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Mexico: Unsolved Feminicide Along the Border

Violence along the United States – Mexico border has reached staggering levels. The killings in border cities like Ciudad Juárez has already totaled 400 in the first two months of 2009. It is not only those involved in the drug trade that fall victims to the kidnappings and murders, young women have become unfortunate casualties in this crisis.

According to Amnesty International, more than 370 women have been murdered in the cities of Juárez and Chihuahua “without the authorities taking proper measures to investigate and address the problem.” This crisis, often called feminicide, has been a cause for organizations and blogs to take to the internet to help raise awareness to the plight of the victims and their families.

Organizations are calling for justice and greater action by local and national authorities. Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa [es] (May Our Daughters Return Home) is an organization based in Ciudad Juárez co-founded by the mother and the teacher of Lilia Alejandra Garcia Andrade, who was abducted and was found dead in 2001. The organization writes on its blog about the context in which many families live [es]:

En Ciudad Juárez desaparecen mujeres y no se vuelve a saber más de ellas, a menos que sus raptores decidan hacer aparecer sus cuerpos sin vida y con evidencias claras de haber sido brutalmente torturadas y asesinadas, violadas de manera tumultuaria y arrancadas partes de su cuerpo o quemadas. Es un dolor terrible para esta sociedad. ¿No hay nada que mueva a quienes pueden hacer algo al respecto?

La desesperación y miedo de las familias de vivir en tal inseguridad al ver a las hijas salir del hogar sin saber si van a regresar, no son motivo que afecte la voluntad de nadie de poner un freno a estos hechos.

A la fecha estos crímenes están impunes, y a las mujeres desaparecidas nadie las busca… y los asesinatos y desapariciones continúan sin que a la fecha haya responsable alguno.

In Ciudad Juárez women disappear and are not seen or heard from again, unless their captors decide to make their lifeless bodies reappear and with clear signs that they were brutally tortured and murdered, gang raped or with their bodies dismembered or burned. It is a terrible pain for this society. Isn't there something that can push those who are able to do something?

The desperation and fear of the families who live in such insecurity when they see their daughters leave the house without knowing if they will return are not reasons to affect anyone's will to put an end to these incidents.

To date, these crimes have gone unpunished, and no one is looking for the disappeared women…and the murders and kidnappings continue without anyone being held responsible.

The organization has received threats [es] for their work to put an end to the killings, according to the blog Contra el Feminicidio en México [es] (Against Feminicide in Mexico).

Mexican-American filmmaker and videoblogger at Chicana Feliz, Zumla Aguiar took a special interest in this story and worked closely with the organization to produce the documentary “Juárez Mothers Fight Feminicide” which is licensed under a Creative Commons license. The film's description says:

The video does not try to pound you over the head with more information. It basically looks at the opinions of the mothers in regards to what was the final story with each case. Interviewed are mothers from all social strata but this film points out that the pain is equal and all valid emotions. The fact that the “women are poor” is pointed out by Marisela Ortiz from Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa as a reason why nobody does anything about these murders.

Another organization Red Solidaria Década Contra la Impunidad [es] (Decade Solidarity Network Against Impunity) uses its blog to share news about its activities fighting against impunity for human rights abuses including the murders of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and other parts of Mexico.

The international organization Witness has used citizen media to raise awareness and collect signatures for a petition to presented to Mexican President Felipe Calderón. In 2003, in conjunction with the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights [es] (CMDPDH), they produced a short film called Dual Injustice. The story centers on the disappearance of Neyra Cervantes in Chihuahua, who disappeared in May 2003 and her cousin, David Meza, who who was tortured until he confessed to her murder.

Even though Cervantes’ remains were recovered and Meza was released after being wrongfully imprisoned, those responsible for her death have gone unpunished. Witness is continuing its campaign through a petition drive, which will be presented to President Calderón by Witness founder Peter Gabriel, other well-known Mexican celebrities and the mother of Neyra Cervantes. Some Mexican bloggers are also writing about the presentation of the petition, such as the blog Resiste Chihuahua [es]

As the situation along the border towns remains dire and many crimes unresolved, the women from the organization May Our Daughters Return Home write about their struggles, but also about their hope [es]:

Las familias que participamos en este movimiento hemos convertido en fuerza nuestro dolor. Después de enfrentarnos, además del brutal asesinato de nuestras hijas, a la ineptitud, intransigencia, encubrimiento, corrupción, a la más indiferente actitud de funcionarios y autoridades.

Nos resulta complicado expresar con palabras el dolor desgarrador de saber asesinadas en tales circunstancias a nuestras jóvenes hijas, en un inmenso sufrimiento que no se extingue, y no podemos evitar las lágrimas cada vez que pensamos en ellas o miramos sus objetos personales y sus fotos. Nos angustia y crece nuestro suplicio al imaginar cómo pudieron ser los últimos momentos de nuestras hijas asesinadas a base de torturas y vivimos sin vivir…

Mantenemos la esperanza de que algún día la justicia para la desaparición y muerte prematura de nuestras hijas sea posible, ya que sería la única forma de recuperar nuestra propia vida. Solidaridad para quienes, sin ser nuestras compañeras, comparten ahora mismo la pena de haberles arrancado un pedazo de su vida.

The families that participate in this movement have turned our pain into our strength. After confronting, in addition to the brutal murder of our daughters, the incompetence, stubbornness, cover-up, corruption, and the indifferent attitude from the authorities.

It is difficult to express our heartbreaking pain into words, knowing that our daughters were murdered under those circumstances, it is an immense suffering that does not end, and we cannot stop the tears each time we think of them or see their personal things and their photos. Our anguish and torment grows when we imagine how our murdered daughters’ last moments must have been with the torture and we live without living…

We maintain our hope that some day justice will be served for the disappearance and the premature death of our daughters, as that would be the only way to recuperate our own lives. There is solidarity for those, even those aren't our companions, who share their own sorrow of losing a part of their own lives.

8 comments

  • Another great documentary on the issue came out last year called “Bajo Juarez” (Underneath Juarez). We covered it on La Plaza and MexicoReporter.com: http://www.mexicoreporter.com/?p=967

  • Abraham Sadegh

    This is incredible. What is the matter with our world?

    First of all, why does the government allow such atrocities to continue with impunity?

    Why are women subjected to such cruelty?

    Secondly, we need to look at our planet – Spaceship Earth – as a close-knit neighborhood where every nation is a household and has a stake in what is going on in the whole of the neighborhood. There has to be a way – through the UN, for example – for the entire neighborhood to unite in order to fight these kinds of crimes.

  • Cathy

    Why are the police doing nothing about these murders? Are they involved in them? How can 400 missing women cases remain unsolved? In one city?

    Why are the police doing nothing? What’s it going to take for this police force and government care about the deaths of a significant part of their population?

  • […] Another blog impressed me; it touches a topic which hasn’t been covered in the mainstream media: Eduardo Avila focuses on the female murders and the fact that most of them are unsolved and the Mexican […]

  • Cathy — while I’m not going to defend the Juarez police, it is not that they are doing “nothing”, but much of what they have done is sloppy police work, as you’d expect from an under-paid and poorly trained PD. There has been considerable attention paid to this issue, with experts called in from Argentina, France, Britain, Israel and the United States at various times.

    Two things that need to be noted. First off, the 400 “feminicides” are over a 12 year period, which suggests multiple causes, and killers, not a single killer (or group of killers). Secondly, Juarez is not a “normal” city. It is our “frontier town” and, like wild west frontier towns, has a huge floating population (probably double the “official” census figures), younger (and younger adults are much more likely to be involved in, or victims of, violent crime than other age groups) and living on their own… something very alien to Mexican society.

    These are not easy crimes to solve, and –given demands from the big country to the North’s insistence on focusing all the police attention on narcotics exporters — foreign demands that attention be paid to them will not change the situation.

  • […] met with the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, to talk about another sensitive subject such as the hundreds of murders of female factory workers in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Gabriel defended Chao [es] and his responsibility to speak about these […]

  • […] death toll continues to climb and many crimes remain unsolved, leaving the community with little recourse but to take matters into their own hands by forming […]

  • […] blog-post was originally published at Global Voices Online on March 26, 2009. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Mexico: Unsolved femicide along the border", […]

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