South of El Paso, Texas, on the Rio Grande, is Ciudad Juarez. It is the second most populated binational city on the border of Texas and Mexico with 2.7 million people.
Ciudad Juarez is known as the most dangerous city in the world. It has been fictionalized in movies, television and books dealing with cartel-related crimes.
Despite its infamy, people live, work and raise families in Juarez.
Since 1993, over 1500 young women have gone missing. These women, typically factory workers between the ages of 12 and 30, are taken while heading to or leaving from public transportation buses.
While Juarez also has a high male homicide rate, the way these women are murdered sets them apart as gender based crimes.
The bodies of over 800 of the missing women have been found in the city’s nearby deserts over the years. Some women have had chopped hair, mutilated breasts, facial disfiguration and other signs of rape and sexual assault. Others have been tied up with their shoelaces, or put into 55 gallon drums of acid.
Despite the horrific reality and longevity of these crimes, Juarez police have made little effort to protect women and prevent these attacks. The state government of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located, is known for its gross incompetence and corruption. They have even been implicated as a part of the “femicides” that continue in the city.
In 1998, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Investigation of the Murders of Women was formed. It too failed to uphold the promise to take action.
On January 4, 2000, the father of Maria Isabel Nara reported his daughter missing. According to Amnesty International, the Prosecutor told the father that it was “only Tuesday” and suggested she had run off with her boyfriend.
Her body was found 23 days later, and her autopsy showed that she had been held captive for at least two weeks before her death.
Six men were arrested in 2012, the first arrests made in the disappearances of women in Juarez over nearly 20 years. In 2015, five of the men, all part of the Aztecas who work for the cartel La Linea, were convicted for the death of 11 women between 2009 and 2011.
The public, while relieved that some victims and families had found justice, is still untrusting of the law enforcement and unsettled knowing these men were not the only ones involved.
So far in 2017, 308 women have been reported missing. This July, the city launched the app No Estoy Sola, which translates as I Am Not Alone, in an attempt to give women who have to walk the streets alone a sense of security. The app allows women to shake their phones, and their location will be sent to five emergency contacts.
The missing women of Juarez get little mass media coverage or help from other countries. With the city bordering Texas, why have many Americans never heard of the mass kidnapping and killing of women?
A crowdfunding campaign for Casa Amiga, a rape crisis center for women of Juarez, made only 1/7 of its intended fundraising goal all coming from only three donors. Petitions to bring awareness to the Mexican and US governments often have fewer than 2,000 signers. In 24 years of these homicides, what needs to change for people to pay attention? These crimes against women in Juarez are gruesome, obscenely violent and not stopping. A change has to happen, and it starts by bringing awareness and support to the women of Ciudad Juarez.