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?