Daniel Ortega’s regime is processing in the prison system. Of this number, at least 15 people have already been unjustly found guilty, with hundreds awaiting trial.

“I took part in this because I’m Nicaraguan, and it hurts me that innocent people are in jail serving an unjust sentence. As a woman, as a daughter, sister, mother, I feel in myself the suffering of all those people. All forms of peaceful protest have been viewed badly by the government; going out on the street is a crime to them, when it’s a right that we all have. Carrying or hanging up our blue and white flag on the wall of our own home is also a crime. This initiative seems like a great idea to me, I only hope that it’s not also going to be condemned,” says Daysi Baquedano.

The most picturesque element of this new form of protest is that it transcends gender: many men have also uploaded pictures of themselves with red lipstick on. “This action has demonstrated that there are thousands of Nicaraguans with the courage to defend freedom in our Nicaragua. I believe that all the civic demonstrations that have been promoted are extremely important and we should all get involved in them. From my corner, I’ll always support any initiative that’s in favor of the freedom of the political prisoners,” expresses Juan Carlos Lopez.

Symbol of struggle

Historically, the use of lipstick has held an important place in the social struggles of women. One of the most famous demonstrations was one that occurred in 1912, when cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden passed out tubes of lipstick to the women massed along Fifth Avenue in New York City, demanding the right to vote.

“The red lips theme isn’t new. It’s a theme that the feminist movement has always highlighted in workshops. We always speak of red lips as a symbol of rebellion, because the use of red lipstick has been part of the Satanizing of women, marking the difference between a bad woman and a good one.  That one’s the loose woman, she’s the one we can see with the red mouth, a street walker. The red lips movement is part of the feminist resistance to those labels, our opposition to the dividing lines that are drawn between a good woman and a bad woman,” notes Maryorit Guevara, feminist and founder of El Blog de tu madre [Your mother’s Blog].

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill, leader of the United Kingdom, prohibited a lot of cosmetics, but allowed lipstick, because he believed that it helped “raise the spirits” of women during times of war.

Also during this time, red lips became a symbol of glamour for the women who worked in the factories. Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor, famous Hollywood actresses, made it popular.