Atrocity, alterity, altar: A theatrical space of healing in Humberto Robles’s “women of sand”

Brena Yu Chen Tai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 1993, more than a thousand women have been murdered in the border city of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. To overcome the collective helplessness of their society, as evidenced by the Mexican government’s failure to stop the killing or to guarantee safety to its citizens, cultural producers began to carve out political space to respond to the Ciudad Juárez feminicide in their arts. This article looks into the feminist and coalitional politics manifested in Mexican playwright Humberto Robles’s unpublished documentary theatre play “Women of Sand: Testimonies of Women in Ciudad Juárez,” reading the play as a theatrical altar in order to grasp both the subversive representation of Ciudad Juárez feminicide victims and the healing potential Robles hints at. Active remembering, the coalescence of heterogeneous voices, and spiritual activism are key strategies the play adopts to enact an altar arrayed with oppositional consciousness in the space of theatre. Robles’s theatrical altar adheres to an “altar economics” to contest the patriarchal and neoliberal discourse of expendability that subjects women to violence. In this altar economics, the intrinsic value of feminicide victims takes priority over the external moral values imposed on them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-111
Number of pages29
JournalConcentric: Literary and Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept


  • Altar-making
  • Ciudad Juárez feminicide
  • Documentary theatre
  • Expendability
  • Feminism
  • Healing
  • Humberto Robles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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