Breaking the Silence Part 1: Murders of Juarez Mexico

Around the world there is a pervasive culture of silence surrounding violence against women. Over the next few blog posts I will be writing a three part series that illustrates what the culture of silence is allowing to happen. My examples will be taken from three different countries and areas of the globe. By breaking the silence perhaps what we do in response to this violence will change, so that one day it may stop.

Michael Newton wrote one of the most complete articles that I could find on the murders of women in Juarez, Mexico. Many young Mexican women work in maquilladoras, or sweat shops, in the hopes of making a living for themselves. These young women come from outlying areas to earn enough cash to make their dreams for a better life a reality. When they are hired at these factories they soon realize that sexual harrassment, basic human rights violations, and low wages make for deplorable working conditions. With a limited education, gender inequality, and few economic resources what other choice do you have but to put up with it?

Many of the more than 370 estimated victims of the Ciudad, Juarez murders were maquilla employees. Almost 700 women in Ciudad, Juarez have disappeared without a trace. Often the victims were sexually assaulted/raped, beaten or multilated, and then murdered. The female victims vary in age from 10 to 30 years old. These women walk through poor areas that lack proper infrastructure such as paved roads, or electronic streetlights. This leaves them vulnerable to being victimized with little choice, because they must move through these areas to reach the company buses for their daily commute to work.

In 2006, the film Bordertown tells the story of Chicago Sentinel reporter Lauren Adrian who is assigned to go down to Ciudad, Juarez Mexico to investigate the murders, and unexplained disappearances of these women. Lauren meets a young woman, Eva, who escapes after being brutally raped, beaten and buried alive in a shallow grave. On a personal note, Bordertown was a very difficult film for me to watch, but the message that the film is sending is a very important one. Lauren is determined to help Eva catch her rapist, and to publish the story of what is really happening in Juarez. Here is the trailer for Bordertown.

The sociocultural ideology behind why the violence is occuring to these women operates on a lot of levels.

According to Pantaleo, “Under the view of patriarchy, two expressions are commonly used in Mexico to show the difference in status of males and females; these expressions are machismo and marianismo.”

  1. Machismo is male domination and aggression.
  2. Marianismo refers to subordination and fulfilling domestic gender roles. Women in Mexico are expected to be wives, and mothers who do not seek paid employment outside of the home according to this form of ideology.

The high male unemployment in Ciudad, Juarez leads to a very high degree of aggression and anger. This anger can be directed at women who challenge the marianismo ideology by seeking paid employment at a maquilla in a time when competition for limited economic resources is high. It comes out in the form of violence against women who gain greater personal autonomy, and independence with paid employment.

The families of the murder victims have bravely kept trying to have their stories told, so the violence in Juarez will begin to change. It is only by breaking the silence that we can begin to change hearts and minds. In February 2005, Amnesty Interntional wrote an interesting article about what has been happening in Juarez and in Chihuahua since the murders have gotten more international attention.

(c) 2012 Amanda Wilson


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