I'm reprinting here an important story just out by Kent Paterson of Frontera NorteSur concerning the Juarez femicide. Frontera NorteSur, based at the University of New Mexico, is a great service for anyone wanting news and analysis of border-related issues. However, the only way to get their reports in a timely way is via email (information at the end about how to subscribe.) - I think they should also be posting to a blog, but they're about 7 years behind at getting stories onto their website.
March 30, 2009
Women’s/Human Rights News
Stars Cast New Light on Mexico Femicides
Internationally-known music and film celebrities are casting new public
attention on the unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez and the state
of Chihuahua. In a March 27 meeting in Mexico City, a trio of English and
Mexican celebrities conveyed their concerns for justice during a personal
conversation with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Attending the meeting were legendary English rocker Peter Gabriel, Saul
Hernandez, front man for the popular Mexican rock group Jaguares; and
acclaimed Mexican actor Diego Luna, who had a role in the recent Hollywood
biography of the assassinated US politician and pioneer gay rights
activist Harvey Milk.
Also in attendance at the unusual encounter were Tamaryn Nelson, director
of the Latin American and Caribbean desk for Gabriel’s pro-human rights
organization Witness, and Patricia Cervantes, mother of 2003 Chihuahua
City femicide victim Neyra Azucena Cervantes.
In a press conference prior to the meeting with President Calderon,
Gabriel appealed to the Mexican government to support the justice campaign
for murdered women.
“We know that Felipe Calderon confronts many challenges in many areas of
his government,” Gabriel said. “We hope to inspire him to invest money,
muscle and interest in this campaign.”
Released after the meeting, an official statement from the Mexican White
House affirmed that President Calderon pledged that he will combat abuses
of authority, promote reparations of damages to the relatives of femicide
victims and struggle against impunity. Mexico’s president agreed to give
special attention to cases like the Cervantes murder via a joint Internet
page with Witness. Working together with local officials, federal forces
are attempting to clear up the femicides, President Calderon reportedly
told his guests.
Recognizing the work of human rights defenders, President Calderon said
that the conviction and participation of activists motivated the three
levels of the Mexican government to do a better job, according to the
statement from the presidential office.
The meeting between President Calderon and the international celebrities
came just weeks after a new fictional movie about the Ciudad Juarez
femicides, “Backyard,” premiered in major theaters in Mexico. The meeting
also took place one month before Mexico is scheduled to go on trial in the
Inter-American Court for Human Rights for alleged human rights violations
committed during the “investigations” of the slayings of three women found
murdered along with five others in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field in 2001.
As a member state of the Inter-American Court, Mexico will be bound to
follow the verdicts issued by judges.
Despite numerous high-level pronouncements by various officials from
different branches of government over the years, the murder of women
continues to be a grave problem in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of
Perhaps it will never be known with one-hundred degree certainty how many
women were murdered in Ciudad Juarez in recent years. Based on press
reports and information from prominent Ciudad Juarez women’s activist
Esther Chavez Cano, the US-based Mexico Solidarity Network reported 508
women were slain in Ciudad Juarez from 1993 to mid-December 2008.
A comprehensive list compiled by El Paso-based journalist and author Diana
Washington Valdez reported 440 women were murdered for varied reasons in
Ciudad Juarez from 1993 to 2004. If subsequent press stories are added to
Washington Valdez’s total, then at least 622 women were slain in Ciudad
Juarez between 1993 and most of March 2009.
The bloodiest year was 2008, when at least 86 women were murdered,
according to a recent blog posting by Washington Valdez. In addition to
domestic and sex-related violence as being leading causes of women’s
murders, narco-violence is now a major reason for the high rate of women’s
homicides. Ciudad Juarez press accounts signaled that the majority of last
year’s female murder victims, 55, were killed because of the gangland war
that raged in Ciudad Juarez.
Some officials downplay the violence, contending Ciudad Juarez is getting
a bad rap in the media. Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, for
example, was recently quoted in a maquiladora industry trade publication
as saying his city now had a distorted image it could not shake because of
negative publicity over the femicides.
“Something that was not precisely real and significant was left to grow
like a snowball,” Mayor Reyes Ferriz said.
A recent report from the latest incarnation of the Mexican Chamber of
Deputies’ femicide commission revealed that at least 2,232 women were
killed in all of Mexico during 2006-07, mostly due to domestic violence.
While the country’s main population center of Mexico City and the
adjoining state of Mexico accounted for the majority of women’s homicides
(543), the much more sparsely-populated state of Chihuahua, which includes
Ciudad Juarez, registered 84 slayings in the time period covered by the
study. The official report concluded that gender violence is keeping women
in a subordinate position in Mexican society.
“Violence against women, for the sole fact of being women, puts them in a
relationship of inequality, oppression, exclusion, subordination,
discrimination, and marginality,” the report stated.
Other Mexican states where women’s murders reached alarming levels during
2006-07 included Michoacan (202), Guerrero (129) and Baja California
(105), suggesting that where narco-violence was at an extreme so were
crimes against women.
The Chamber of Deputies’ report also noted a national pattern of
governmental indifference and denial of justice for the family members of
In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, disappearances of young women who fit the
profile of earlier femicide victims also continue unimpeded. In one of the
most recent cases, a young mother, 22-year-old Marisela Avila Hernandez,
vanished March 18 after going to a Bancomer bank branch where she had an
account to process an unemployment claim. The bank is located near the San
Lorenzo Curve, a section of the city where crimes against both women and
men have been frequent. On March 27, friends and relatives of a young
woman reported missing six months ago, 17-year-old Rubi Marisol Frayre
Escobedo, joined Chihuahua state law enforcement authorities in a search
for traces of their loved one.
Speaking to the Mexican press late last year, feminist activist and Casa
Amiga co-founder Esther Chavez assessed the situation for women in Ciudad
Juarez 15 years after Chavez helped alert the public to the rising tide of
femicides. For Chavez, generalized impunity and rampant police corruption
resulted in the creation of a monster that eventually reared its head
against the entire society. “Now we can’t control it,” Chavez said.
Nonetheless, activists like Esther Chavez, Patricia Cervantes, Peter
Gabriel and others keep up the fight to corral and vanquish the loose
Sources: El Diario de Juarez, March 28, 2009. Article by Luz del Carmen
Sosa. Presidencia.gob.mx, March 27, 2009. Press release. Lapolaka.com,
March 27, 2009. Norte, March 21 and 24, 2009. Articles by Arturo Chacon
and Pablo Hernandez Batista. La Jornada/Notimex, March 14 and 27, 2009.
Cimacnoticias.com, March 4, 2009. Article by Sandra Torres Pastrana.
Juarez-El Paso Now, March 2009. Dianawashingtonvaldez.blogspot.com,
January 26, 2009. El Universal/EFE, December 6, 2008. Cosecha de Mujeres,
Diana Washington Valdez (Oceana 2005).
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico
For a free electronic subscription email
Lots of stupid fear-mongering about "border violence" lately, even from Obama now.
I think it's important to keep in mind and include in any discussion of this that this whole topic is just another example of the fear-based society we live in. Chertoff started spinning this "border violence spillover" idea back in December and it's pure hype just to get people to be afraid and give in to the idea of even more militarization of the borderlands and more loss of civil liberties. The violence is worse in Mexico, yes, but the spillover is mostly a myth. The last thing the cartels have ever wanted to do was involve gringos in their gun battles. Here's an example of the fear-mongering: recently the statistic came out that Phoenix is the #1 city for kidnappings, but the counterstatistic is that most of those kidnappings are loads of migrants being smuggled by one smuggling cartel and getting "stolen" by another cartel. It's not mom and pop citizen getting yanked into a van at the mall parking lot or whatever.
The other thing to realize is that drug trafficking isn't going down or being restricted, counter to what the migra says. The increased violence in Mexico is because the Calderon administration's "Mano Duro" has upset the delicate balance of power between cartels. But there's still plenty of drugs flowing north, and there always will be till we deal with the demand that us gringos have for the stuff. The problem is not only the demand for the drugs themselves but the flow of money from the drug trade and the drug war that flows to U.S. banks, prisons, private prison companies, rehab centers, therapists, guns, fancy cars and yachts and stuff that the narcos buy for themselves, hospitals, etc etc etc. Sorry to sound negative but the drug war CAN'T be won, ever, or all those industries will crash and burn, not to mention Mexico's economy, since the drug trade is the 2nd largest industry after their oil. All that will ever happen is posturing and faking.
But the real question is: why do gringos like their drugs so much? Why do their lives seem to suck so bad that they have to medicate themselves so much? Is there some other way to make gringos' lives happier, so they don't need the blood-drenched dope?
This week I began an experiment in online, DIY, grassroots fundraising. I need to raise funds for completion of a documentary I've been working on for the last 15 months or so called "Death and Taxes: Refusing to Pay for War." If you follow this blog you have seen me writing about the film before. It's been a long process, and a subject I've cared about for many years.
Basically, this doc has been one of the major parts of my life for awhile, and it's one of the most ambitious, if not the most ambitious, film projects I've ever tried. As such, some mistakes were made, and some of them were in planning and budgeting. One difficulty is that I am now, for close to the last 2 years, trying to make a living from making films and doing other freelance motion picture work. It's a hard existence, I've discovered, especially in a place like Tucson where the industry is pretty stunted. So this is the first big project I've done where I needed to make it pay, personally, as in, I had to make a living - not a killing, just a modest living.
To make a long story short, I miscalculated, some mishaps happened, and the film took much longer than I thought, we ran out of money last November, and I'm broke. I have a few other videography gigs that are bringing in a little, but this kind of thing keeps me busy, and I have to do them to survive. So I can't continue work on the WTR film, in any timely way, unless it's funded.
For my last full-length film, On The Edge, well, it was my first film, and I made even more mistakes, and I was willing to make them because I had passion and compassion for the subject, and I'd never done a big project like that before. I spent all my savings, I interrupted my life to go live cheaply in rural Iowa while I edited, and after a total of 18 months it was done. But I can't do that with every film. That's not sustainable.
So, this is a long-winded way of saying, I need some financial help, bad. You can help. I know about the economy and I know everyone is hurting. But any little bit counts. Maybe you still have a steady job. I don't. I have this film.
And not only that, it's a film about something really important. I'm not asking people to fund my silly zombie slasher flick. This project is about getting the word out about a unique and inspiring way to work for peace and change the world. Maybe that's worth a few bucks?
There's information about multiple ways you can donate here: http://detritus.net/steev/vid/death-and-taxes/
Thanx so much for your support.
Day before yesterday:
I decided to take a few minutes break from subtitling an interview with a Mexican environmental law professor to read some blogs and I am so blown away by this, this guy who goes by the name Kutiman has made a bunch of wonderful songs and music videos out of unrelated youtube clips, mostly random people practicing their instruments. His work has been re-posted here:
It's absolutely brilliant. and fun! It makes me smile.
Like my friend José said on his blog "The video sequencing is clever and lighthearted, the music tastefully composed and the overall conceit exudes love for humanity.... Much of music is a conversation across space and time, a retracing of other people’s gestures, a palimpsest. Today’s sampling technologies expose those overlays like so much colorful sedimentation."
If I may riff on those ideas - it is truly interesting how positive and light these pieces are. There are some similar projects, like the various "shreds" or like the Evolution Control Committee's "best of default" or whatever it was called, where the ECC went trolling napster for mostly embarrassing stuff that people recorded and accidentally left in their napster share folders, and then made hilarious but kind of mean-spirited ensemble pieces out of them - these were making fun of the sources - but Kutiman seems to rather be celebrating the immense collection of human soul and talent and skill and energy that YouTube is now a sort of repository of. He's taking these people's individual efforts and turning them into some sort of massive global jam band, and the results are beautiful.
It makes me wonder what lies ahead. This may be the beginning of the global hive mind society that some science fiction writers like Vernor Vinge have written about. At some point the interconnected creativity and brainpower of all the millions of humans may become so powerful that what it come up with will be something nobody would be able to understand right now, especially on their own.
That is, if we don't blow ourselves up first.
This week I posted a third segment in the video series I started in January about the borderlands and the hopes and dreams of people living in communities affected by border militarization.
This latest installment is an interview with Mono Mono, an artist who makes electronic pop music that frequently addresses issues of the border and cross-culturalism. I first met him at the No Borders Camp in 2007 and then at a show he did here in Tucson. I visited him at his home in San Diego when I was out there in January, 2 days before the inauguration of Barrack Obama.
Today I'm heading down to Arivaca, a little town near the border, about an hour southwest of Tucson, to show "Wild Versus Wall" at the Arivaca Independent Film Exposition. I think this is the third year that I've had something in this yearly 1-day festival, but I've never actually been present for it, so I figured it's about time I show up. It looks like there are quite a few interesting films, both documentary, and narrative, shorts and features, so it should be fun. The only thing is that just like with the Sedona fest last week, it feels like I'm taking time out that I don't have, but at least in this case it's only an afternoon.