Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stop the Femicide in Juarez!!

Since 1993, almost 400 women and girls have been murdered and somewhere between 70-4,500 remain missing in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico. I have been following the murders of these women for almost 10 years. Ciudad Juarez, an industrial border town next to El Paso has a population of around 2 million. I've traveled to El Paso and Juarez several times to speak at Border Conferences, once in 1998 and again in 2004.

While in Juarez, I met a woman named Esther Chavez who was trying to raise money to start the first rape crisis center in Juarez to help victims of violence. She was barely 5 feet tall and in her sixties. Esther heard the growing community alarm over the murders of over 200 women as well as the violence against Mexican women in general and decided to do something about it. She spoke out and brought global attention the problem of violence against women in Mexico.

Esther and her group of mostly women often walked the desert, looking for new bodies or remains of the dead, because the police either could not or would not do their jobs. Many of the uneducated young women were so poorly paid at the Maquilas (border factories) that the only place they had to stay was in the desert shantytowns, cardboard and wire homes with no water, sewage or electricity. Their buses dropped them off in the middle of the night on a lonely desert road. Sometimes the killers waited for them to get off the buses, sometimes they disappeared from a city street.

Of these dead and missing, many were killed by pimps, drug dealers, husbands and boyfriends. However, at least a third of the deaths remain unexplained and for a long time police had no suspects. Local authorities have dismissed the killings as a side effect to the city's mushrooming industrial sector, which brings tides of hungry migrant workers to the area desperate for work and money. Others have speculated that since mostly women are hired in the Maquilas, animosity against women by unemployed men has increased.

Most victims are slender, dark-haired girls between 14 and 18 years old who work in one of these factories. Many are killed on their way to and from work. Their bodies have been found - sometimes with their blue factory-issued aprons on -- dumped in the desert or next to the roads leading to the unlit squatter camps ringing the city. In some cases, the victims are mutilated and horribly disfigured. Many are strangled, then stabbed repeatedly. Adding to the homicidal maniacs the local heroin and cocaine distribution networks have made Juarez and its sprawling shantytowns one of the most dangerous places on earth.

While I was at this conference, I walked across the bridge with two other Latina women to Juarez. I noticed graffiti like paintings on telephone poles around the city. Each telephone pole was sprayed with a black figure of a woman or a cross, indicating places where women had disappeared in the city.

It was chilling to ride through Juarez, seeing so many of these posters.

Now there is what the authorities are calling a new break in the case. Edgar Alvarez Cruz, 30, was arrested on immigration violations in Denver and flown to the immigration detention center in El Paso, where he awaits extradition to Mexico sometime next week, officials said. Mexican officials said two other men, not identified, were in custody also.

The three men are accused of being part of a gang whose members raped and killed at least 10 of the women in Juarez, according to statements Thursday by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza. U.S. officials called Alvarez Cruz's arrest a "major break" in the cases.

U.S. and Mexican investigators stated that part of the overall investigation focused on drug dealers who reportedly raped and killed women during cocaine parties to celebrate successful smuggling operations.

Now, knowing that these men allegedly killed 10 of these many dead and missing women, who killed the rest? Why is this being touted as the big break in the case?

And why does this not make the news in the way that the murder of one small white girl does?

I tried to watch the news yesterday evening and all 4 major channels had talking heads speculating about the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey. Not that her death was not also horrifying, but let's give equal time to the other faceless, nameless women who are not white and have died under equally cruel circumstances. Why after 10 years, is this all we can come up with in terms of finding these murderers?


At 7:55 AM, Blogger Haider Droubi said...

thats scary....

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sothis said...

It's always worried me that the Mexican government and police have turned a blind eye to these killings. It makes me wonder if they are covering something up as well. I believe that Amnesty Intenational has included the Juarez situation in its letter writing campaigns and has helped bring attention to what is happening there.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger azgoddess said...

i am with you on this one...the mexican male population in regards to women is horrible -- they are just property

so they loose one piece of property, they will just buy or find another one...very sad

living a little more than an hour from the border - i see all the time the way mexican males take care of their women..even the ones living in the US

i wish i had an answer to this - but until their society makes women equal, these kind of abuses will continue..sorry to say

now as far as the men in custody - let's hope they can catch the rest of the 'gang' and that the mexican authorities will put these men behind bars for a long time and not give them light sentences

and for the 'ten' confirmed killings, i can almost bet those are the ones they could pin on this guy/gang..most likely there are responsible for hundreds more

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, what despair about mankind! There is no answer.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Perhaps if their mothers had dressed them like tiny sexy adults, had filmed them as they were being made to flirt with the audience and shown these pictures after their deaths, someone might care. That stinks, I know, but it's the truth.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Frederick said...

Nothing is more depressing than looking across the border at the shacks of Juarez.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger WeezieLou said...

thanks for the update on this horrifying story. i live in a border state, and maybe get a tiny bit more current news than most, so i've certainly followed it - but i am always humbled when i see/hear of those who do more than simply follow the story. thanks, glenda

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Rory Shock said...

heartbreaking and intolerable ...

At 4:44 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Hi, all.this has certainly been pushed to the back of the news...but since it is such a depressing story, what else can we expect?

At 8:11 PM, Blogger bluegrrrrl said...

I have followed this story for many years as well, and the complete lack of concern never ceases to astound me. As much as my heart breaks for Jon Benet & family and others like them (e.g., Danielle van Dam here in San Diego a few years ago), it's also frustrating that blonde, blue-eyed, and white are what it takes to get the much-needed attention of the media, governments, and public.

At 8:49 PM, Anonymous pekka said...

There is an undeniably high tolerance for unnatural deaths that occure among "them". Who are "them", you might ask? They are all the usual suspects; people of different nationality, color, religion etc. but also the ones that habitate on a wrong side of the tracks.

Has it ever been illustrated more clearly than in the Jon Benet Ramsey's case that, the massmedia's record in futility is passed only by the regime in the White House? Apples and oranges perhaps, but both oh so rotten!

At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

It's all very sad. Especially since we can take action to reduce these crimes, but don't. Thanks for reminding how important it is to be vigilant.

At 11:31 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

The reason there is no breakthrough, is because the investigators probably have some guilt. Mexican police are very corrupt.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger GraemeAnfinson said...

geez, the media must think this is going on in Africa. I haven't heard shit about it.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger betmo said...

not caring is going to get worse here in america before it gets better. racism still exists- but the powers that be are stoking the flames of anti mexican- through the immigration thing. i am sure that these folks will get less coverage and what coverage they do get won't be positive. if the media can spin this into anti immigrant rhetoric- it will make news.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger JBlue said...

"...faceless, nameless women who are not white...."

I think you nailed it there.

I had no clue about any of this. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. What can we do?

At 8:17 AM, Blogger glenda said...

You can donate to Casa Amigo in Juarez. Go to: http://www.casa-amiga.org/
I know these people. Esther started this shelter for abused women and did not take any salary for herself for years.

If you are not in position to give and want to help in this issue in general, go become a volunteer at the local rape crisis/domestic violence center. To find out the location of the nearest Rape Crisis Center call: RAINN at 1-800-66-HOPE. It's an eye-opening experience.

You can write to the media demanding accountability. The police botched every investigation, they lost evidence. Renegade Eye could be right. There have been accusations that the Juarez police were involved in some of the "recreational" murders.

Hook up with Amnesty International. There are some solutions and options on their page, in the first link in this article.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

I too have been following this case for years. Ever since I saw a special on it (I don't remember the news organization – wish I did). As I recollect - there was some suspicion attached to one particular factory and its owners (as in at least one of the owners was personally involved in the rapes and killings). The local cops were part and parcel of it as well - both in securing the girls and disposing of their bodies. I do remember the reporter being threatened. Terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. And yes – the cultural devaluation of women really plays into this. A friend of mine works closely with Mexican immigrants (legal and non). She can attest to how badly women are viewed in that society – she sees it every day.

Until the American government demands that the Mexican government actually enforces its own laws (let alone passes laws recognizing the rights of women) - Mexico will continue to be a repository of the very worst. The worst polluters, the worst criminals, the worst in everything. It has become notorious throughout the world as a place where anything goes. Why do you think that asshole that makes those 'Girls gone wild' films always goes to Mexico? He can get away with anything. I'm on the side of the Mexican people. They need help. Not the government - the people. No wonder so many want to immigrate here. The situations so much better. Families can flourish. Women are a hell of a lot safer (and isn't that a kick in the pants! With all the rapes and assaults here it’s still safe as houses in comparison). Though if the AmTaliban get their way – women’s rights in America will go the way of the Dodo fast.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Tina said...

Hey Nancy Grace!! It is a missing girl alert... err... oops... Nancy only gets all bug-eyed and screechy over the missing WHITE girls... my bad.

Didja see that the fabulous half Mexican/half Lebanese actress Salma Hayek has been beating on this drum to try to raise awareness about this femicide? I loved her way back in the day in Desperado... but Frida nailed it for me that she is not only gorgeous, but she is also a woman of talent and integrity.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger thepoetryman said...

They seem to be among the "collateral damage" statistics that seem so damned popular these days! Sad. Sad indeed...

At 3:14 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Thanks, all. Great comments. Yes, tina, hi, I know that Selma Hayek and Sally Fields and others touted this for a time, but no one has stuck in there and kept the story on the front page for more than 5 minutes. People do not care about poor brown-skinned women either in Mexico or in Afghanistan or in Cambodia or in Thailand or in The Congo or in any of the other places i nthe world where women are mistreated daily.
FLS- great comment...so agreeing with you...
poetryman,,,yes, just collateral...

By the way Joan Baez did a song called..Los Desaparecidos (The Disapppeared Ones)which is beautiful.

At 6:41 PM, Anonymous karena said...

Glenda, I too followed this story some time back but lost track of what was happening to these young women who were referred to as the Strawberry Girls. They were lured to work in the Maquilldoras (sp?) with such promise and such hope, yet they barely struggled to survive, spent nights shacked up in groups in teensy apartments, worked like slaves all day, and once in a while, would venture out for nightlife. These women were often killed, as you pointed out, going to and from work, but the "recruiters" for the slave labor never warned them of the dangers. I am glad you are on top of this.

A friend of mine and his wife in Houston were awakended by a pounding on their door in the middle of the night. A teenaged Hispanic girl was naked, beaten and had been gang-raped. They called her parents first. The parents dragged her home and refused to press charges. They told her she had been up to know good going out late at night, and she had gotten what she deserved.

I lived next to a day labor camp in Houston. The young boys, (15-18) were targets for American pedophiles. Gross old men would pick them up, take them to Jack-N-The-Box, buy them tacos and have sex with them. The young boys were so shamed they began doing drugs. They were so doped up they became better targets for the cruisers. It was a vicious cycle.
There was finally one decent newspaper story about these boys, but the law enforcement in America did nothing to stop the old men who were picking them up and having sex with them. Horrible. Where does one even begin to stop this sort of crime against humanity?

At 7:09 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Yes, Karena and all along the border, especially down in McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen area, the pasks are full of white men soliciting male Mexican teen prostitutes. The workers from the valley AIDs council come out and hand out free condoms, as there are over 10,ooo active HIV positive people in that 3 county area.

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous pekka said...

After Reading Karena's comment, I suddenly realized how little I am aware of this type of things and especially how huge the problem can be. Kick to my nuts, for sure, but thanks for the info!

At 6:58 PM, Blogger enigma4ever said...

7--4500 gee how sad is that- we don't even KNOW how pervasive this awful problem is ..and MSM never covers..but they cover other border issues- but not this...
thanks Glenda you did a good job on a tough issue with this....

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Writer Mom said...


I remember a news story on this awhile ago, but was left with little confidence that much was being done to help those poor women.
I'm glad to know there are people like you staying involved in the story. Please, if there's something we can do, let me know.

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