Not one more!

Teresa Fernández Paredes*

Ciudad Juárez is a city of contrasts, as difficult as any other border city. A place where people from different places come with the hope of finding a job in one of the maquilas or ‘crossing to the other side’. It is a city that suffers terrible violence, but at the same time where the bravest women I have ever met fight. It is a city of extreme temperatures, ranging from dry stifling heat during the day to below zero temperatures at night, due to its location in the middle of the Chihuahua desert. This very desert has witnessed one of the worst problems of Ciudad Juárez: the atrocious and systematic violence against women, particularly against girls and young women, who one day simply do not return home, do not answer calls from their desperate families, and whose bodies appear abandoned and half-buried in the sand.

But these young women are not alone. From the moment they disappear, their absence anguishes their mothers, fathers and entire families, who then begin a long, complicated and painful search. Families must fight to make the authorities listen, believe them, and search for their missing daughters and sisters. And then comes the wait. The terrible wait of not knowing where the women are, what happened to them, if they suffered or continue to suffer, all the while knowing the statistics of disappeared women in Juarez. Between 2010 and 2012 more than 600 women were murdered and more than 1,100 forcibly disappeared.[1]

Nonetheless, these mothers and fathers do not lose hope; they keep looking. Olga Esparza and Ricardo Alanís are an example of such parents, who I had the privilege to meet in Ciudad Juárez. They are the parents of Mónica Llanet, a young woman studying business administration in Ciudad Juárez who disappeared on March 26, 2009. Mónica called her mother the day she disappeared to tell her she would arrive home a bit later than usual, as she needed to complete a project with some classmates, but she never came home. Her phone died and time stopped for her family. The reporting of the disappearance proceeded more quickly than usual, as Ricardo Alanís had contacts at the police station who took up the case. He was spared the struggle to be listened to and believed, spared the prejudiced and stereotyped comments about his daughter such as “she must be partying somewhere” or “she must away with her boyfriend, she will come back soon.”

Nevertheless, the family reported that from the beginning the investigation was not serious.  The proceedings did not advance and focused only on Mónica’s family and closest acquaintances, forcing them to repeated interrogations that resulted in no action, but only in revictimization. In fact, during months, the only open investigation in the case targeted Ricardo Alanís himself, without supporting evidence. The family lived in fear while the police delayed the search for Mónica, despite the fact that experience shows that the first hours are crucial in the search for missing people. Common sense more than experience shows how important those first hours are, because to date only young women and girls that were found to have left home on their own accord have been located alive.

During all these years Olga Esparza and Ricardo Alanís maintained hope that their daughter could be alive, perhaps having been trafficked by one of the many rings that operate in Mexico and particularly in this area. Seeking justice, they traveled many kilometers to visit countless institutions. Their path reached Mexico City, where they presented before the United Nations and asked the President in person to do something to find their daughter.At the same time they denounced the disappearances of other missing girls and demanded justice, truth and reparation through the Comité de Madres y Familias Unidas por Nuestras Hijas (Committee of Mothers and Families United for Our Daughters), which they founded.

Unfortunately, their search ended on December 21, 2013. That day the family received the call they had long feared. The call informed them that their DNA had been matched with remains found in the Valle de Juárez. This call confirmed the violent, premature and unnecessary death of their daughter. Later they discovered that Mónica had been found in 2012, and that since then her remains had been kept with the Forensic Medical Service. Almost two years passed until they were notified of their daughter’s death and her remains were returned to them. The Forensic Medical Service declined to provide an explanation for the unjustifiable delay.

This post is a tribute to an exceptional mother and father, a way to join them in the pain that only they and other parents and families of disappeared girls can truly understand. I would like to denounce the response of the Mexican state to such disappearances and the structural impunity that continues in Juárez. This ineffective response perpetuates violence against women and girls. Because it is time to end the feminicide. Not one more!

 

Links:

Press release from Monica’s parents and the Red Mesa (Only in Spanish)

Related News (Only Spanish):

It takes 22 months to notify family discovery of the remains of her daughter 

They confirm that remains are Mónica Janeth Alanís

Amicus filed by Women’s Link:

First amicus filed by Women’s Link during the Campo Algodonero case.

Second amicus filed by Women’s Link regarding complying with the sentence in Campo Algodonero.

 

*Women’s Link Worldwide’s lawyer.

[1] According to hemerographic documentation on feminicide in Juárez prepared by the Mesa de Mujeres.

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