Femicide is the killing of women qua women, often condoned by, if not sponsored, by the state and/or by religious institutions.
—Jill Radford and Diana E. H. Russell, eds., Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing
The Black Legend (Spanish: La Leyenda Negra) is the depiction of Spain and Spaniards as bloodthirsty and cruel, intolerant, greedy, and fanatical.
Just because I published a novel called Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders (2005) does not mean the Juárez murders are fiction. Since May 1993, over five hundred women and girls have been found brutally murdered on the El Paso/Juárez border, and thousands more have been reported missing and remain unaccounted for, making this the longest epidemic of femicidal violence in modern history. The victims are known colloquially as "las inditas del sur," the little Indian girls from the south of Mexico—poor, dark-skinned, and indigenous-looking—who have arrived alone and disenfranchised in Ciudad Juárez to work at a twin-plant maquiladora and earn dollars to send back home. Not all of the victims are rural, not all of them are outsiders to the border metropolis, not all of them worked at a maquiladora, lived alone, or had indigenous features. But most of them are Mexican, impoverished, and young. And all of them are female, the victims of this particular crime wave.
There was a time when no one knew about the Juárez femicides, as these crimes have come to be called to signify the misogyny of the perpetrators. There was a time when little coverage could be found in newspapers or on television shows or on the Internet about what was happening in Juárez to poor, young, Mexican women. Nowadays, we know too much, and yet we continue to know nothing. In the process of learning; reading; researching; raising consciousness; signing petitions; writing stories, poetry, and music; making art; organizing conferences; and collecting anthologies, there are only two things that have changed. The number of victims continues to grow. And now the Juárez femicides have become a legend, the "black legend" of the border.
The Mexican government's new line, after years of inept investigations and covert maneuvers to derail progress on any of the cases, is that the femicides are nothing but an invention of some crazy feminists and the attention-grabbing mothers of a few dead prostitutes, a way of making Juárez look like a modern-day incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition out to hunt down, torture, and sacrifice young women, an image that city officials and merchants say is spoiling tourism to the city.
Despite these negations of history, you have, by now, probably heard of the gendered death toll in Ciudad Juárez. You already know that between 1993 and 2008, more than five hundred poor Mexican women and girls, some as young as five, some in their sixties and seventies, were violently slain in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. You know that their bodies were found strangled, mutilated, dismembered, raped, stabbed, torched, or so badly beaten, disfigured, or decomposed that the remains have never been identified. You know that many bore the signature of serial killers: the bodies half-clothed, hands tied behind their backs, evidence of rape, genital mutilation. You know that a majority of the victims shared the same physical profile: predominantly between the ages of twelve and twenty-three, young, slim, petite, dark-haired, and dark-skinned. You know that their brutalized bodies were dumped in deserted lots around Juárez as well as in landfills, motels, downtown plazas, and busy city intersections. You may even know that bodies were found inside trash dumpsters, brick ovens, vats of acid, and abandoned cars, as well as on train tracks, under beds in hotel rooms, and across the street from a police station or the headquarters of the Maquiladora Association. You know, perhaps, that the victims are also called "maqui-locas," assumed to be maquiladora workers living la vida loca, or una vida doble, of a border metropolis, coded language for prostitution.
In fact, you may know quite a bit about these dead women because, first of all, the bodies have been accruing since 1993, and, second, we now have a plethora of cultural products about the femicides. Since 1999, for example, a repertoire of songs has emerged from artists as diverse as Tori Amos, At the Drive-In, Lila Downs, Los Tigres del Norte, and Los Jaguares. For online video fans, there are over twenty short films available on YouTube alone, including one by Amnesty International.
Beyond the early documentaries, such as "Maquila: A Tale of Two Mexicos" (2000) and Lourdes Portillo's "Señorita Extraviada" (2001), which alone helped raise consciousness about the crimes all over the world, we now also have two Hollywood films, one pulp Mexican film, and at least three new documentaries.
In print, other than my mystery novel and a collection of poetry about the murdered women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosín, we have a new fictionalized first-person account of life in the "capital city of murdered women," as well as two book-length journalistic accounts, and a monograph.
In the academic world, numerous panels have been presented at conferences such as the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, and MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social). New Mexico State University, UCLA, Ohio State University, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Nebraska, and Stanford University (to name a few) have all hosted conferences and symposia dedicated specifically to the Juárez femicides. And this is not to mention all of the writers, visual artists, and performance artists on both sides of the border who have lent their talents to a massive binational outrage over these crimes and the continued impunity granted the perpetrators. Coupled with the investigative reports of major newspapers and television news shows across the country as well as across the world and the denunciations of organizations like Amnesty International, the Organization of American States, and the World Court, all of these cultural efforts have contributed to what you have learned about the femicides.
But there is another reason you know something about the dead daughters of Juárez. You know about them because they are dead, because they are part of this sensational, unresolved heinous crime wave that has taken the public by storm and has suddenly put this border on the radar of every human rights organization in the known universe. Ironically, the main signifier of their lives is a corpse half-buried in a sand dune. As Marjorie Agosín says in a poem from her collection about the murdered women of Juárez, Secrets in the Sand, "All we know about them / is their death" (25).
We did not know anything about these "muchachas del sur" (girls from the south) when they were alive, did not even realize they were alive or that they were living in such squalid and inhumane conditions just a stone's throw from El Paso, working at their mind-numbing, carpal tunnel-warping factory jobs, going to school some of them, struggling to support children or parents, to find a decent place to live in a squatter colony with no electricity, no running water, no sewage system, no paved streets, no city services whatsoever. Nothing about them was of any interest to us until they died, and even then, it took over three hundred bodies piling up over ten years and the noisy interventions of First World celebrities like Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Christine Lahti (who in 2004 led us through the V-Day march in Juárez, which drew a crowd of thousands from both sides of the border) for us to really pay attention to the presence of these women in our midst. I myself—native of that very border, with family living on both sides of the Córdoba Bridge—did not find out about the crimes until 1998, five years after the bodies began piling up in the desert, when I read a story called "The Maquiladora Murders," by Sam Quiñones in the May/June issue of Ms. magazine.
Reading the story enraged me, not only because these crimes were happening right across the border from my hometown of El Paso and because very little about them had been reported in any major U.S. newspaper, or even the local papers of El Paso and Las Cruces, but also because, as a scholar of border studies and gender studies, as a native of that very place on the map in which the femicides were happening at a rate of two per month, I too had been caught in the web of silence that surrounds these crimes.
What was at the root of the silence? Surely such a crime spree would sell newspapers, if nothing else. In 1999, my search for media coverage on the femicides resulted in only a handful of stories. Other than the Sam Quiñones article in Ms., I found an earlier piece by Debbie Nathan in The Nation, a piece in the Los Angeles Times, one in the New York Times, and a two-part, multiple-page-spread in the Washington Post. On television, only two news shows, 20/20 and 60 Minutes, had broadcast exposés. After those eight bodies were discovered in a cotton field in November 2001, the U.S. media swarmed over the story, and suddenly we were reading about the Juárez femicides not only in the newspapers, but also in periodicals that ranged from left to right of the political scale: the Utne Reader, Mother Jones, People, and the Texas Observer. These were all signs of interest, finally, in a tragedy that has been accruing bones since 1993.
Nowadays, of course, the Internet and YouTube provide access to stories about the femicides worldwide, but when I first started my research after reading Quiñones's exposé, the Worldwide Web had precious little. I found a link to a story done by the BBC in London, another link to the Frontera NorteSur digest from Las Cruces, and, finally, a link to the now-defunct Sagrario Consortium (or Fundación Sagrario), named after one of the victims, Sagrario González Flores (daughter of Paula Flores, who has been very active in the mothers' struggle to end the femicides in Juárez and whose testimonio is included in this book). My research assistant in 1999 was informed by a reference librarian at the El Paso Public Library that the murders were "Juárez news, not El Paso news," and so the El Paso Times did not cover them. Media coverage in Mexican periodicals between 1993 and 1998, on the other hand, constituted a three-inch-thick archive of information.
Where were the academics, I wondered? Where were the Mexican, Chicana/o and Latino/a academics, particularly those working on labor issues, immigration policy, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the abuse and exploitation of women workers on the border? Why were they, especially my U.S. colleagues, not bringing their time, energy, and resources to this issue? Why was there so little scholarship on the crimes? Was it fear or apathy that defined the silence?
In an effort to break that silence on the U.S. side of the border, I decided to write a mystery novel about the crimes—based on research and on what I knew from having grown up in that precise, paradoxical place on the map—to inform the broadest-possible English-speaking public about the femicides. When the novel was finished, I (with the help of a handful of students) organized an international conference called "The Maquiladora Murders, Or, Who Is Killing the Women of Juárez?" at UCLA in the fall of 2003, under the aegis of the Chicano Studies Research Center and cosponsored by Amnesty International. We brought together scholars, journalists, artists, activists, writers, forensic investigators, policy specialists, as well as mothers of the victims in a series of roundtable discussions and presentations. Cong. Hilda Solís, actor Eve Ensler, and then-University of California regent Dolores Huerta all gave keynote speeches. There were literary and dramatic presentations; a multimedia student exhibition of written, aural, and visual materials collected in a yearlong undergraduate research internship on the crimes; and a special altar of ceramic pieces by the San Antonio-based MujerArtes collective commemorating the lives and losses of the Juárez women. The pieces were sold at a silent auction, the full proceeds of which were donated to the nongovernmental organizations of the mothers who attended the conference. The purpose of the conference was to facilitate more scholarly inquiry into the crimes and, in particular, to examine the social, political, economic, and cultural infrastructure in which the crimes were multiplying like another form of toxic waste on the border.
The conference was held during the Mexican Days of the Dead, October 31-November 2, and more than fifteen hundred people from across Los Angeles, the United States, Mexico, and Europe attended. The conference generated twelve resolutions that echoed the demands of Mexican NGOs and policy makers in the United States for a binational task force that would help bring an end to the crimes and justice to the murdered women and their families. The resolutions became the "¡Ni Una Más!" petition, which called for an "End [to] Violence against Women and Children in Juárez and Chihuahua" and was addressed to both the U.S. and Mexican governments (it is still available online).
Our conference logo, designed by Chicana digital artist Alma López, was called Coyolxauhqui's Tree of Life, both to commemorate the primordial dismembered daughter of Aztec mythology, who was slashed to pieces by her brother, the War God, Huitzilopochtli, and to reconstitute her many pieces into a whole self. My intention as the organizer of the conference was not only to raise consciousness about the crimes and provide a forum for discussing, analyzing, and taking action against the binational silence that had protected the perpetrators for so long, but also to re-member the sacrificed daughters of Juárez. I wanted to focus not so much on "who is killing them" as on, as Alma López's digital image suggests, how we could reassemble the pieces of the puzzle of their deaths to help us understand why they died and why they were killed with such viciousness directed at the brown female body. López's image suggests two other key questions: What war gods are being served by their deaths? and What "mother" or "father" are the killers—these modern-day Huitzilopochtlis who are wielding their own fiery serpents against their sisters—protecting?
There is so much we do not know. We do not know why there is a binational task force that includes immigration officers, Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, and police on both sides of the border—engaged in the collective task of trying to solve the pernicious problem of car theft—but not a similar binational effort to stop this epidemic of femicides. We do not know what role El Paso plays in either the investigation of the crimes or the protection of the perpetrators. We do not know how Mexico punishes sex crimes. We do not know, even, how many victims there actually are. Were there 254 murdered women in 2002, which is the statistic provided by the Juárez rape crisis shelter, Casa Amiga, or 320, which is the number reported by El Paso Times journalist Diana Washington Valdez, based on her own investigative research? Amnesty International's 2003 report on the Juárez murders, "Intolerable Killings: Ten Years of Abductions and Murders in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua," concludes that 370 young women and girls had been killed on that border since 1993, "of which at least 137 were sexually assaulted prior to death." As reported in a Mexico City paper, the Chihuahua state government's response was that the Amnesty findings were "partial, slanted, distorted, and tendentious," and that the information presented in the report was both "inconsistent and decontextualized."
Another thing we do not know: Can the DNA-testing techniques employed by the Chihuahua state authorities be trusted? In a shocking revelation by a group of Argentine anthropologists and forensics experts who came to Juárez in 2005 to lend their expertise to the DNA investigations—the same team "which gained fame by using advanced DNA-study techniques to identify people killed in Argentina's 'dirty war' of the 1970s"—the mothers of two of those eight victims found in the cotton field in November 2001 learned that the remains they had been given were not those of their daughters.
Today, activists assert that the body count (that is to say, the found bodies, not the missing ones, which number in the thousands) has now exceeded five hundred. While attention has focused on the tangible murders, cases in which bodies have been discovered, the actual number of victims may be more than twice as high.
Why have we not been made aware of their existence; why did they have to die for us to see them? Because they were women? Because they were poor, brown, young women? Because they were so low on the social totem pole that we all tacitly agreed the most polite thing we could do was to ignore them?
The essays and testimonios in Making a Killing make it difficult for us to continue to ignore the victims, or the murders, or the political, geographic, and economic context in which the crimes keep happening. Collectively, these essays are an intervention in the Freirian notion of concientización, offering as they do academic and personal reflection on a variety of factors that produce and sanction this gendered violence on an increasingly globalized U.S.-Mexico border, as well as analyses of actions being taken both to protest femicide and also to transform the social discourse that sees the victims as responsible for manufacturing their own deaths.
Readers will note that the numbers do not match in any of the essays in this book; the body count is always different. Indeed, that is one of the major issues with these crimes. There has been no systematic accounting of the victims or accountability by the authorities, which results in only more confusion, more impunity for the perpetrators, and less chance of resolution. Despite the discrepancy in the numbers, however, the contributors all agree with the activists and NGOs that have been working on these cases that the numbers given by "official" channels are much lower than the actual body count.
Who can hate these powerless women so much? What is it about them that they hate? What is so threatening about their presence on the border? What accounts for this level of misogyny? Is the poor brown female really an endangered species on the U.S.-Mexico border? What specific threats does she pose to the society, the economy, and the culture of the border? How can we explain the silence that continues to protect the perpetrators and haunt the mothers and families of the victims? What specific actions have been taken and must be taken to protest the impunity with which these crimes are committed, which is as much a signature of the criminals as of the authorities who refuse to bring justice to the daughters of Juárez? How do we put an end to the femicides?
The essays in Part One, "Interventions," examine the murders in a socioeconomic context, with a focus on evaluating NAFTA, border economic politics, and maquiladora working conditions and ethics. It is crucial to understand the "fatal indifference,", as Elvia Arriola terms it, of corporations and governmental policies in regard to the border's vulnerable female workforce. In "Accountability for Murder in the Maquiladoras," Arriola examines NAFTA-related laws and the governmental policies that provide more rights for foreign investors than for the Mexican workers themselves. She argues that both the maquiladoras and the Mexican government are morally responsible for their workers' safety, but because they protect profit at any cost and privilege production before the laborer, the poor brown female maquiladora worker becomes "an insignificant cog in the wheel of production." Such analysis is bolstered by firsthand accounts from working women who describe the perilous conditions they face both on their way to work and at the maquiladoras themselves.
Subsequent essays trace the social ideologies that allow femicide to flourish with impunity. Rather than identifying individual culprits, the authors examine the traditional machismo and misogyny that pervade social attitudes toward the victims, who are represented as prostitutes responsible for provoking their own deaths. In this way, these articles collapse the simple binary of innocent and guilty by investigating the sociocultural devaluation of women rather than "whodunnit." Alicia Gaspar de Alba's "Poor Brown Female: The Miller's Compensation for 'Free Trade,'" for example, analyzes the complicitous roles of the media, the maquiladora industry, and the U.S. and Mexican governments in these murders. Gaspar de Alba shows how the maquiladora industry, from demeaning beauty pageants to monthly menstruation checks, dehumanizes its female labor force in the name of production efficiency; and yet, when these women go home, the corporations which make a killing in profits at their expense cannot provide proper lighting or background checks on the company shuttle drivers. "Safety," she argues, "is a commodity the workers cannot afford. Nor, it seems, can their employers, despite the huge profits they make on products assembled with cheap 'mano de obra (labor).'" Moreover, "Poor Brown Female" examines topics that have not been studied in the literature of the femicides: the definitions and technicalities of rape and sex crimes found in Mexico's penal code, as well as the fact that, until 2002, El Paso was the largest dumping ground of registered sex offenders in the country, a possible lead in the investigations that neither government seems inclined to explore. In this way, Gaspar de Alba probes the misogynistic priorities and policies of two nations that can unite in an effort to find stolen cars but not missing women.
María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba's "Ghost Dance in Ciudad Juárez at the End/Beginning of the Millennium" also probes the public discourse surrounding these murdered women and reveals how it serves to violate them both in life and after death. Tabuenca begins by examining the historical construction of Ciudad Juárez as a perverse border city—as the most "'unredeemable' of all the provinces"—and explores how such a stigma propagates and condones the image of the loose and discardable border woman. Analyzing public disdain for working women who "transgress" gendered public spaces, the 1995-1998 police department's so-called prevention campaigns, and the governors', district attorneys', and criminologists' statements about the victims (ranging from brutal indifference to downright condemnation), "Ghost Dance" seeks to contest the continual cultural disparagement of these women and shed light on the government's ludicrously ineffectual measures.
Continuing in Tabuenca's line of inquiry, Steven S. Volk and Marian E. Schlotterbeck's "Gender, Order, and Femicide: Reading the Popular Culture of Murder in Ciudad Juárez" provides one of the first comprehensive studies of the cultural production that has surfaced from the murders. Analyzing Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders and Tori Amos's songs on the women of Juárez as feminist counterpoints to the masculinist cultural texts by Julián Cardona, Carlos Fuentes, and Los Tigres del Norte, the authors argue that, while decrying and lamenting the deaths, these latter artists fix the cultural territory of the murders within a familiar set of patriarchal binaries: good girl/bad girl, virgin/whore. In this way, these masculinist cultural texts further perpetuate the notion that the murder of women will inevitably continue to happen until men's and women's proper roles and relations are reestablished, and thus they continue to propagate the hegemonic discourse of Juárez women as maqui-locas who were asking to get killed.
All of the pieces in Part Two, "¡Ni Una Más!" analyze the current ways in which femicide has been countered. They look at nongovernmental organizations and other grassroots forms of activism that have formed as a response to the crimes in Juárez and also call into question the motives of some of the activism. Kathleen Staudt and Irasema Coronado's "Binational Civic Action for Accountability" in particular examines how many NGOs, including El Paso's Coalition against Violence, have regarded the murders as a binational issue that requires binational task forces, given that the "border runs through the combined metropolitan area of Juárez/El Paso, complicating accountability relationships between people, victims and victims' families, and government." Their chapter discusses the multiple forms of activism on both sides of the border, such as V-Day marches, a myriad of independent films, the Vagina Monologues' fund-raising efforts, California representative Hilda Solís's Hispanic Caucus's trip to Juárez, and the Coalition against Violence's many rallies and meetings with officials in Ciudad Juárez. Examining the binational dimensions of these crimes, Staudt and Coronado argue, is to self-reflexively question how our own government and citizens might also be implicated in such atrocities.
Julia Monárrez-Fragoso's "The Suffering of the Other" complicates the current state of activism by exposing some unsettling obstacles in forging solidarity. She shows how the victims' families' suffering has become prized cultural capital for Juárez's powers-that-be, which have manipulated this legitimate pain as a means to divide the efforts of civil organizations. The result is that some mothers have demanded to separate the victims' families' organizations and the NGOs, wielding "their maternity as a symbol of power and accreditation." Far from being pessimistic, however, Monárrez-Fragoso raises our consciousness about the feigned empathy of the state and its malicious agendas of division and subjection. She also suggests strategies for more cognizant alliances between those who seek justice.
Clara E. Rojas's "The V-Day March in Mexico: Appropriation and Misuse of Local Women's Activism" perfectly complements Monárrez-Fragoso's chapter by showing how many celebrities, middle-class residents of Juárez (juarenses), and organizations have sought and gained recognition with their self-serving activism. Seeking to speak for others and to attain a charitable benefactor persona by way of these tragedies, these "agonistic" activists, as Rojas calls them, have made the victims into a modus vivendi for many self-interested people at the local, national, and international levels. Rojas poignantly explains the reasons why many local activists are now very cautious about what and whom they support publicly because of how their own efforts are appropriated, misused, and misrepresented.
Melissa W. Wright's "Femicide, Mother-Activism, and the Geography of Protest in Northern Mexico" continues this keen analysis of current activism by specifically focusing on mother-activist movements' current state in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City. Wright explains that, although local activism seems to have faded in recent years, in part because of internal fissures, the northern Mexico antifemicide movement has broadened its efforts, joining forces with international and transnational movements (such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team). Regularly participating in academic, political, and human rights events around the world, Wright states that the movement's present strategy is to go "within and beyond Mexico to generate international political pressure on Mexican politicians in order to seek justice for the victims and their families and to prevent further crimes." Wright's point is that rather than regarding the decline of local activism as "failed movements," what is occurring is that the social movement is evolving out of previous forms as part of the ongoing materialization of social movements in Latin America. These international resistance strategies are corroborated by the mothers' actual experiences, which we read about in Part Three, "Testimonios."
The first chapter in this part is Candice Skrapec's "The Morgue Was Really from the Dark Ages: Insights from a Forensic Psychologist." In remarks taped during an interview with filmmaker Lorena Méndez at the "Maquiladora Murders" conference at UCLA, Skrapec, who was invited in the early years of the crime wave to go to Ciudad Juárez to assist the state judicial police with the investigations, provides us with cultural, criminal, psychological, and forensic perspectives that enable us to obtain a more complete picture of why so many women have been murdered and why these crimes have gone unpunished. Skrapec describes the Mexican forensics and judicial systems' tremendous lack of resources and their consequent inability to identify, process, and store evidence and hence successfully prosecute cases with properly catalogued evidence. Moreover, through her interviews with perpetrators and her expertise as a criminologist, she explores the psychological makeup of the murderers and the anomaly of how "collective groups of men could come together for the purpose of killing repeatedly." For Skrapec, the social discourse of machismo is at the root of these crimes. She insists that, by not responding in any effective way, by not prosecuting cases and seeking justice, Juárez society essentially condones the femicides and enables machista and dysfunctional men to continue their misogynistic rape and murdering spree.
In the next two testimonios, two victims' mothers—Eva Arce and Paula Flores—discuss their early activism in local protest coalitions in Juárez as well as their current participation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and in their separate projects. Paula and Eva also discuss the separation tactics that Monárrez-Fragoso addresses in her chapter and openly attest to the many ways in which the government has tried to silence and divide them with money, false promises, and, in Eva's case, indescribable violence. Eva has been offered money to keep quiet, but because she continues to investigate her daughter Silvia's disappearance, she has been followed, threatened, and beaten so badly she has ended up in the hospital. Paula discusses how the police have tried to make her sign forms affirming that she has received her daughter Sagrario's remains, but without DNA tests she cannot even be certain of whether it is indeed her daughter's body that she visits in that tomb. These harrowing testimonies allow us to see that the Juárez femicides are not fiction, statistics, or border folklore, but brutal tragedies that real people are suffering, and the mothers' stories allow us hear the actual voices of that grief.
Moreover, these mothers' testimonies provide a glimpse of how, in Paula Flores's words, "the government has managed to keep [victims' families] confused and on the margins, so [they] won't be out protesting and seeking justice." Their experiences speak to many of the problems in grassroots organizing discussed in "¡Ni Una Más!" Paula and Eva describe how the authorities' hypocritical policy of "familial economic assistance" makes victims' families stop demanding answers from the government. This money, they say, is the greatest of insults, for the authorities are not only putting a price on their deceased daughters' lives, they are also trying to substitute justice with money. Unfortunately, some impoverished families are forced to take the money out of necessity, and this undoubtedly creates tensions between victims' families. Paula recounts that, although these funds have enabled her and many other mothers to make a living by setting up a tiendita (little store), the result is that most mothers are now stuck in the store all day and are unable to go out and protest anymore. Eva refuses to accept any money, preferring to eke out a humble living on her own rather than accepting money from the authorities.
Reading these testimonios, it becomes clear that the authorities employ a three-pronged line of attack to try to fragment the mothers' protest movement: by buying their silence; by confining them to their private businesses; and by removing them from public arenas—not to mention by creating jealousies, rivalries, and resentments between the mothers who have received money and those who have not. But as Eva's and Paula's unified efforts to raise awareness prove, the authorities' vile tactics are not always successful in silencing or dividing these relentless crusaders for justice.
Paula Flores's and Eva Arce's lives have been shattered by violence, police indifference, and incompetence, but both have resiliently repieced those shards and sought justice as human rights and community activists. Paula was a part of Voces sin Eco (Voices without an Echo), the earliest of the antifemicide NGOs in Juárez, and now leads a community improvement organization named after her daughter, María Sagrario González Flores. Through her efforts with Fundación Sagrario, a preschool bearing her daughter's name was built in Lomas de Poleo, Juárez.
Eva Arce works as a human rights activist and is a prolific poet. Her poetry, which has appeared in many journals, including Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, voices her outrage against the "high and mighty people who work in the government and think they can do anything." Through their artistic and organizing efforts, Eva and Paula show that, rather than becoming inconsolable sufferers, it is crucial for mothers to become active social agents who combat the society that has increasingly come to normalize their daughters' brutal killings.
In the final testimonio, artist Rigo Maldonado continues to highlight the ways in which creative energies can and should be used to shed light on these tragedies and bring justice to the people of Ciudad Juárez. In describing his experiences as part of a group of Los Angelenos who traveled to Juárez in 1999 at a time when the femicides were still largely unknown to the American public, he poignantly relates how putting a face to what he thought was a mere urban legend had a tremendous impact on him. Consequently, he embarked on a mission to curate an exhibit that would expose the public north of the border to the femicides. As a Chicano artist, Maldonado shows us one of the many ways in which activists from both sides of the border are working in behalf of las mujeres of Juárez.
As one of the leading academic authorities on sex crimes and gender terrorism, Jane Caputi places the violence against Juárez women in a broader temporal and sociocultural scope. In her Afterword, "Gynocide and Goddess Murder in Ciudad Juárez," Caputi addresses the spiritual and ritualistic significance of the Juárez femicides. She posits that a possible reason for the impunity granted the perpetrators and continuation of the crimes is the misogynistic teaching of ancient myths, which undergird the gendered beliefs and values of Mexican society. This is not to say that savagery runs in mestizo veins, but that we must assess the universal patriarchal tradition of destroying culturally powerful and socially defiant women (in Mexico, sixteenth-century Malinalli Tenepal and seventeenth-century Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz both come to mind).
Examining Aztec myths like that of Coyolxauhqui, the warrior Moon Goddess who was brutally dismembered by her brother Huitzilopochtli (the Sun God) for rising up against the new world order that his birth represented for the Aztec nation, Caputi suggests that what is happening in Juárez today is a modern-day reenactment of ancient patriarchal rituals, whose cultural function is to perpetuate male supremacy. Facing economic displacement and its ensuing emasculation, or feeling the need to satisfy their grotesque misogynistic desires, or twisting the truth to blame the victims for their own deaths, the "high priests" of Juárez (the murderers themselves or the authorities invested in covering up their crimes) may be offering their blood sacrifices to what Mary Daly calls "the prevailing religion of the entire planet," that is, patriarchy. Caputi urges us to re-member the modern-day Coyolxauhquis in Juárez, as Alma López has done in her logo for the Maquiladora Murders conference, by reassembling her pieces on a tree of life, because the suffering of las hijas of Juárez translates into universal female suffering. Until we place these women in "their rightful symbolic place at the cosmic center," Caputi argues, we will continue to replicate patriarchal myths that punish women simply for being women.
It is of the essence that we re-member the dismembered Coyolxauhquis of Juárez, that we do something to stop the violence, to end the legal impunity, to help the victims, their families, and the hundreds of others who come to Juárez on a daily basis and continue to live in the blissful ignorance of hope and desire that we call the "American Dream." But we must also remember that they are more than victims. They were women and girls who lived and died among us. They had lives and names and histories, dreams and troubles of their own. They deserve our remembrance, our activism, our outrage, and our voices yelling out "¡Ni una más!" Not one more femicide on the U.S.-Mexico border, or anywhere else in the world!