EL PASO – More than a decade has passed since pink crosses began to appear in the streets of Ciudad Juárez. And even though it seems to be a problem of the past for many, the mothers of women who disappeared or were found dead continue to seek justice for their daughters.
Around 1996, Ciudad Juárez became internationally notorious after the murders of hundreds of young women, some as young as 12 years old. Many had been raped, strangled and mutilated. Their bodies were found in vacant lots and many of the cases are still open and unresolved.
“What is occurring here in Ciudad Juárez is not history nor a legend; it is a reality that me and many other mothers are living and we do not want for it to keep occurring,” said Susana Montes Ruiz.
María Guadalupe Pérez Montes, daughter of Susana Montes Ruiz, was only 17 years old when she disappeared January 31, 2009. She was last seen in downtown Juárez when she was buying a pair of school shoes. Her body was reportedly found three years later in the El Navajo stream in the valley in Ciudad Juárez. However, the information provided by authorities regarding where her body was found contains many contradictions.
“One day authorities came and handed Susana a bag filled with her daughter’s ribs. Just like that. As if her daughter was a piece of meat or a dead animal,” said a close friend of Montes Ruiz who wishes to remain anonymous. “It was later confirmed that the body authorities gave Susana did not match María Guadalupe’s DNA, only the skull did.”
Mothers like Montes Ruiz now take part in a sewing collective, Bordeamos Por la Paz, which focuses on embroidering art that helps speak for the victims.
“Through the embroidery, the story of each victim is told, it could be a homicide, femicide, or disappearance. The idea is to name them. They are not just numbers, they are people,” said Hazel Dávalos, member and coordinator of Bordeamos Por la Paz.
Bordeamos Por la Paz was established in February 2013 to help support mothers and family members of the victims. The group also works to remind the public that these issues are still not resolved and there has been no proper response from authorities.
“For someone that lost a daughter the search for her is never over and this search just strengthens when it is uncertain if the daughter still alive or if she is dead,” said Dávalos.
The act of embroidering their stories together not only shares the sad truths these victims encountered but it also serves as an emotional therapy for mothers and family members.
“To sow something about our daughters in a piece of cloth, about why they are taking them from us just like that, really helps us to express what we are feeling,” said Montes Ruiz.
Each embroidery piece is unique, but all follow the same color code. The red threads tell the stories of those who have been assassinated, the letters in pink thread represent femicides, the green threads are for hope in order to find those that are currently missing, and the purple threads are used to represent homophobic hate crimes.
Bordeamos Por la Paz also invites non-relatives to participate and “adopt” a currently missing victim. They must meet the family member in charge of the search and be informed of all the facts pertaining to that specific case.
Those who adopt must share the photo of the victim through social media in order to spread the word about their case. In addition to this, those who commit to participate must accompany the family to events regarding the disappearance of the woman such as special Masses, the victim’s birthday memorial and fundraisers.
“The biggest support is toward the families. The feeling of being alone and forgotten during the search for their daughter is what weighs the most,” said Rene Alarcón, who adopted Claudia Antonia Núñez Gómez’s case.
The group makes an open invitation to anyone who wishes to preserve the memory of the victims. Embroidery skills are not required, the coalition will teach them to any who wish to participate.
Bordeamos Por la Paz members say that hope and perseverance must never die. They will continue to do everything in their power to obtain justice, discover the truth and heal the community.
“We have to keep looking, we have to keep on fighting this battle so that justice is served for what they did to my daughter. There is something that I do not know how to describe that tells me I will, one day, see my daughter again,” said Montes Ruiz.