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American Playwright Supports Families of Women Killed in Juarez


Originally published in:
Assiociated Press
02/07/2003

By Chris Roberts

Throughout the Mexican border city of Juarez, poets, musicians and actors Friday joined U.S. playwright Eve Ensler in calling for action in the cases of 300 women who have been murdered over the last decade.

"I think its an outrage that so many women have died and nobody has done anything about it," Ensler told hundreds of people who gathered in front of the state attorney general's office, the agency in charge of the cases. Ensler has used her off-Broadway hit "The Vagina Monologues" to raise money for women's issues. Showings of the play in Mexico City have raised more than $35,000 for Casa Amiga, a Juarez center that helps thousands of rape and abuse victims. Of the 300 women murdered, Mexican officials have confirmed that more than 75 of the cases are related to a series of rape-murders. Many of the young women killed were workers in border factories called "maquiladoras."

About a dozen different groups representing the murdered women and their families joined to demand that the state take action on the cases, many of which remain unsolved.

Five years ago Marla Estelle Luna Hernandez waited for her 15-year-old daughter to return from her job. Three weeks later a body was found in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Juarez. The body was mostly bones with a little skin remaining on the feet, Luna Hernandez said.

Luna Hernandez recognized her daughter's clothing and a scar on an ankle from a dog bite. However, authorities refused to release the body and later said a DNA test showed it wasn't her daughter.

"I kept insisting because I couldn't find my daughter, but they closed the case," she said in Spanish. Two years later, another DNA test came out negative. In December, a third DNA test showed it was her daughter. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Luna Hernandez said through tears. "I wonder why only the poor girls disappear and the rich girls, never."

Groups from El Paso and Las Cruces, N.M., walked across an international bridge to lend their support to various events scheduled around the city. "We believe this is a binational issue," said Irasema Coronado, a political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "This issue of violence transcends the border."

Although groups have been demanding action for years, little has changed in Juarez. Juarez police have arrested about 50 men - some who confessed, later recanting and saying they were tortured - but the murders continue. Juarez police have defended their actions, saying they have arrested the people responsible and consider many cases closed.

As recently as November, the remains of eight women were found in a ditch. "It's difficult not to become jaded about the situation," said Cynthia Bojarano, a co-founder of Amigos de los Mujeres de Juarez in Las Cruces. Bojarano and the others stood in the streets of Juarez with signs stating, "Hasta que la violencia termine," which means, "Until the violence ends." Many supporters wore masks, showing their respect for the missing and murdered women, faceless to the rest of the world.

"It's a good thing to do," said Juan Carlos Garcia Silva, who works near a plaza where one of the rallies was held. "The people, they don't care and even if they care, they don't have the voice to tell anybody. Most of them are afraid."