Brutal Juarez Mexico truth followed by Men Marching in Pink High Heels, Womens Monologue storytelling, and frank Mens Roundtable Discussion... We had a rollercoaster ride of emotions at 16 Days for Elimination of Violence Against Women in Second Life. Picture 1 is Les Mortes de Juarez (Deaths of Juarez), an art installation at: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Four%20Bridges%20North/87/81/38
Pictures 2 and 3 are from the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march in Second Life, notice the Pink High Heel footwear on these brawny SL men! This event based on the real life hilarious walk a mile events, such as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zFWVmzRyLA
16 Days Womens Rights observances continue through Friday December 10 - UN Human Rights Day. Schedule/Locations in our earlier article: (http://slnewserevents.blogspot.com/2010/11/16-day-womens-rights-festival-in-second.html )
Subject matter experts on the 400+ unsolved murders of Women of Juarez joined us in SL and shared these exclusive insider remarks...
The true story of Cuidad Juarez is a very shameful topic. The international community must be aware of what happened in the last decade on the issue of violence against women in Mexico, specifically about women being murdered.
Mexico is a proud country and culture and its people, who are by and large honest and hardworking. Mexico is one of the most beautiful countries in the world; but women's human rights have been trampled upon, and where Mexican authorities through their corrupt practices, have not been able to offer their citizens a safe country.
The issue of femicide in Mexico dates from the year 1993 in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua, when society began to notice the crimes against girls and young women. We begin by talking about Juarez City. That city has gained notoriety worldwide for the way that these crimes have been carried out. What they have in common is that these killings are brutal, horrible deaths; many women were abducted, tortured, mutilated and many have been gang-raped.
Most Americans outside west Texas know Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez is not just a small border town, it is the fourth largest city in Mexico and the largest on the U.S. Mexican border, with more than 2 million people. Many are street people, living hand-to-mouth and day-to-day, while others are simply in transit, passing through the city en route to the border and the promised land of the U.S. Those who stay behind often work in maquiladoras--sweat-shops producing goods for sale abroad--at wages averaging five U.S. dollars per day. These factories are foreign owned corporations. A few examples are Acer, Canon, Chrysler, Casio, Kodak, Ericsson, General Electric, Lear Corporation, Mattel, IBM, Philips, Zenith, Hitachi, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, and Samsung.
The maquilas (factories) make everything from electronics and pharmaceuticals to auto parts and household goods. They employ 200.000 people in Juarez. Mostly women. Most are underpaid. They earn 6 dollars per day, while in U.S a similar worker earns 6 dollars per hour. Thousands of those workers are young women from outlying towns and villages.
Like similar factories worldwide, they prefer to hire women rather than men, supposedly because they are more nimble. In reality, the preference is based on the fact that traditional patriarchal socialization makes women workers more exploitable than men. While the maquilas were originally intended to employ men, managers soon realized that it was in fact young women who made the perfect employees. They are considered more docile and obedient, and their young nimble fingers are better suited to the repetitive work.
By the 1980s, about 90 percent of maquila workers were women. More men have become employed in the past decade, with the institution of maquilas making auto parts and other things requiring heavier lifting. But women still make up a sizable 58 percent of the approximately 230,000-person maquila workforce in Juarez.They come hoping for the best, but often find the worst. Squalid work conditions and sexual harassment can become mere annoyances in a city where life is cheap.
Since 1993, over 450 women, most of them young maquila workers, have disappeared in Ciudad Juarez. The government lists at least 271 as official murders, though residents say the true number is likely much higher. Of these, 178 are listed as cases of domestic violence, with a jealous husband or lover to blame, while 93 are considered the work of a "serial killer" or killers of disputed and unknown identity.
They are all part of the same phenomenon, however--a decade-long wave of hatred and brutality toward women in Juarez, characterized by its gut-wrenching perversity and the failure of the state, local and federal governments to take any meaningful steps to stop the killings. The bodies have been found individually as well as in groups of three, four, or eight. On February 17 1993, the bodies of three young women were found together and then a six-year-old girl's body was found a few days later. There are nipples, eyes and hearts cut out--signs of brutal rape and other forms of torture. Some were burned to a crisp, others left unburied to be decimated by the harsh desert elements. Some of the victims were buried wearing the clothing of other victims. They range in age from a three-year-old to an 80-year-old, but the bulk of them were young women between age 14 and 27.
Many of them were described as having similar characteristics-- poor, brown, thin, attractive, and their ages ranged most between 7 and 27 years old. A high number of young disappeared in the course of their work at the factories. They disappear while waiting for or leaving the buses that take them to and from work, or after visiting the bars that are popular with factory workers on Friday nights. Rumors abound as to who is responsible for the scores of unsolved killings.
In 1995, the government arrested an Egyptian chemist named Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, who had been deported from the U.S. after serving time in jail for sex crimes. The murders continued after Sharif's incarceration, however. He was held for years without a conviction until recently being sentenced to 20 years for one of the handful of murders he had been charged with. Then the government blamed members of a street gang called Los Rebeldes (The Rebels).They claimed Sharif was paying the gang to keep killing women, maybe in an attempt to prove he wasn't to blame for the earlier killings. Others blame narcotraffickers, sex offenders who live in El Paso, or the government and police themselves for the killings. A good number of the sadistic torturers and murderers come from the richest and most powerful families in Juarez and other border cities. The juniors and not as juniors seeking their potency in the throes of young women workers from poor families.
In his book Bones in the Desert, Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez says: "According to federal sources, there are six prominent businessmen in El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana who sponsor and witness the acts committed by hired killers, dedicated to kidnap rape, and murder women ... The Mexican authorities - at the highest level – have been aware of such activities for a long time, and have refused to intervene. These entrepreneurs - the gas industry, transport, media, soft drink, and entertainment establishments, gambling and betting - ties with politicians keep the government” under their control.
Vicente Fox Quesada In “Harvest of Women”, Diana Washington says: "The Mexican federal investigation contains accounts of officers and others who facilitated orgies where women are ravaged that later found dead. Researchers say some people also participated in the murders. Among the names that U.S. and Mexican officials know of people that could be expected to know the facts or may be involved are: Molinar, Sotelo, Hank, Rivera, Fernández, Zaragoza, Cabada, Molina, Fuentes, Hernández, Urbina, Cano, Martínez, Dominguez and others. "
The arrest of Sharif and Los Rebeldes changed nothing in Juarez. The brutal murders continued and community groups accused police of negligence or worse. At least 16 female victims were slain between late April and November 1996.Eight remain unidentified. Five were stabbed, three shot, and one was found in a drum of acid. In several cases advanced decomposition made determinations about cause of death or sexual assault impossible. While rape was confirmed in only four cases, the position and nudity of several other corpses suggested sexual assault. In the cases where the cause of death could be determined, five were stabbed, three were strangled, three shot, and two beaten. Statistically, 1998 was the city's worst year yet. There were 23 on the books by December, six remained unidentified. The killings reflected the usual pattern of stabbings, stranglings, bullets and burning. Rocio Barrazza Gallegos was killed on September 21 in the parking lot of the city's police academy. She was strangled inside a patrol car by a cop assigned to the "murdered women" case. Authorities described the death of 20-year-old Rosalina Veloz Vasquez, found dead on January 25, as "similar to 20 other murders in the city."
And indeed, by 1998 the long-running investigation had become a numbers game. In May, media reports referred to "more than 100 women raped and killed" in Ciudad Juarez. Mexico's Human Rights Commission issued a report in 1998 castigating the police. But politicians suppressed it to avoid any adverse impact on upcoming state elections"
At least 17 bodies show enough in common--the way shoelaces were tied together, where they were buried, how they were mutilated--that investigators say at least one serial killer is at work. And 76 other cases bear enough similarities that investigators say one or more copycats may be at work."
In fact, all that anyone really knew was that the murders were continuing. A government roster of the victims lists many of the culprits as unknown.Likewise many of the women whose bodies were found were never identified, even though in some cases a specific person was charged with their murder. They are listed as "unknown” or “unidentified woman.” This is the way many of them were thought of in life as well as in death.
The young women who work in the maquilas are like cogs in the machine of global commerceThey are expendable and interchangeable, putting in 45 hours or more per week at low-skill assembly line jobs for average pay of $24 to $35 per week, depending on the fluctuation of the peso.These are women who have streamed into Juarez from destitute towns and rural areas in central and southern Mexico.
This influx of migrants to a virtually waterless town without the infrastructure to handle such population increases, has resulted in the growth of the sprawling shantytowns, called colonias, like Anapra on the outskirts of the city. Fifty percent of the roads in the towns are unpaved, 30 percent of the residents don't have running water and at least 100,000 have no electricity. At first glance, the maquilas look like decent places to work. They are gorgeously landscaped, clean and well lit. But in reality, the working conditions are far from satisfactory.
Workers are forced to put in mandatory overtime on top of nine-hour days (that stretch to twelve hours when an average one-and-a-half-hour bus ride on each side is factored in).They are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals and dangerous machinery without adequate safety equipment.Sexual harassment and abuse in the maquilas is rampant.Women have virtually no choice but to submit to ongoing sexual harassment as well as actual abuse and rape to hold onto and advance in their jobs.
Since the government mandates 60 days of paid leave for pregnant women, maquilas force women to take pregnancy tests and don't hire anyone who is pregnant. Former workers say that in some cases, these "pregnancy tests" consist of showing their used sanitary napkins to managers."All the corporations have the same code of conduct--sexual harassment, mandatory pregnancy tests, poor working conditions, humiliation," said Veronica Leiba, a former maquila worker and labor organizer. Many women are also forced to resort to prostitution because of the impossibility of supporting a family on maquila wages. This climate makes the rapes, sexual mutilations and murders more understandableIn everyday life, women are regularly treated as objects of manual labor and sexual gratification for men.That they would meet their deaths that way, and that no one in a position of power would even seem to care, is just the next step.
The Mexican government has appointed a string of special prosecutors to investigate the killings, but like most victims' families, other maquila workers, and many in the general public feel the government is not taking even the most basic steps to adequately investigate and prevent the killings. In a documentary produced by Lourdes Portillo called "Senorita Extraviada" (Missing Woman) exploring the killings, mothers of the murdered women describe how police refused to investigate their daughters' disappearances at all, often saying they must have run off with a boyfriend."
When women report their daughter has disappeared, the police respond by challenging the families to convince them of the importance of doing a search," said Acosta. "The police ask personal questions--did she have a boyfriend, was she planning to go out. They say the girls weren't careful enough."Many blame the government's failure to stop the killings on ineptness and a lack of effort on the part of the local police.There is a binational effort to get the FBI involved in the investigations, a plan which the U.S. has been amenable to but which, besides a few joint trainings, the Mexican government has failed to embrace. Others have a darker view of the police's failure to adequately investigate the murders.
In the maquilas and towns of Juarez, many believe police and government officials themselves are responsible for many of the killings.The explanation for the killings, often given by the police and government, including the governor of the state of Chihuahua, is that the women were involved in prostitution or drug trafficking, and that they shouldn't have been out by themselves at night.But this excuse doesn't stand up to the most basic logic since some of the women were abducted in broad daylight. Others are forced to be out alone in the dark because their maquila shifts end at 12:30 a.m. or they have to catch 5 a.m. buses in the morning." The maquila owners say the reason they're getting killed is they're wearing those short skirts and going dancing," said Victor Munoz, a Chihuahua native and member of an El Paso-based coalition against the killings. "It's the attitude of blaming the victim."
Advocates say efforts to get the maquilas to provide more security for women on their way to and from work have gone nowhere. Even if the victims were working as prostitutes, or had willingly gone on dates with their eventual killers, this doesn't justify the murders or decrease the government's responsibility to investigate them. The same applies to the known domestic violence victims, many of whose killers have gotten off scot-free or with relatively light sentences. On a larger level, many see the murders as part of an overall culture that wants to keep women subservient and dependent on menThis includes both the maquila owners who want their female employees to be docile and obedient, and husbands who want their wives to be the same way. Women say there is also general resentment from men at the fact women are earning money and taking jobs in a tight economy. Overwhelming and increasing poverty just exacerbates these feelings."
There are a lot of problems for poor people in Juarez," said Esther Chavez Cano, founder of Casa Amiga, the only domestic violence crisis center in the city. "Jobs are being lost at the maquilas and the maquilas are paying less. Domestic violence increases, alcoholism has increased tremendously. In Mexican culture, men feel they are supposed to be the supporters of the family, and they are frustrated that the women are earning the money, so they abuse more."
The recession in the U.S., and the growing interest in even cheaper labor in Asia, has had a significant effect on the maquila industry in the past few years.Over 30 maquilas have recently closed, at a loss of about 100,000 jobs. Yet economic conditions in the rest of Mexico continue to worsen as well, so the stream of workers up to Juarez continues.
This squeeze threatens to make the violence against women even worse. With more competition for jobs, maquilas will have even less incentive to provide decent working conditions, wages and security measures for women.And the increased economic pressure on men will cause many to take out their frustrations on their domestic partners, not to mention increasing men's anger at competing with women for fewer maquila jobs.
The situation is not without hope, however. A variety of women's groups and organizations of the victims' mothers have formed in Juarez to fight for accountability, justice and the prevention of more killings. Coalitions have also been formed with U.S. groups near the border and major U.S. foundations have funneled financial resources to the struggle.
The event on International Women's Day drew about 500 people marching from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez, demanding an end to the murders and violence against women in generalThe issue is urgent, entailing not only the search for justice for past victims and the safety of potential victims but symbolizing the well being and hope of Mexican women as a whole.
Several years later it seems that justice begins. The American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has implicated the Government of Mexico in the death of Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, 15, Claudia Ivette Gonzalez, 19, and Laura Berenice Ramos 17, whose bodies, tortured and sexually abused, were drawn in Cotton Field on campus in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.
The Mexican state will pay for the first time for its lack of diligence in investigating the more than 400 deaths of women come to regret in Ciudad Juarez since 1993.The government did not protect, did not prevent the murder, although they knew the pattern of gender violence in the region, which has left hundreds of murdered women and girls, and the authorities in Ciudad Juarez did not respond to complaints.
This story paints a shameful picture of Mexico, but the story must continue to be broadcast in the international community, so that people know that Mexicans continue fighting against impunity ... not relenting in efforts to live in a dignified country which offers the security that Mexican women deserve.
(story also on CNN)