The LA Times had a feature earlier this week about the women disappearing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Two dozen teenage girls and young women have gone missing in this violent border city in the last year and half, stirring dark memories of the killings of hundreds of women that made Ciudad Juarez infamous a decade ago.
The disappearances, which include two university students and girls as young as 13, have some crime-novel touches: mysterious dropped calls, messages left by third parties and unsubstantiated reports of the women being kept at a house.
There is no clear evidence of wrongdoing or links among the cases, which have been overshadowed by a vicious drug war that has killed more than 2,500 people in Juarez since the beginning of 2008. But relatives of the young women say it is highly unlikely that they would have left on their own. [...]
Desperate family members have hung missing-person banners and taped fliers to telephone poles all over the city in hope of getting leads on the whereabouts of loved ones. They’ve checked hospitals and combed dusty canyons in the impoverished fringes of the city. They’ve badgered state investigators, but complain that authorities have no solid leads to explain why so many young women would drop from view at once. [...]
Relatives and activists see common threads in the cases. Most of the young women are attractive, dark-haired and slender. Most were last seen downtown, a scruffy but bustling precinct of discount clothing stores, cheap eats and honky-tonk bars. Four of the missing teens are named Brenda.
The profile looks different from that of the more than 350 women killed during a 15-year stretch from 1993. Many of those victims worked in the city’s assembly plants and came from other parts of Mexico. Their bodies turned up, often with signs of sexual abuse and torture, in bare lots and gullies.
Despite some arrests and the creation of a special prosecutor’s office, the cases remain largely unsolved.
The disappearances are of particular interest to me; in grad school, a lot of my research was focused on the feminicide happening in Juarez. I had the opportunity to go there, and the most vivid thing I remember was wooden makeshift memorial placed at the bridge where cars were crossing back to the U.S. side: someone had hung a plastic bag full of trash on the memorial; the sheer disrespect of that act has always stayed with me.
The number of murders that occurred went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, save for a handful of high-profile rallies and sensationalized reports of murders. I’m just glad that this “new” wave of disappearances is making the news (as opposed to the media outlets waiting for tortured, dismembered, raped bodies to show up before deciding to feature a story).