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.
CIUDAD JUAREZ – In a small room at the Fiscalía Especializada en Atención a Mujeres Víctimas por Razones de Género, Bernardo Manzano stood pensively with his hands cuffed behind his back, while two police officers stood on either side of him as he was photographed and questioned by more than a dozen reporters. Not a drug dealer this time. The 43-year-old maquiladora worker was about to be charged with sexually assaulting his wife. Parading suspects accused of committing crimes against women in front of the media have become increasingly common here, in the wake of a combined and aggressive campaign by Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua state to curb these kind of offenses. A 20-year legacy of crimes against women, especially the well-publicized killing of women in the late 1990s – popularly known as ‘femicides’– has given this border city international notoriety.
EL PASO – Esther Chavez Cano was no bigger than many of women and children she stood up for. “Esther, I remember as being short, smaller than most of us in this room, but oh, she was so powerful,” said UTEP professor Kathy Staudt. Cano’s small, unassuming stature was misleading. She was relentless in her efforts, and her voice, which spoke for the scores of women who were abducted, raped and brutally murdered out in the desert shanties of Cd. Juarez, Mexico, was heard around the world.
EL PASO — She stood five feet two inches tall in her sensible heels. With her short-cropped blonde bob and piercing blue eyes behind rounded spectacles, Esther Cano looked more like a school librarian than a scrappy fighter for human rights for women in crime-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. But Cano, who died of cancer on Christmas Day at age 75, could definitely deliver a mighty wallop and often did, taking aim at political indifference and the lack of legal and police protection for women victims of violence in Mexico. Some who gathered in El Paso recently to celebrate Cano’s life and activism remember her as, “an army of one.”
“She said she was not a saint or Mother Teresa but just a human-being fighting for justice,” said niece Marta Strobach. The diminutive “güera,” or blonde, as some friends affectionately call Cano, was largely responsible for bringing international media attention to the previously ignored murders of hundreds of women and girls in the scrappy border town of 2 million residents, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, TX.
Rape, an Act of Extreme Sadism by Esther Chávez Cano
El Diario, September 13, 1995
Rape is an act of extreme cruelty, a reflection of an accumulation of hate that the man carries inside of himself. It is the most brutal aggression that a human being can receive from another; it causes severe injury to the person’s liberty, physical integrity, mental health and sometimes to life itself. In this border city, several young women have recently died at the hands of one or several individuals who, making use of their physical strength, have raped and murdered them. It could have been you, your sister or your daughter, but this time it was other innocents who paid too high of a price for the hatred that the society, the family or others had planted in the hearts of these individuals. Despite the fact that we are about to enter the 21st century, there are still many who believe that the victim is guilty of inciting the rapist, without considering that a high number of infants and very old women also suffer this aggression.