Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez

Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez

Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez

Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez


Between 1993 and 2003, more than 370 girls and women were murdered and their often-mutilated bodies dumped outside Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, Mexico. The murders have continued at a rate of approximately thirty per year, yet law enforcement officials have made no breakthroughs in finding the perpetrator(s). Drawing on in-depth surveys, workshops, and interviews of Juárez women and border activists, Violence and Activism at the Borderprovides crucial links between these disturbing crimes and a broader history of violence against women in Mexico. In addition, the ways in which local feminist activists used the Juárez murders to create international publicity and expose police impunity provides a unique case study of social movements in the borderlands, especially as statistics reveal that the rates of femicide in Juárez are actually similar to other regions of Mexico.

Also examining how non-governmental organizations have responded in the face of Mexican law enforcement's "normalization" of domestic violence, Staudt's study is a landmark development in the realm of global human rights.


[O]ther cultures' women-hating practices can obscure the women
hating practices woven into our own cultures

UMA NARAYAN, IN ORR (2002, 50)

Muerte, el Sabor del Norte [Death, the flavor of the North]


The world's attention has focused on Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, at the northern border of Mexico, as the ghastly, premier center of female homicides in the twenty-first century. For more than a decade, grisly reports and documentaries have emerged about the murders of young women, raped and mutilated before death. Theories abound over who is doing the killings. Some attribute the murders to psychopathic serial killers and gangs. Others decry organ harvesting (the 2003 pretext for the Mexican federal government to intervene). Still others claim that drug traffickers enjoy gang sport after profitable sales. The “sons of the rich,” also known as “los juniors,” have been implicated. And activists persistently raise questions on binational dimensions of the crimes: snuff filmmakers selling to wealthy men in the United States; a handful of victims from the United States; killer-thugs who use border crossing as a way to escape one “justice” system to another; and/or sex trafficking, forced sex work across national borders. Once a feminist issue, sex trafficking is now embedded into nonfeminist post-2000 U.S. foreign policy that categorizes all countries in terms of vague and broad “human trafficking” regulations.

During the past decade in Juárez, the mothers of murdered girls and women have searched for justice with little response from a criminal justice system that is seriously flawed. Activists have joined the search for justice, creating awareness, raising funds, and pressuring governments to respond to violence against women. The result is a broader-based anti-violence movement in North America, where the toleration of violence against women, with a long history, has begun to change.

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