Desire For Justice


A desert is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a barren and desolate area with extremely dry temperatures, large amounts of sand and very little rainfall or vegetation.  In Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, the desert has become a lonely make shift grave for over 420 women.  Since 1993, hundreds of women from ages ten to forty have been murdered.  The femicides (gender murders) continue to this day and there is no end in sight.

In America, when a person has been murdered, it is front page news.  Panels of experts in forensic science, pathologist, medical examiners, law enforcement officials, witnesses, and attorneys are invited to provide an analysis of when, where and why the person was murdered.  In seconds, the entire nation is privy to every theory or gruesome detail of the murder. 

The murder of a loved one is a nightmare for anyone who is faced with such an unbearable tragedy.  Now imagine if your mother, sister, daughter or friend was brutally murdered and no one seemed to care.  You beg for law enforcement to find the murderer or murderers, you scream for the justice for your loved one; and you spend hours and hours asking for answers; however you are completely ignored.


Señora (Mrs.) Ramona Morales realized this harsh reality when her 16 year-old daughter Silvia, went missing on July 11, 1995.  Ramona knew of the brutal murders and mutilations of women in Ciudad Juarez.  As a mother, she was extremely cautious with her daughters and always went to the bus stops to meet them on their daily commutes to and from school and work.  She depended on her daughters to provide income to their poor family.  On that fateful day Ramona as always, was waiting for the 8:45 p.m. bus to arrive.  The bus unloaded the passengers and she anxiously looked for her daughter.  The last passenger walked off the bus and there was no sign of Silvia.

Panic began to set in, but she thought Silvia must have been running late.  Her daughter had many friends so perhaps she was chatting with her girlfriends in the local park.  At 1:00 a.m., the last bus of the night made its stop, the final stop on the line.  Silvia was not among the passengers descending the steps.  Ramona watched helplessly as the driver closed the empty bus doors and drove away into the night.     

In the first 24 hours of the disappearance, Ramona went to the authorities and begged for action.  The police were coy with her.  They assumed Silvia was with her boyfriend for a “weekend tryst” and would be back after a couple of days.  She insisted that her daughter did not have any boyfriends; she was a good girl and never missed the bus ride home.   Desperate, Ramona went to her brother-in-law, a local police captain.  He sent her home with the belief that he would take immediate action and call her the minute he received any information about Silvia.  He never called.


The next day Ramona searched the city of Juarez for her daughter but could not find her.  She decided to file a report with the Chihuahua State Police who were better equipped to handle the case.  The officer behind the window barely looked at her and asked typical victim blaming questions like “Does she go to bars?” “How does she dress?”  “Was she wearing a mini-skirt?”  Offended by his questions, she adamantly defended her daughter and replied that she was a not that kind of a person he had negatively described.  The officer snickered and insisted Silvia was with a boyfriend.

Two agonizing months later, a local rancher stumbled upon the remains of a young woman hidden beneath some brush.  Sadly, the identity of the victim was revealed.  It was Silvia Morales.  She had been raped and strangled with her own shoe laces and dumped in the desert.  This young lady endured severe torture and mutilation.  Why did investigators waste precious time?  If they had acted immediately, would it have been possible to prevent Silvia’s death or at least to find out who was responsible for her murder?


According to journalist Teresa Rodriguez author of the book The Daughters of Juarez missing women were not a priority for local authorities.  Morale or dedication is low among the Ciudad Juarez Police officers because they receive the lowest pay of all municipal jobs.  They are not required to have any type of intensive law enforcement education or training.  Therefore, basically just about anyone can get an appointment as a police officer. 

Journalist Diana Washington Valdez also describes the corruption of the local, state, and Mexican government in her book Harvest of Women.  “For years, corruption has been running rampant.  Low salaries of police officers in Ciudad Juarez have resulted in local and state officials taking bribes from narco traficantes (drug traffickers) to make extra money on the side and conceal crimes.” 
What is the Mexican Government doing about this?  The short answer is nothing. 


Although they invited criminal profile expert Robert K. Ressler to assist in their investigation, the Chihuahua State Police were not passionate about finding suspects or collecting evidence.  Juarez forensic scientists consistently deal with tainted crime scenes.  According to Ressler, the crime scenes are not properly contained or preserved for forensic analysis.   The media attention was downplayed by the Mexican government as “exaggerated” stories of violence against women, impunity and corruption in the state of Chihuahua.     

What is the American Government doing?  California Congresswoman Hilda Solis and ninety-three members of Congress sent a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderon to renew investigations before the fourteen year statute of limitations expires.  House Concurrent Resolution Bill 90 (Passed on May 20, 2006) urged the President and Secretary of State to provide the investigative and prevent-assistance to the Mexican government as part of the bilateral agenda.  It also condemns all senseless acts of violence in all parts of the world and in particular violence against women. 

It is time to take a stand! I say “Ya basta de violencia en contra de las mujeres-NI UNA MAS!” (End the violence against women-NOT ONE MORE!) Organizations such as Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.), Voces Sin Eco (Voices without Echo), as well as many others have kept the topic alive by protesting, rallying and screaming for someone to respond to this crisis.  As a woman, mother and social worker, I was outraged when I learned of these horrible crimes. 

I encourage everyone to sign a petition, write to your local and state politicians; ask them to continue to support current legislation assisting the government of Mexico, and educate yourself about the suffering of the innocent victims who did not deserve to lose their precious lives.  If anything, I hope to create an awareness of this travesty to humanity by planting a seed of information; it can either bloom or stay in the dirt.

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