Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

When Culture Matters: Frame Resonance and Protests against Femicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

When Culture Matters: Frame Resonance and Protests against Femicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Article excerpt

How important is frame resonance in social movement framings? Do resonant frames contribute to the success of a movement? When frames do not culturally resonate, does it make it more difficult for movements to be successful? How does one handle a research situation where there is no one dataset that answers your question? This study is unique because there are no existing studies of anti-femicide movement organizations' framings of issues in Ciudad Juarez. Using anti-femicide movements as a case study, I examine the framings of five different social movement organizations engaged in protesting the impunity and lack of investigation surrounding femicides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Each organization used different framings. Did cultural resonance lead to movement effectiveness?

The term femicide (feminicidio) as it is used in Mexico, means killing women because they are women, and for no other reason. Ciudad Juarez is a compelling case study of the responses of social movement organizations to femicide. Femicide is not exclusive to Juarez, but Juarez was the first place that these types of killings occurred en masse. Approximately 470 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, since 1993 (Ensalaco, 2006; Rodriguez, Montana, & Pulitzer, 2007, Washington Valdez, 2006). Many of the women killed lived in extremely poor conditions; they are poorest of the poor and lived in "colonias" which are makeshift shantytowns in the desert surrounding Ciudad Juarez. These colonias lack basic services such as water, sanitation, and electricity. The houses are made from scavenged materials. Many of the victims are young females ranging from 14 to 21 years of age and employed as maquiladora workers.

Often the victims of femicide were killed on their way to and from work shifts in American-owned factories called maquiladoras. In terms of economics, they worked for $4/day in the factories. This is a poverty wage in Mexico, and it takes several people pooling their earnings to survive on such wages, as Ciudad Juarez is one of Mexico's more expensive cities in which to live (Hise, 2006). This was one of the bases for Nuestra Hijas de Regreso a Casa's call for compensation for the victims' families, as they had all lost a primary breadwinner.

Amnesty International (2004) reports that 130 of the over 470 femicides have included torture, mutilation, and rape. Bodies have been dumped in the desert and mass graves have been found (Rodriguez, Montana, & Pulitzer, 2007; Washington Valdez, 2006). Due to many intertwining factors, such as inefficient bureaucracy, corruption, patriarchy, and a legal culture of impunity, few people have been arrested, and there is uncertainty about the legitimacy of those arrests due to corruption. It has been demonstrated that Mexican police often obtained confessions utilizing unlawful tactics such as intimidation and torture (Rodriguez, Montana, & Pultizer, 2007; Washington Valdez, 2006), and there are no convictions of credible suspects. Families of the murdered women complain that there are no competent investigations. The reason for the lack of competent investigations lies in the fear that the police have of narcotics traffickers who may be involved, and in some places police collude with them. The organizations that are protesting femicide are variously seeking competent investigations into the murders and compensation for the victims' families due to the Mexican government's failures to stop these abuses of human rights.

The literature surrounding the issues of femicides in Juarez is diverse, and accounts of the phenomenon do not always agree with one another. There have been controversies among activists in the U.S. and Mexico about how to define femicide and what services are needed to combat the problem. For example, some activists consider femicide to be the murder of any woman in Ciudad Juarez (L. Aguilar, personal communication, August 15, 2007), although the Mexican government does not consider a murder to be femicide unless there is a sexual component to the crime (Rodriguez, Montana, & Pulitzer, 2007). …

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