Reflecting the hopelessness of the mothers of missing women in U.S.-Mexico border cities, Patricia Cervantes spoke to students about her daughter, Neyra Azucena Cervantes’ disappearance on May 13, 2003 in Juarez, Mexico.
Over the past 11 years, nearly 400 women have been raped and killed without much help from the authorities or the federal government. Local officials and police are ignoring these unsolved femicides, according to Cervantes. She said all levels of her government are corrupt when it comes to the cities of Juarez and Chihuahua.
Although the police found her daughter’s body just two months after her disappearance, Cervantes doesn’t believe their investigation is valid. “Experts in California said it was a man’s body according to the skull. They said when they found her, that her body was in a state of decomposition but I was shown a box full of clean bones.”
Cervantes said the inconsistencies of her daughter’s case with police is just one in a long list of investigations that are not complete. “I don’t know how many bodies the government wants to see before they will do something,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes is currently working on raising money to free her nephew from prison after being charged with the murder of her daughter Neyra. She said police arrested David Meza Argueta, who was visiting at the time of her daughter’s disappearance. Cervantes said she believes he had nothing to do with it. “The only evidence [the police] have is his confession that they got after three days of torturing him,” she said.
In response to these unsolved cases in Mexico, Cervantes has been touring California with an organization of mothers of missing women called Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, to talk about the issues on the border. Cervantes said that the killing might be linked to consequences of the North America Free Trade Agreement on border towns like her own. “I’m here as a voice for other mothers, we need you to help us uncover the corruption, to confront this problem,” Cervantes said.
According to the Mexico Solidarity Network, NAFTA causes farmers in Mexico to have to compete with urban workers for low-paying jobs. This has forced many young women to work in factories, during the night shift, in order to find childcare which is hard to find and afford during the day. About half of the women killed were factory workers on the night shift, according to Cervantes. “They realize that they can kill a woman on the border and get away with it,” she said. Answering questions from the audience, Cervantes said that one reason she believes women are targeted is because, “they are poor, pretty and have the body of a woman. That’s all.”
Cervantes said that the government’s lack of attention to this issue is startling. “Government officials are handing out whistles to women who work the night shift and are planning to build a soccer field just to keep men busy so they don’t kill women. It’s their way to make it look like they are doing something instead of addressing the problem.”Jessica Marques, a grassroots coordinator and translator for Cervantes, added that there can be major changes made to improve the situation if Mexican-American’s vote in Mexican elections.
She also acknowledged the help they’ve received from the college campuses they have visited. “Students are active here and I know they will take action immediately,” she said.
Marques also said that UC Berkeley students are forming a delegation to go to Juarez and help the mothers of victims as well as raise awareness. She said the group plans to leave sometime in the summer.Jessica Mosqueda, historian for the Mujeres Unidas club, said that they are working toward getting a Mills delegation to Juarez next year.
“We want to make it a Spring Break event so we will be working with Cervantes and her organizations, as well as fundraising to make the trip happen,” she said. Junior Patricia Contreras said she attended the event because, “I wanted to hear from someone who has been there. I can put a face behind all the numbers, it makes it more real.”