Violence, inequality and the dead women of Juarez haunt campus
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 07:09
During my first days at Wellesley, I was constantly reminded of the women that I left behind in my country. Walking around campus, the oak trees and brick buildings seemed more a fantasy than a reality. I could still smell Mexico in my clothes, in my hair, in my mind. I would look at the women around me and think of the dedication, passion, care and effort that have been poured upon them for many decades. I would then drift back to the reality that had imperceptibly begun to merge with this new place, to the reality in which women’s education hardly surpasses middle school. If I tried to explain the existence of a place like Wellesley College to a girl in a Mexican rural area, she would consider it bizarre, conceivable only in the minds of the rich.
It was especially painful to drift back to the reality of Las Muertas de Juarez, women whose troubles lay not in the absence of education, but in the absence of basic human rights. Women whose only possibility of returning to their families is as mutilated corpses, women who are sucked into the dark holes of feminicides. The word feminicide is a political term, which refers to the mass killing of women by men and the government’s failure to prevent it. I would see a student hurrying to a class she was late for, and think of Claudia Gonzalez, who was impeded by a guard to enter the maquiladora in which she worked because she was four minutes late. She never made it back home that day. Claudia was twenty years old when she disappeared, and her remains were found later in a cotton field with the bodies of seven other women. Many of the women who have been victims of violence in Juarez work in the maquiladoras, factories in which manufactured parts are assembled and shipped back across the border. Maquiladoras are rampant near the border with the United States, because of the cheap labor and low taxes in the area.
Claudia’s story is one of the many that have caused anger amongst the civilians of Juarez. Feminicides in Juarez have been a growing problem since 1993. Today, most cases of women who are raped, tortured and murdered remain unresolved. The Cotton Field Case mentioned above, for instance, happened in 2001 and was not satisfactorily resolved. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which together with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights protects the basic rights and freedom of people throughout the continent, was asked to intervene in 2009 after authorities in Juarez failed to properly investigate the murders.
I thought about the injustice that women in Juarez and throughout the world have experienced as I walked around a college campus filled with life and vigor, I thought about the many hundreds of women who have suffered Claudia’s fate in Juarez, most of them young and from low-income families. I felt overwhelmed by the staggering contrast that existed in the lives of women throughout the world. I saw women bursting with ambition and dreams for what lay ahead, and I saw women whose lives were brutally cut short before they had time to hope. I saw women who were being educated and cared for because they were women, and I saw women who were tortured and killed because they were women. For the same reasons, we are given a piece of sky while they are swallowing mouthfuls of dirt.
The ugliness of inequality has compelled me to where I am and yet has placed other women my age in black plastic bags. I fill myself with the beauty of the campus and the warmth of the people, with the sound of the crickets’ orchestra that makes me feel at home. I try to hold on to the memories of the Mexican women as a new reality begins to engulf me. I try to remember all of the beauty and tragedy that women throughout the world hold in their hands. I know that we hold that beauty and tragedy in our hands along with the power that education gives us. I study because I feel compelled to learn, to take advantage of the opportunities I have been given. I study with the hope that I will one day be able to open doors for other women, with the hope of doing something for the fascinating and frustrating home that I call my country.