This weekend, two more women were added to Puerto Rico’s ever-growing list of femicides. Andrea Ruiz Costas, 35, was discovered on April 30, her lifeless body half burned; Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, 27, reported missing days earlier, was found floating Saturday afternoon (May 1) in the San José Lagoon over which San Juan’s Teodoro Moscoso Bridge runs.
Hundreds of Puerto Ricans shut down that same bridge early yesterday evening (May 2), gathered to denounce the archipelago’s epidemic of gender-based violence.
No typical traffic passed through it bridge tolls as parked cars painted with messages like “Ni Una Más” and “Nos Queremos Vivas” were crammed against the barriers on either side of its four lanes. By 4:30 p.m. police had blocked both entrances to the bridge. Demonstrators began parking nearby, traversing traffic on foot to ultimately join the crowd.
“The last few days have been really difficult. This has hit really close to home, the situation with the latest disappearances and murders of women,” says 22-year-old Andrea Reyes. “I think it’s important that we’re heard. That’s why we’re here. The greater our voice, the louder and further we’ll be heard. It’s important.”
Andrea Ruiz Costas had sought a protection order against her ex-partner. The court denied her case. Miguel Ángel Ocasio Santiago confessed the day Ruiz Costa’s body was found to have killed her. He is currently in police custody.
Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz’s murder is an especially high-profile one: Implicated in her killing is well-known boxer Félix Verdejo, with whom she was romantically involved. She was pregnant at the time of her death.
The shared space created on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge was one for grieving as much as empowerment to continue the work to eradicate misogyny, especially at its most fatal. The sister of Rodriguez Ortiz, Berenice Rodríguez, was present. Surrounded by demonstrators, she fell to her knees in tears, holding a photo of Keishla.
Not one single organization convened the event: the call to occupy the bridge yesterday afternoon was disseminated via social media, WhatsApp chats and word of mouth.
Protesting alongside Reyes was Valeria Rivera, also 22 years old. “This has to be stopped,” she said. “El machismo nos mata.”
Another demonstration is slated for today (May 3), this one organized by the grassroots activists of La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, a group that for years has been arduously protesting gender-based violence, among other feminist issues, in Puerto Rico. The demonstration is slated to begin at 3 p.m. at La Fortaleza, the Governor’s mansion residence in Old San Juan.