The Dead Women of Juarez

The Dead Women of Juarez Author : Sam Hawken
Country : Mexico

Flyers were two or three inches deep. All pleaded for justicia: justice for Rosalina; justice for Yessenia; justice for Jovita. There were so many that the city had a name for them: las muertas de Juarez, the dead women of Juarez, because they were all certainly gone and gone forever. (Hawken 2011: 22)

Kelly Courter is a washed-out Texan boxer in Ciudad Juarez, where he makes a living by taking up shady boxing jobs and helping his friend Esteban to move dope across the border. He also has a relationship with Paloma, Esteban’s sister, who works for Mujeres Sin Voces, one of the many women’s organisations in Ciudad Juarez fighting for justice for the women who are found dead, when found at all, in the city. When Paloma disappears, Kelly is involved in the investigation with the help of the one clean police detective who cares enough to try and find out who is behind the feminicidios, Rafael Sevilla. The novel was explicitly written to raise people’s conscience about the hundreds of women, more than four hundred since 1993, that have gone missing or found raped and murdered in Ciudad Juarez. It also portrays the conditions in which women work in the maquiladoras, “factories turning out everything from tote bags to engine parts, mostly for American companies” (Hawken 2011: 12) and which pay wages that start “at a buck an hour and [top] out at three” (Hawken 2011: 9). The novel also focuses on the conditions of living in the colonias, “shanties built from scrap wood and corrugated aluminium,” which spring up in the “porous boundary between Ciudad Juarez and the sun-bleached wild beyond” (Hawken 2011: 96), as well as on the moral lassitude in a town where tourists go for cheap dope and prostitutes while the police turn a blind eye on the problems ravaging the town, including fights between drug cartels and widespread corruption.

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