Teresa Rodriguez: The Daughters of Juárez (2007) Roberto Bolaño, Bordertown and The Story That Wants to be Told

For more than twelve years, the city of Juárez, Mexico — just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas — has been the center of a horrific crime wave against women and girls. Consisting of kidnappings, rape, mutilation, and murder, most of the atrocities have involved young, slender, and poor victims — fueling the premise that the murders are not random. As for who is behind the crimes themselves, the answer remains unknown — though many have speculated that the killers are American citizens, and others have argued that the killings have become a sort of blood sport due to the lawlessness of the city itself. And despite numerous arrests over the last ten years, the murders continue to occur, with the killers growing bolder, dumping bodies in the city itself rather than on the outskirts of town, as was initially the case, indicating a possible growing and most alarming alliance of silence and cover-up by Mexican politicians.

The subtitle of this book reads A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border. Ciudad de Juárez must be one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. For women and men alike. I heard about the serial murders on poor maquiladora (assembly factories) workers while reading a blog post on MAC’s tasteless new cosmetics series, dedicated to the dead women of Juárez. I started to investigate and found numerous films online. I read that there has been a movie starring Jennifer Lopez, Bordertown (don’t think it is very good), which is dedicated to the Juárez murders and that even Bolaño’s novel 2666 was in large parts dedicated to those crimes. I had decided to tell their stories long before I read about Bolaño and since I haven’t read him yet, there is no actual influence here. My story is progressing slowly. Too many points of view. But I can’t stop. The story wants to be told. It feels odd. While writing I am stiil researching as well. This is the first nonfiction book on those dead women I picked up. It is probably what is called a true crime book. Something I never read but the story has a hold on me.

Ciudad the Juárez is a Mexican border town that has grown from 200’000 to 2’000’000 in 40 years. Factories from across the border have opened up their doors and hire cheap workers by the thousands. Preferably young women and girls. They make 3 – 5 dollars a day in 9-14 hour shifts. Many are as young as 12 and work with forged passports. Girls are preferred as they are cheaper and said to be more accurate on the assembly lines. In the factories they have air conditioning, clean toilets, showers, and light. I mention this because when they come home, they don’t have that. Many of them live in shacks. No lighting, no electricity, no warm water and a hole in the floor instead of a toilet. These are the poorest of the poor. Many of these girls and women work double shifts or go to school as well. They disappear on their way home from work or school. One after the other. Their families are so poor, they have no telephone, no mobile phone. When the girls go missing  a manifold ordeal begins. How do you get to the police to tell them someone is missing without a car? Once you are there, they tell you to wait 72 hours and come back. And they laugh and say your daughter is a loose girl and that she will come back eventually.

This happened to thousands of families. Many of the girls were never found. The others were found dead. I spare you too many details, just let me say that they were raped, tortured and mutilated and either left dying in the desert or disposed openly near the city.  And almost none of the killers has been found. Who kills the girls of Juárez? The police? Serial murders from the US? People who do snuff movies? Frustrated Mexican men? Drug dealers? Brujos? Satanists? The dead girls look all similar. They are between 17 and 25, slender, petite, with long dark hair and very pretty faces.

I am haunted by these stories. I cannot help much but I can raise awareness. And I can tell their stories. Below you see the remembrance crosses of some of the victims and an Amnesty International clip. Women’s organizations try to help now. Tereza Rodriguez is a reporter with Univision. Her book is full of stories and full of loose ends about the possible killers. It’s interesting and horrible to read. If you would like to know more, just go to youtube and type Ciudad the Juárez. There are movies from Women’s groups and mothers who mourn their daughters. Be prepared, this might be one of the darkest stories you will ever hear. No wonder some of the families think it’s the devil commiting these crimes. It is hard to believe that one human being does this to another one.

7 thoughts on “Teresa Rodriguez: The Daughters of Juárez (2007) Roberto Bolaño, Bordertown and The Story That Wants to be Told

  1. I hope you get a chance to read 2666 someday, Caroline, because a big piece of what Bolaño does in the part of the book called The Part About the Crimes is to challenge the reader’s complaisance about how one processes these sorts of horrors. It’s a wonderful and provocative novel on many other levels as well, but Bolaño’s style and the book’s length tend to divide people. For more nonfiction on the Ciudad Juárez killings, I highly recommend Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodfríguez’ Huesos en el desierto, not available in English but published by Anagrama in Spain. I’d also like to finish reading Mexican-American reporter Diana Washington Valdez’s The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women, which I started a couple of years ago but had to return to the library before I was done. Anyway, I’m glad you posted on this topic because, as grim as it is, I think it’s important that it be kept in the public eye if enough pressure is ever to be exerted on U.S. and Mexican authorities to bring the killers to justice. I’m not too optimistic about that ever happening, though.

    • I also got Charles Bowden’s book Murder City that seems very good. This book is not that good, if that’s what you are hinting at, I agree. I wanted the lates and valdez’ is a few years older. I started to write the stories of these girls from every possible point of view, even some that Bolano might have left out, that is why I don’t read him at present and YES the length. I do read Spanish but can’t get a lot here. I spoke about this with people in Europe and nobody has ever heard any of it. It is unthinkable in Europe. Not only the crimes per se but the way they are handled. Serial killings are not avery European thing anyway. Apart from Jack the Ripper and a very few others.

  2. I think there must be a lot of complacency about these crimes because they have been going on so very long. I’ve never understood this lawlessness and how it has been allowed to go on and so many women murdered, but then I have not read enough about it to understand exactly what has been done to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice–if much of anything. I do know that Juarez is one of the most dangerous places in the world–my husband has family who live there and I’ve heard horrible stories. I have the Bolano novel–really must pull it out and read it.

    • I bought 2666 meanwhile too. I feel I need to read it for many resons. I think Rodriguez describes what goes wrong and why it goes wrong in those investigations very well.

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  4. obviously there are police and or politicians involved. That is the only logical reason why these women would be sacrificed like they have been. I was outraged about this 10 years ago and the idea that it is still going on right now (and it is) makes me want to vomit. There is NO WAY that this kind of thing could go on in any other place on the planet like this and not get attention. I think one more big issue is tourism. The mexican government does not want to ruin their precious tourism dollars. The millions of dollars equals motivation for the cover up or denial and complaicense. They get so much money every year from the US and other tourists that if we stopped flocking to the country for a vacation maybe that would get the police motivated…and it seems that as long as we don’t have another natalie holloway or similar disaster as like what happened in Aruba the US government is all too happy to remain complaiscent about these atrocitys. Of course the US is getting money or some sort of reason why they have not made it their business to stop this. I wonder very seriously about the sex trade and the organ trade as well as politics being co mingled with the murders. Are these young women simply just another business to the two countrys of US and Mexico?? selling their organs top rich buyers and dumping the bodys?? Selling the girls into slavery and then murdering them when they become unable to work?? For as long as I live I will never understand the level of depravity it takes to just look the other way while women are being murdered.

    • I couldn’t agree more. And really also think that couldn’t happen anywhere else. I think being located on the border of the US makes it an especially txic environment. Many tourism is a reason but I feel the porn or snuff movie industry is equally interested. It’s shocking to think that anywhere in the world people are worth so little. used and dumped and nobody really does anything about it. What is probabaly is that there are many interests and one covers up the other. It’s unbelievable and so sad.

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