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.