For the past two decades, Cuidad Juarez has become a site of sexual and gendered violence against women. Femicides continue to increase at a rampant pace. Women in Juarez are also kidnapped, while some bodies have been found others continue to be disappeared. There is not one single culprit responsible for all of these murders and kidnappings. Even though this issue has received international press coverage, investigations continue to be ineffective or nonexistent. Often times, investigators victim blame these women. They question their occupation, assuming they are sex workers. Also, they question their type of dress and wonder if that had to do with their fate. Both of these derail their attempts to find the person(s) responsible for claiming the lives of thousands of women.
Cuidad Juarez is a border town in Mexico that lies on the Rio Bravo south of El Paso, Texas. Cuidad Juarez alone has an estimated population of 1.5 million folks but with El Paso they comprise the second largest bi-national metropolitan area on the Mexico-US border. Because of its location, I plan to employ a transnational lense while exploring this topic. I plan to focus on how these women are constructed through discourses within Mexico and the United States. I want to specifically take a careful look at how these constructions might alter investigations of the Murders?
Some [tentative] research questions:
How are these women constructed in the US and Mexico? How do they differ or compare?
Do the slow/nonexistent investigations of the femicides/disappearances reflect something larger? Does this reflect what bodies are valued and disposable?
Do the theories that these women were sexual workers cloud the investigators desire to complete a thorough investigation?
Is this considered an issue that affects both the US and Mexico? Or is it constructed as solely an issue affecting Mexico?
Victims of the brutalization and murder of women in Ciudad Juarez are often blamed for their “misfortunes,” which helps justify the discourses rendering border women as dispensible. This construction of disposable women contributes to Mexico’s refusal to provide these women even the most minimal protection.
In “The Hour of Eugenics” in Veracruz, Mexico: Radical Politics, Public Health, and Latin America’s Only Sterilization Law, Alexandra Minna Stern lays out why eugenics was at the epicenter of Veracruz politics. In order to comprehend the situation, Stern breaks down Nancy Leys Stepan’s The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Stern credits Nancy Stepan’s scholarship for “latinizing” the study of eugenics. For centiries before eugenics were predominantly linked to Western Europe and United States. Stepan’s work encouraged scholars to view eugenics as a flexible movement who was neither grounded as negative or positive. Instead she offered the idea of preventative eugenics which “aimed to improve by cleansing from milieu those factors (sterilization, euthanasia, control of reproduction, better baby care, and incentives for middle class reproduction) considered to be damaging to people’s hereditary health” (433). This concept of preventative eugenics allowed scholars to understand the heavy influence of neo-Lamarckian philosophy of hereditary (theory claiming that acquired characteristics are transmitted to offspring) and human betterment within polices which could be just as detrimental as eugenic laws in other countries. Stern outlined Stepan’s work so we can better understand Mexican eugenics specifically in Veracruz. Stepan illuminated a more “transnational attuned eugenics literature” that considers the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, religion and public health
For a long time, Veracruz suffered through periods of yellow fever epidemics and outbreaks of other infectious and tropical diseases. This increased anxieties regarding personal and publiuc hygiene. Government officials believed that these “exotic diseases” would be result in the denegration of the race. With external funding from the Rockefeller Foundation they launched a campaign to eradicate the yellow fever epidemic and helped launch maternal and infant hygiene programs. The Government officials publicly condemned prostitution, they believed it enslaved and corrupted women and helped enable the spread of venereal diseases. These assumptions were grounded in their Neo-Lamarckian ideals assuming these diseases were solely heriditary not microbial. The Government officials continued to push for laws and policies that would eliminate the sex work trade by taking these “public women” one by one and placing them in jail. All of this was justififed by eugenist positions about needing to save the race from denegration. One of the latter laws enacted called for the legal sterilzation of the insane, idiots, and degenerates or demented beyond a certain degree. There isn’t many historical records showing that sterilizations were actaully practices but it is not uncommon for physicians to preforms sterilizations and hide them through other procedures. This law was similar to ones enacted in the US but it did reach the states welfare institutions or ask for input from other institutional leaders. Unlike other states like CA, this law did not result in a long period of steilization but instead was utilized to control the lives and bodies of sex workers.
1. What are some other ways that we can compare eugenic legislation in Veracruz to other countries like the US or England?
2. The article mentions how Stepan illuminates the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, religion and public health, what were some examples of those intersections?
3. What does Stepan mean exactly when she discusses the disruption of the binary of eugenics?
I have not exactly pinpointed what exactly I want to do yet. However, I am hoping to explore the femicides that have occurred/occuring in cities like Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Because Ciudad Juarez is so close to the US border, I would like to explore how the United States views this issue in relation to how Mexico views the issue. Does the United States believe it is solely an issue that is affects Mexico? I would like to explore how this issue transcends the borders. I havent neccesarily committed to all of the sources, but they have gotten me to think of different concepts that I had not considered before.
In Transfronteras Crimes: Representations of the Juarez Femicides in Recent Fictional and Non Fictional Accounts by Marrieta Messmer, they explore how the femicides in Juarez are being represented. By exploring various fiction and non-fiction accounts, they arrive at the conclusion that the Juarez Femicides are in fact a transnational issue that affects that entire region, (US/Mexico) in terms of economic, social and political developments.
Wave of Violence Swallows More Women in Juárez is an article from the New York Times. The article gives acccounts from family members of the missing folks in Juarez. In the article, the author mentions how the international attention has declined even though the killings and dissapearances are still occurring.
The Otherside of the Ciudad Juarez Femicide Story article specifically drew my attention because it mentioned how a “transnational or binational problem” needs a transnation/binational solution. Instead, Mexico and the United States cooperate occassionally. Then the author also talks about how no matter how many international human rights groups advocate and condemn the femicide, they do not have enough power to make any structural changes. This article discusses how many times people default to blaming “machismo” for these acts.
In Serial Sexual Femicide in Cuidad Juarez, the author really breaks down the concept of “Serial Sexual Murder.” This break down goes beyond just positioning women, instead it moves away from that and asks for us to think about this violence inflicted upon women. The author explores the intentions of the killers and explores how these acts really represent the intersection of power and sexuality.