How can you help?

21 Oct

As a reader, and a researcher, it can be frustrating to hear about these murders and know that you have little say in stopping them.

But I believe things can be done to stop the violence, and there are actions you can take right now toward ending the violent deaths of women.

1. Educate yourself – if you’ve read this blog, you are now fairly well-versed on the issue. More so than the average American. Spread the word. Write to your elected officials and let them know this concerns you.

2. Donate to worthy organizations – In Juarez, there is a women’s center called Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis A.C. Many individuals, and some corporations have taken the time to donate to them. Honeywell could do the same, like Alcoa, and Pfizer have already done. If you cannot donate money, organizations like this often need your time. Offer to revamp a website or help with PR initiatives.

3. Juarez-free products? – This last one is an idea I’ve had for some time now. What if we promised to buy products that were only manufactured in the U.S.? Could we possibly avoid those products which are produced in the Mexican maquilas? It is a daunting task, because we encounter one of these products every day, from air conditioning, to computer parts and medical equipment. But if a list were available of products to avoid, would you try?


Timeline of Events

21 Oct

I’ve created an overview of key events for you to reference; the left side includes globalization and government action, and the right side includes the death of women and protests.

Note, when I created the image, the total number of deaths hovered under 23,000. Today it is estimated that more than 28,228 people have died since President Calderon took office. Chihuahua, where Juarez is, comes in at the deadliest state, with over 2500 deaths since January 2007.

One Last Word for Honeywell

20 Oct

To the Honeywell Corporation:

I have not written this blog to demonize you, but only to make you aware of the issue, and point out changes you could make. Do not solely blame the cartels, or worse, the women. You play an active role in this issue, whether you know it or not.

Do not be a bystander. Be an ally.

Do not play the blame game, which is described here by Melissa Wright:

“If the crimes indicate trouble, then the political incumbents are not doing their job. If the victims are innocent, then the police officers are failing to provide protection. If the disappearance of women from public space exposes a social and economic system organized around poor, migrant workers who live in violence-stricken and impoverished communities, then the maquiladora industry and the backers of free trade have not delivered on their
promise of progress.”

This is not the fault of the women, and la doble vida. You have under-delivered.

Government Foul Play?

19 Oct

While investigating the murders of women in Juarez, Diana Washington Valdez discovered truly terrifying information, which can be found in her book The Killing Fields. Beside the fact that many women were being abducted, raped, strangled and dumped in the desert, there remained the question of who the killers were.

Contrary to what local police and media had reported, the author found that some of the killers were tied to powerful political elites in Mexico– people at the highest level of Mexican government. And because of the killers’ networks, police officials did nothing to stop the murders of the Juarez-Chihuahua region.

An investigation by U.S. Officials during the Bush administration found large triangles carved into the backs of many victims. In some parts of the world, this is associated with ultraright wing politics; neo-Nazi groups and secret societies have been known to use it. Whoever is responsible for these targeted sexual attacks leaves one thing clear – the crimes are highly organized abductions. Women are disappearing from the street and no one is noticing.

The increase in crime was not an overnight occurrence though. Indeed it stemmed from Mexico’s “dirty war” – the torture, abductions, and killing of Mexicans by Mexican government agents in the 1970s – and the alliances with drug cartels that created vast networks of corrupt businessmen, police and government officials. These networks would bribe and intimidate local law enforcement as they conducted investigations. Facing pressure from the community to solve many of these murders, police jailed people who were framed, or tortured into a confession. In
most of these cases, no scientific evidence existed against these people, and the lawlessness continues to spread to places outside of Juarez.

The powerful cartel Carrillo Fuentes, who wrought havoc on Juarez throughout the 2000’s “served to cloak powerful people who used slayings to protect their economic interests.”

The cartels have become a killing machine. They are good at it, and to order someone’s death is just another day in the business. But could the cartels be a vehicle for government killing? As mentioned in a previous post, the death of women is perfectly in line with their plans to modernize. It could certainly be why the government turns a blind eye to these killings.

Just another reason why manufacturers should leave the area, or take responsibility for their workers. No one can control the cartels anymore. Their impunity is undeniable.

Broken Promises

18 Oct

Newer factories entered the city with promises they never delivered on. Some promised new housing, better education, or white collar jobs. Most have under-delivered, especially for women workers. And the machismo environment that is perpetuated in the maquilas is bad for women outside the factory as well.

If I had to build a factory in Mexico today, how would I do it? What would I ask Honeywell, and other corporations to change.

– Stop splitting tasks along gender lines
– Double workers’ pay
– Provide housing and educational resources for workers
– Encourage long-term jobs with opportunities for growth
– Allow unionization
– Provide basic health services to workers and the community

The point is, corporations are part of a community too. They are making enormous profit by exploiting cheap labor, so the least they could do is make living where the workers live bearable.

The image says you can't: talk, rest, go to the bathroom, think, or organize yourself

Why the Women are Left Behind

16 Oct

Early in Juarez’s maquila history, poor women from the countryside flocked to the city, and it was then established as one of the best places to find cheap, quality labor. But since the 1990’s, the reputation of Juarez has gone from that of booming industry to a center of drug trade and violence, random crime and outdated manufacturing.

In the face of declining tourist dollars and less corporate investment, city elites devised two strategies to modernize Juarez. The image of the city needed to be revamped. One strategy involves abandoning labor-intensive factory work in favor of high-tech manufacturing, and the other involves purging the streets of women sex workers. Women, who have traditionally represented both of these economies, are left behind in these strategies. They have come to represent “economic stagnation and social degradation”. as noted by Melissa Wright, in her 2004 article on modernity in Juarez.

Under the new model of modernization, women represent the problem, as defined by Juárez’s higher powers, and so their disappearances go unnoticed. Even worse, their disappearances fit in well with city goals of modernization.

Disappearance, as Wright defines it, can be legal by making female presence illegal somewhere, or it can be illegal, like the kidnappings, murders and harassment. Government attempts to purge the streets of sex workers is one form of this ‘legal’ disappearance, although outraged workers note that prostitution is legal in Mexico and they are being robbed of their right to work. Activism in the city brings forth the recurring theme of a woman’s worth, and the controversy surrounding female ‘visibility’ or ‘invisibility’. But ultimately the economic state has created a society that valorizes the death, or disappearance of women. Which is why their violent deaths go unnoticed, and why they are forgotten.


14 Oct

I would be remiss to not mention the women who are affected by this tragedy. I will share a personal story from Mia Kirshner’s book I Live Here.

Ericka is just one of the hundreds of missing girls, who disappearance remains unsolved. Her mother leaves the contents of her bedroom exactly as they were before she left.

Ericka's Bedroom

Her mother cleans the room daily. Kirshner believes it comforts her. Then Ericka’s mother shares Polaroid images with Kirshner. They are images of the house, and all the things she and her daughter did there.

Ericka left one day for a haircut and never returned.

And still many more remain missing.