The Juarez Murders
Walking the bridge from El Paso into Ciudad Juarez, America’s number one narcotics corridor, means stepping into a world that is many times more vibrant and violent, richer and poorer, yet still strangely invisible from the other side. A vendor hawking crucifixes runs from the police. A preacher waving a Bible shames three painted girls. The rust-colored hand of a beggar pokes out from beneath an Indian shawl. A four-year-old boy in a Joe Camel cap wanders the streets after midnight while his father sings $2 love songs. Then there are the dead bodies; the famous and the infamous and the anonymous gunned down in restaurants, stuffed into trunks, dumped in the street, sometimes choked with wire or burned by acid, often with their hands taped, legs bound, and heads hooded. While the typical headline shouts, “Another Victim”, this is all just business as usual.
Since August of 1993, approximately 370 women have been murdered, of which at least 137 were sexually assaulted prior to death. Many of Mexico’s non-governmental organizations believe the number of missing women to be more than 400. Of these 400 women, 75 bodies have been impossible to confirm because of such little evidence they have to identify them with. Most of the targeted victims are aged from 14 to 25 and are attractive women attending school, waitressing, or working at one of the city’s largest export assembly plants known as Maquiladora’s. Maquiladora’s are foreign-owned assembly plants for export products set up by multinational companies. Because of the Maquiladora shift work, many women are forced to travel long distances to and from work between dusk and dawn. Although the factories provide limited shuttle bus services, many of the women still have to travel between their homes and bus terminals involving unlit and very dangerous routes. It is normally during this journey that many of the women disappear. Many women without jobs travel from all over Mexico just to work in these Maquiladora’s for roughly $24 a week. Therefore, for those who have relocated to Juarez, there are no concerned family or friends to report them missing to authorities. This causes the outcome that many of the murdered women remain unidentified and unclaimed. Family members from remote towns, villages, and farms might never know about the loss of a female relative. The unclaimed and anonymous bodies lose their human context and turn into statistics. In a significant number of cases, the brutality with which the assailants abduct and murder the women goes so much further than the act of killing and provides one of the most horrible examples of violence against women. Many of the women were abducted, held captive for several days, subjected to humiliation and torture and endure the most horrific sexual violence before dying. Most die as a result of asphyxiation caused by strangulation or from being beaten. For example, “On the night of February 19, 2001, at 10:15 p.m., people living near a waste ground close to a Maquiladoria in Ciudad Juarez dialed 060, the municipal police emergency number, to inform them that an apparently naked young woman was being beaten and raped by two men in a car. No patrol car was dispatched in response to the first call. Following a second call, a police unit was sent out but did not arrive until 11:25 p.m.--too late to intervene. The car had all ready left. On February 21, the body of a young woman was found on the waste ground near the place the emergency call had been made. It was wrapped in a blanket and showed signs of physical and sexual assault. The case of death was found to be asphyxia resulting from strangulation. The body of the young woman was identified by the parents as being that of Lilia Alejandra. The forensic report concluded that she had died a day and a half earlier and that she had spent at least five days in captivity prior to her death. A report from the police switchboard taken at...
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