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Episode 98: Hilos de cambio (Threads of Change)

By Duolingo on Thu 18 Nov 2021

For years, Jane Terrazas lived in fear of violence in her hometown of Juárez. But later, she used her skills as a designer and artist to empower women to gain economic freedom and personal safety.

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Martina: Hey listeners, a quick note before we begin: The following episode contains references to violence against women, so it might not be suitable for listeners of all ages.

Diana: In March of 2020, Jane Terrazas was working in her textile shop in Juárez, in northern Mexico. She was an artist developing a new fashion line, with a mission to help women.

Jane: Nosotras creamos una marca de ropa para ayudar a mujeres vulnerables en Ciudad Juárez, una de las ciudades con más feminicidios en el mundo.

Diana: Since 1993, Juárez has been known for a high rate of femicides, or feminicidios. That is, women being murdered because they are women.

Reporter: “Estamos en una crisis humanitaria por la cantidad de mujeres desaparecidas y asesinadas”.

Diana: Growing up in Juárez, Jane was often scared of the violence.

Jane: Es un problema muy grave y es muy difícil hacer algo para cambiarlo.

Diana: But now, as an artist and activist, Jane wanted to help empower women by offering them professional skills. Her workshop trained them to make “one of a kind” clothing, so they could gain economic independence and leave dangerous relationships. But on this afternoon, one of Jane’s first apprentices arrived at the workshop, very distraught. We’re calling her Anahí to protect her identity.

Jane: Anahí era una muy buena trabajadora y todas la querían. Ese día llegó muy triste y nerviosa. Ella me dijo que su marido la había golpeado y le había dicho que la iba a matar. Yo tuve mucho miedo, pero inmediatamente dije: “Es la primera oportunidad que tenemos como equipo para ayudar a una mujer en esta situación, ¡y lo vamos a hacer!”. Sin embargo, la pregunta era: “¿Cómo lo vamos a hacer?”.

Diana: Bienvenidos and welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. I’m Diana Gameros, filling in for our executive producer Martina Castro.

I’m the regular host of “Relatos en inglés.” But Martina asked me to come tell this story because it’s about Ciudad Juárez, a city dear to my heart, where I was born and raised, and where my family still lives.

We are dedicating this whole season of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast to you, our listeners.

Over the last 12 seasons, you’ve written to us by email and social media, you’ve called and left us voicemails with wonderful suggestions for stories. So, the next eight episodes have all come from your ideas. Some listeners have written, concerned about students and women who have disappeared in Mexico. They’ve asked us to explore how people are responding to that violence. Well, we looked into it and that takes us to Northern Mexico today.

As usual, the storyteller will be using intermediate Spanish and I’ll be chiming in for context in English. If you miss something, you can always skip back and listen again. And we also offer full transcripts at

Diana: Jane was just 10 years old when she heard the word “femicide” for the first time. Her father would always buy the newspaper, and the front page would usually have some headline about violence against women.

Jane: Nacer en Ciudad Juárez como mujer te pone en una situación de mucha vulnerabilidad. Yo escuchaba que mi papá decía: “Hoy encontraron a cuatro mujeres muertas”. Por esa razón, yo crecí con mucho miedo porque era una mujer.

Diana: In Juárez, violence against women increased dramatically after political changes transformed the local economy. In 1994, Mexico, the United States, and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, then called “NAFTA.” Soon after, hundreds of industrial factories, or maquiladoras, opened along the border between Mexico and the US.

Jane: Ese nombre nació en México. Las maquiladoras contrataban a mujeres jóvenes que necesitaban trabajar.

Diana: As more factories opened in Juárez in the 1990’s, women left their schools or families to join the workforce. Many came from small towns and had long and dangerous commutes. As a result, this made young women more susceptible to violence. Since 1993, more than 2,000 women have been killed in Juárez.

Jane: Generalmente, las víctimas son mujeres jóvenes y adolescentes entre quince y veinticinco años de edad, de pocos recursos y que han tenido que abandonar sus estudios para comenzar a trabajar.

Diana: Jane was still pretty young when this was happening. She didn’t understand all the dynamics or know any victims personally. But she still felt the impact from the violence.

Jane: Vivía siempre con miedo; era peligroso salir de noche. Mis padres no me dejaban salir sola y siempre me llevaban a la casa de mis amigos. Vivía una sobreprotección muy fuerte. Nunca podía estar sola y siempre tenía que confirmar que iba a estar en un lugar seguro.

Diana: When she turned 18, in 2004, Jane decided she had to leave Juarez and its environment. She went far away to study graphic design in Guadalajara, known as the cultural center of Mexico.

Jane: Yo quería salir de mi casa para explorar otra cosa. Necesitaba hacer mi propio camino y eso significaba salir de Juárez. A mí me gustaba el diseño, pero también me interesaba mucho la política, así que empecé a leer sobre temas sociales conectados con el diseño.

Diana: When Jane would tell her college friends that she was from Juárez, they would give her a strange look and ask what it was like growing up there. Jane felt that her hometown carried a stigma, or estigma, because of its reputation.

Jane: Me preguntaban si las cosas que les pasaban a las mujeres en Juárez eran verdad. También querían saber cómo había sido crecer allí. Es realmente un estigma y yo siempre tuve un miedo, que incluso hoy, a los treinta y cinco años, sigue en mí.

Diana: In college, Jane realized that she wanted to focus on art connected to social justice.

Jane: Cuando entré a la universidad, me di cuenta de que el arte puede generar increíbles resultados cuando se transforma en algo comunitario. Es decir, cuando varias personas participan en un proyecto en vez de solo el artista. Yo creo que el arte puede cambiar mucho a la sociedad para bien.

Diana: During her studies, Jane became interested in traditional folk arts. For hundreds of years, well before Spaniards came to Mexico, women have spun and woven fabric to create intricate textiles. Jane was impressed how the craft brought communities of women together and built relationships among them. Her passion became indigenous textiles, or textiles.

Jane: Lo que más me llamó la atención fueron las técnicas de los textiles y los diferentes resultados. Además, siento que es una acción de la comunidad porque, como la tela, las relaciones personales también se tejen. Siento que es una técnica comunitaria y, en general, de las mujeres. Eso era el arte para mí.

Diana: After 10 years of living in Guadalajara and Mexico City, Jane began to learn that young people like herself were returning to Juárez to live and help revitalize the city and its culture.

Jane: Yo llevaba diez años viviendo fuera de Juárez, pero además de eso, estaba pasando por un momento personal particular. Acababa de tener un bebé y no quería criarlo en la Ciudad de México. Necesitaba el apoyo de mi familia.

Diana: Jane also felt she couldn’t just sit back and watch her community continue to struggle. She decided she had to do something.

Jane: Yo sentía la necesidad de estar con mi familia, pero sobre todo, quería hacer trabajo comunitario en mi ciudad. Era muy difícil ver todo lo que mis amigos y familia estaban viviendo. Se necesitaba mucha ayuda y yo sentía que tenía que hacer algo. Yo sabía que podía hacer mi parte para ayudar con arte a mi ciudad. Después de tanto tiempo en otro lugar, ya era hora de volver a Ciudad Juárez.

Diana: When Jane returned to Juárez with her son in 2014, she wanted to support the community through art. So she started giving textile workshops to children at schools on the border. It was a way for the kids to express themselves. And for Jane, it was a way for her to help revitalize her city.

Jane: Mi intención era trabajar con grupos vulnerables. En esta escuela conocí a chicas jóvenes que vivían historias terribles. Para mí era importante ofrecerles una oportunidad, a través del arte, para ayudarlas a expresarse.

Diana: Jane connected with other artists in the area. They formed a group, and held community-wide cultural events, featuring music, art, and performances. They also met with residents to discuss local political issues. Like Jane, many of the group’s members wanted to use art and culture to create social change in Juárez.

Jane: Yo creo que si los jóvenes tienen más acceso a actividades culturales, es menos probable que entren en el mundo de la violencia. Siento que el arte puede ser una forma de transformación social y un motor de cambio.

Diana: Jane’s big chance to merge her passion for art and social change in Juarez came in 2017. She met another artist from Norway who was working on an art installation honoring women who had been killed in Juárez. The two artists met for coffee and realized they had so much in common, that they decided to form a cooperative to train women in textiles. They called it “Ni en more.” The name is a blend of Spanish, Norwegian, and English words, meaning “Not one more.”

Jane: Queríamos enseñarles una profesión a las mujeres vulnerables. Todo esto con el único objetivo de ofrecerles la oportunidad de tener independencia económica.

Diana: Soon, they got funding from a nonprofit. And they launched a sustainable clothing line using the textiles their artisans made. For Jane, it wasn’t just about making clothes. It was a way for women to learn a craft, build a career and eventually gain financial independence. Jane believed that if women had more economic freedom, they would be less vulnerable and could better confront, or enfrentar, violence in Juárez.

Jane: Creemos que la independencia económica es el primer paso que nos da la libertad al momento de decidir y eso, al mismo tiempo, ayuda a enfrentar el abuso y la violencia. No somos una marca de moda, nuestra ropa está diseñada para crear conciencia, justicia y optimismo en un ambiente de trabajo seguro y con salarios justos.

Diana: Jane made sure that women who worked in the textile shop got paid. She and her team converted an old house into a workshop and borrowed a sewing machine. Soon they were teaching a group of 10 women from difficult situations how to make clothes. Jane didn’t want to follow what the maquiladoras did. She wanted their garments, or prendas, to be handcrafted, sustainable, and rooted in ancient traditions.

Jane: Nosotras confeccionamos las prendas una por una y lo hacemos de manera sustentable. La moda es la segunda industria que produce más contaminación en el mundo. Por esa razón, decidimos utilizar las técnicas de textiles ancestrales que no contaminan el medio ambiente. En este caso, lo hacemos con plantas y flores.

Diana: The whole process could take up to 60 hours! But the women were excited to learn the craft and picked it up quickly… Then in March of 2020, their mission against violence became even more personal. One of their members, Anahí, showed up at the workshop one day and was very upset.

Jane: Nos dijo que su ex marido la había golpeado y que le había dicho que la iba a matar. Nosotras nos quedamos en shock. Teníamos que hacer algo para ayudarla.

Diana: Jane’s textile workshop wasn’t set up to give direct aid when a woman was in trouble. Their goal was to build economic independence. But Jane knew they had to help this young woman. After all, Anahí was one of their first members. She was a young mother from the Colonia Raramuri, an indigenous community in Juárez.

Jane: Anahí era una excelente trabajadora y todas la querían mucho. Lo primero que hice fue decirle que nosotras la íbamos a ayudar. Pensé que podía llevarla a mi casa, pero eso iba a ser complicado. Entonces, después de analizarlo mucho, juntas decidimos que lo mejor para ella era quedarse en el taller.

Diana: Their workshop, or taller, was originally a house, so it had a kitchen and a bathroom. Jane and her colleagues moved furniture around and set up a space where Anahí and her three children could stay as long as they needed.

Jane: Además, todas dimos un poco de dinero para poder comprarles comida. También les dijimos a Anahí y a sus hijos que no salieran de la casa porque podía ser peligroso.

Diana: Anahí ended up working at the shop for three years. She was in charge of dyeing the fabric for their fashion line.

Jane: Anahí aprendió a hacer su trabajo tan bien que comenzó a enseñarles a otras mujeres cómo hacerlo.

Diana: During the pandemic, Anahí gave classes online. She taught people in the United States how to dye clothes with flowers. Jane saw that as Anahí mastered her craft, she gained greater freedom in her personal life.

Jane: Gracias al salario que recibía y a las clases que ella daba, la ayudamos a abrir su taller de ropa en su comunidad cerca de Juárez. Ahora tiene su propio taller con su mamá y trabajan para otras marcas de ropa. Esto le da tranquilidad para vivir y ayudar a sus hijos en la escuela. Todo esto, lejos de su ex pareja violenta.

Diana: It meant a lot to Jane that her textile workshop was able to support Anahí — not just in a moment of crisis, but also long-term. It was the exact model she’d dreamed of — and it was working!

Jane: Este proyecto es muy importante para mí porque siento que estoy haciendo algo para ayudar a las mujeres a empoderarse y tener un apoyo económico y, en particular, en mi ciudad, Juárez.

Diana: Even though Jane grew up in a climate of fear in Juarez, she believes things can change, and that art is a path towards greater freedom for women.

Jane: Mi deseo es que el trabajo comunitario como el que hacemos con nuestro proyecto Ni En More, pueda crear una red de apoyo para las mujeres.

Diana: Jane Terrazas is an artist from Ciudad Juárez. Since her project Ni En More launched in 2017, it’s trained more than 20 women. Many of them have gained skills to become financially independent and have started their own clothing lines.

This story was produced by Tali Goldman, a journalist and writer based in Buenos Aires.

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The Duolingo Spanish Podcast is produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media. I’m Diana Gameros, filling in for our executive producer, Martina Castro. ¡Gracias por escuchar!


This episode was produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media.

Producer: Tali Goldman
Narrator & Protagonist: Jane Terrazas
Script Editor: Laura Isensee
Managing Editor: David Alandete
Mixed by: Daniel Murcia
Production Manager: Román Frontini
Assistant Producer: Caro Rolando
Sound Design: Andrés Fechtenholtz
Mastering Engineer: Laurent Appfel
Executive Producer/Host: Martina Castro