|March, we all know, is Women’s History Month. Increasingly, women are being celebrated for progress in a widening field of opportunity; others are finally being discovered for accomplishments gone unheralded in the past. Amongst women of note, there’s no dearth of women of Hispanic origin. We’ll spend the month with Latinas who’ve made a real contribution to all of society and women ve fostered the recognition and advancement of Latinos in the US.
We’d like to dedicate our efforts this month to the memory of the more than 400 young Mexican women who have been murdered over the past decade in the border town of Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua. Girls as young as 7 years old have gone missing, either never to be found, or their bodies turned up in mass graves in the desert with evidence of rape and ritualistic mutilation. Many worked well into the night in the maquiladoras, or assembly plants, that limn the border between Mexico and the United States. Living alone and coming home to deserted or impoverished neighborhoods continue to make them vulnerable, and the killings persist.
Whether there’s a thread of guilt that runs through the murders—drug gangs, a Satanic cult, one or more serial killers, copy cats—or just the price to be paid by being female and poor, no one can (or will) yet say.
It’s been the efforts of women, mostly Latinas from both south and north of the border, who have brought the crimes to the attention of authorities, forcing them to act after so many years negligently, maybe even complicity, sweeping the horror under the rug. Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo, Mexican-born, but States-based and “Chicana-identified,” produced an investigative documentary film about the killings, “Senorita Extraviada” (“Missing Young Woman”). Her work and diligence in pushing the issue onto the front pages finally opened the eyes of the public. Changes and commitments have been made in investigative teams, as have been arrests.
For better or worse, the silver screen has discovered the cause. Josefina Lopez, who wrote the play and co-wrote the movie script for “Real Women Have Curves,” is at work on a promisingly credible film about the murders, “Loteria for Juarez,” to be screened on HBO. One has to be more skeptical about a feature starring Jennifer Lopez as a reporter on the case. Said the mother of one of the victims: “There’s this feeling that Hollywood could be making money off our pain.” Irma Moreal’s 15 year-old daughter, Esmeralda, went missing and was found some days later in an empty lot.
But, we’ll celebrate as well as question. With short herstories of outstanding Latinas and their successes, many despite adversity. And we’ll throw in some trivia. And a quiz or two to test your Latina I.Q.