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The Juárez Killing Fields

The Juárez Killing Fields

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Published by Daniela Paniagua

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Published by: Daniela Paniagua on Dec 24, 2009
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Paniagua 1The Juárez Killing Fields: A Decade of Horror in the City of Lost WomenAt the turn of the 21
st
Century, the local municipality constructed a glaring yellowmonument at the entrance of Ciudad Juárez, symbolizing hope for future industrialization in acity wrought with corruption and a dark, secretive past. However, the people of Juárez set aboutconstructing their own “monument”—a series of pink crosses memorializing “the Labyrinth of Silence,” a desolate area where hundreds of women have been “disposed” of over the lastdecade. Gazing across the Labyrinth, a “massive monument of Christ on the Cross” stands erect,symbolizing faith and protection (Rodriguez xi). Locals question if the victims have looked uptoward that depiction of Christ’s suffering that towers above their brutally beaten bodies and pleaded for His mercy…This Mexican border-town, founded on prosperity and faith, is estrangedfrom its original principles and has become known as the City of Lost Women.Ciudad Juárez has been a city of nearly two million people living in fear for over adecade; after all, the city’s yearly death toll exceeded 1,900 by June, one hundred of which werewomen (“100 Women”). Nearly 620 women have been murdered since 1993, although officialsclaim the numbers are not even half that figure (Staudt 29). According to Alma Gomez of 
 Justicia de Nuestras Hijas
, when the murders began, “a woman was killed every twelve days…”(Operación Digna). Today, Juárez averages one woman dead for every eight days that passes.According to TheAmericano.com, an online publication focusing primarily on Latino issues,Ciudad Juárez is now the most murderous city in the world.Border-towns are notorious for violence—they are the places where worlds collide,where the roles of men and women have long remained distinctly separate. “The U.S.-Mexican border 
es una herida abierta
1
where the Third World grates against the First, and bleeds,”
1
es una herida abierta
– “is an open wound”
 
Paniagua 2(Anzaldúa 3). Many blame
machismo
, the male-dominant repudiation of everything feminine, for the increased violence running rampant in these areas. Even after the
maquiladoras
, or U.S.-owned manufacturing factories, changed the typical role of women in Mexico, violence reigned;in fact, women becoming providers instead of sole caretakers completely defied the status quo of many Latin American countries. A promise of a future drove the women from surrounding areasof Mexico to the City of Industry—they “[came] hoping for the best, but often [found] theworst,” (Newton 3). Nonetheless, as industry brought prosperity to dust-laden Ciudad Juárez, an increase of murders related to drugs and human trafficking occurred. However, in 1993 the pattern of murders changed drastically—there was a dramatic upswing in the number of young womenfound slain throughout the outskirts of the city. These women had been “raped, mutilated,crushed, strangled…some were even dismembered or burned alive,” (Washington). Their skinwas marred with bite marks & they had deep slashes across their breasts. Bound with their ownshoelaces & partially clothed, their shoes would be placed almost sentimentally beside their corpses—occasionally just bones, after desert jackals picked the flesh from their fragile bodies.“If you want to rape and kill a woman, there is no better place to do it than in Juárez,” saidEsther Chávez Cano, founder of 
8 de Marzo
, in an opinion column during the fall of 1995.
8 deMarzo
is a Juárez-based woman’s advocacy organization dedicated to rousing awareness of notonly the killings, but also the corrupted officials (Rodriguez 72).Alma Mireya Chavirria Farel’s name rings in infamy just across the southern border. Her tiny, brutalized body was discovered on January 23, 1993, making her the first documentedvictim of the Juárez serial murders (Newton 4). Alma was a 5 year-old child, found in theCampestre Virreyes district of Ciudad Juárez with deep slashes across her chest, evidence of sexual assault, and severe strangulation. The people of Juárez were so aghast at the brutality of 
 
Paniagua 3the crime, that the authorities were essentially forced to acknowledge the presence of a“predator”— 
 El Depredador Psicópata,
who would become known as the “Juárez Ripper”(Newton 4). Twenty-one other women and young girls would meet their end that year, includinga young woman who was set on fire and left to die (Valdez Appendix 2).In 1994, police claimed there were eight murders in Ciudad Juárez with a similar 
modusoperandi
, and advised local women not to venture out alone (Newton 5). Just as had occurredduring the previous year, an unidentified victim’s smoldering body was discovered semi-nudeand strangled. Her shoes were placed “tenderly” beside her charred remains. The families of themurdered women were incredulous that authorities were not taking the cases more seriously.When a woman would go missing, the police would simply ask the family to come back in forty-eight hours and fill out paperwork…the investigations largely “concluded” at that point and thefamilies were left to their own devices. Even after Chihuahuan officials were warned by their very own criminologist, Oscar Maynez Grijalva, that a
 group
of serial killers were responsiblefor the slayings, police refused to take direct action. Between March and September of 1995,nineteen young women were found brutally raped and mutilated; consequently, the policedepartment and Federal prosecutors came under extreme scrutiny from local families for “brushing off” the cases as the numbers continued to rise (Newton 5). Oscar Maynez Grijalva,who previously warned of the danger in ignoring the “signs” of serial murder, began to notice adistinct pattern in the bodies of the victims he was examining—in eight of the nineteen cases prior to September of that year, the victims’ right breast was removed and their left nipple bittenoff (Newton 3). In the remaining months of 1995, another twenty-nine women would bemurdered, bringing the grand total to forty-eight. As of July 2009, eight of the victims from 1995remain buried in graves simply marked “Unknown,” (“2009-Femicides…”).

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