Violence against women near the US-Mexican border

by Eszter Hargittai on November 20, 2012

I saw an exhibit about a very disturbing matter concerning violence against women near the US-Mexican border. The exhibit addresses the rape, torture and violent killings of hundreds of girls and young women in Ciudad Juárez since 1993 and the fact that there has not been much movement on behalf of the Mexican authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.

“Wall of Memories” by Diane Kahlo “is an installation of painting, sculpture and video about the epidemic of violence against women and girls in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.” (source)

Throughout the history of western art, typically only those of wealthy and noble class were immortalized through portraiture. By painting the faces of these young victims in the form of a small icon, Kahlo was able to memorialize the young women whose social and economic status would not typically be the subject of a painted portrait. Other aspects of this exhibition bring together Aztec and Meso-American civilizations and symbols of death and rebirth. The artist wishes to draw attention to the fact that to this date, the violence against women continues with impunity.

I wasn’t familiar with this situation, but reading up on it briefly, I see that it has gotten some coverage although in rather specialized outlets for the most part. I wanted to spread additional awareness. Here are a few more images from the exhibit.



Katherine 11.20.12 at 11:41 am

Amnesty International have been sending out material on this forever. It’s a travesty that it isn’t known about much.

Here’s a simlar art exhibition sponsored by Amnesty back in 2010:


seeds 11.20.12 at 11:48 am

On the subject of artists raising awareness of it, At The Drive In wrote an (incomprehensible) song about the issue with a considerably more straightforward video.

Wikipedia tells me that Tori Amos has done one, too.


Hans Huett 11.20.12 at 12:26 pm

Have a look at Sergio González Rodrigues´ book The Femicide Machine

He worked as researcher for Roberto Bolaño, appears twice in 2666, once under his full name, currently completing his PhD on The Rule of Law, the killers thought him already dead after the torture. Late March 2012 Sergio presented his book at the Artists Space in NYC, limping on stage as a witnessing survivor.


Adam Roberts 11.20.12 at 12:29 pm

Artists dealing with it: Bolaño’s 2666 is about lots of things, but I’d be prepared to make the case that it’s centrally about this.


Eszter Hargittai 11.20.12 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for the additional resources, please keep them coming.

Katherine, the page you point to also reference this site with additional more recent coverage.


William Berry 11.20.12 at 2:52 pm

Also JLo in a fictionalized account in a movie called “Bordertown”. Not a great picture but an earnest effort.


Garry Peterson 11.20.12 at 3:59 pm

Also many articles and several books by Charles Bowden.

Recently “murder city” and many years ago “Juarez: the laboratory of our future.”


rf 11.20.12 at 5:07 pm

Although they might be a little dated now, if you’re interested there’s a couple of books (that I know of) on the murder of women in Juarez, one called The Killing Fields (think the film mentioned above is based on it) and the other called Daughters of Juarez. (Also a new novel out based on the situation – which I haven’t read and the name escapes me.) Also for the bigger picture Charles Bowden, Ed Vulliamy, Tony Payan and a number of others have released recent books. (And a lot more by Mexican journalists on the ground if you can read Spanish, which unfortunately I can’t) A lot of those tend to be journalists narratives, but one of the few academic sources I could find in English is ‘Drug war Zone’, which is an anthropological study that touches on it a little.


Brian 11.20.12 at 5:07 pm

2666. Bolaño.


rf 11.20.12 at 5:16 pm

Actually, some of those recommendations deal primarily with the drug war itself (which seems to have intensified the killings, although they pre date it) but not the cultural aspects, so they might not be relevant. (The first two are though)


lemmy caution 11.20.12 at 5:23 pm

They had this on 20/20 10 years ago which is where I heard about it:


Philip 11.20.12 at 6:55 pm

@ Adam Roberts, it is clearly the central theme of 2666. He separated into 5 books to maximise the royalties for his children. One of the books basically consists of nearly 300 pages of police reports into the murders and really conveys the endless stream of killings and inability to prevent them.


Mauricio Maluff 11.20.12 at 9:52 pm

Hey! This is at my school! I was there at the inauguration. We also had a march from Tech to the exhibit and held a vigil there in honor of those who have been killed over the past year.

…wait. Prof. Hargittai, you teach at Northwestern? I’ve read some of your articles for my senior thesis! I might have to pay a visit some time.


js. 11.20.12 at 11:39 pm

I’ll just be the fifth person to recommend Bolano’s 2666. As several people have mentioned, it’s pretty centrally about this. As people have maybe not emphasized, it’s absolutely fantastic.


Bloix 11.21.12 at 12:24 am

“In the 1990s, when young women began to disappear from the poorest shantytowns in the city, and then turned up like so much waste matter, bruised, raped, mutilated, and dead, police officers laughed in the faces of the distraught parents who appealed to them for help. Reporting on the story, I stood one afternoon on a gray hill covered in gray dust above a gray squatter settlement and looked across the river at the faux-adobe office buildings of El Paso… A few hundred yards downhill lived the sister of one of the disappeared girls, and for all the outreach by NGOs and solidarity groups concerned with the murders, she seemed as isolated and vulnerable as it was possible for a young woman to be.”

Alma Guillermoprieto, “The Murderers of Mexico,” in The New York Review of Books, Oct 28, 2010


Skeptic 11.21.12 at 1:49 am

Dastardly work of the Yanquis, no doubt.


Lee A. Arnold 11.21.12 at 2:02 am

I vaguely remember articles about this over the last four to six years. It has even been on HuffPost once or twice. I seem to remember that the last report said that the authorities were looking at it. It did not seem satisfactory. That report was within the last year and a half, and I’ve vaguely been awaiting an update. –A shameful description of my perceptual periphery in such a serious situation as this, there you have it. I don’t remember where that report last was, but I don’t read that many newspapers (I am shamed or proud to say, depending upon your response there) so it was probably either Metafilter, the NYTimes, WashPost or LATimes.


Jim Delaney 11.22.12 at 6:29 am

Also worth reading this troubling article by Melissa Wright

Wright, M. W. (2001). A Manifesto against Femicide. Antipode, 33(3), 550–566. Sorry about the paywall…

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