Caravan for Juarez Women Succeeds in Raising Awareness of 400 Murdered
A 12 stop Caravan for Justice for the Women of Juarez succeeded in reaching over a thousand people along the west coast leg.
Tucson was the final event of our 12 city tour on the Caravan for Justice for the Women of Juarez that began in Seattle on October 18 at the University of Washington. On most of our stops, the response was standing room only and very supportive. We sold nearly all the tee shirts, gave away thousands of post cards and much information. Surprisingly, the smallest turnouts were in L.A. and Phoenix. The efforts made by each host city were truly wonderful displaying much solidarity, love and sorrow in raising this very critical issue. Altars, candles, photos of murdered young women, slide shows of Juarez and Chihuahua, art exhibits,poetry, music and mourning were common themes thruout the journey. Rain followed us all the way to Arizona giving a fresh feel to each big, crowded city.
Ramona lost her daughter, Sylvia Elena Rivera Morales,16, in l995, when she was found 2 months after disappearing by a man caring for his animals in the mountains. Sylvia was a student and also worked part time in a shoe store. Her eyes were carved out, her face scraped off, she was raped and killed. Ramona, whose husband died 3 months after her daughter's death of pure sadness, has been seeking justice for nearly 10 years. The police have mistreated her and many other mothers. Many innocent people have been tortured into signing confessions and jailed. An Egyptian, Shariff, has been charged with Syvia's murder even tho the judge stated there is not enough evidence and the accused claims his innocence. It is a multifaceted tragedy that threatens all of us if we fail to act in stopping more murders.
These killings began as the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect just before 1994 as hundreds of US corporations moved their factories to Juarez along the US/Mexican border. The majority of women killed were workers in the maquiladoras where they are given no support by the corps. There is no lighting or security for woemn who are essentially expendable. One woman was abducted when she was minutes late for work. She was locked out, which is common if a woman is not in time due to even the bus being late.
The journey was very high stress as Ramona became nervous before speaking and depressed afterward. It pained her heart to have to repeat the story over and over, sometimes, 3 or 4 times in one day during radio and press interviews. Taina could make her laugh and succeeded in easing the tension with her innate joy. Having my youngest child along was a daily reminder of why we must keep working for peace and justice everywhere we can.
The driving was intense as we were compelled to make it to each event in time, which we were able to do thru torrential rain storms, insufficient food and sleep and tension among some of the caravanistas.
Ramona was mobbed in L.A. by the press who really lack sensitivity for the most part. I had to escort her away shaking as we walked towards my van. She wanted to sit for awhile by a fountain above the dungeon like parking lot where the van was.
The press conference had few supporters present, tho i was very happy to see Andy Paik from the Pagan Cluster there. He was very moved by Ramona's testimony as well as that of a man who lost his sister in Juarez, a woman who escaped abduction and others denouncing the murders and the complete failure of police to act. But as Ramona's words illustrated, the police are suspected in many of these torture murders along with smuggling drugs across into the US. Jessica Marques, the Mexico Solidarity Network organizer of the West Coast leg of the 5 caravans, did a fine job of filling in the background and laying out details of the horrific nature of these crimes. She tirelessly translated for Ramona at each event and for all Ramona's interviews with English speaking press. Her expertise and articulation defied her youth with much power. She is an inspiration.
While we were in a hotel donated to us in Los Angeles, we saw that another woman had been found in Chihuahua raped and stoned to death. A few weeks before Ramona came to Seattle to begin the tour, another woman was discovered dead in Juarez. The deaths are over 400 and 4000 more are missing, according to the Mexican government. This is truly femicide!
In San Diego, we protested outside the Mexican Consulate. Supportive media were covering the action and were present when the Mexican representative came out. He was very nervous and minimized the seriousness of these killings saying the Mexican government was doing good by forming a commission to look into the matter. Jessica pointed out that the commission has not acted effectively in it's short existence to address the situation. She insisted that the government carry out it's responsibility in bringing justice to the families of the murdered women. I also mentioned to him the latest victim found in Chihuahua. It was sickening to have to encounter such spineless responses from a Mexican government official.
Most moving were the events organized by the Mestizo, Chicana, Latino/a Communities where families came bringing food and much love. Olympia sent a banner signed along the way by supporters. The Traditions Cafe there was packed.
Portland had a fantastic dinner event with diverse participants. Jason Wallach, Portland organizer, initially went on his own to Juarez to meet families of victims asking what could be done. His courageous act got the ball rolling in generating more active US response to this atrocity and laid groundwork for MSN Juarez campaigns.
Corvallis filled the Ceasar Chavez Student Center on the University Campus. Arcata was next where we were hosted by very gracious students who were particularly attentive. Taina made new friends, while Ramona got a glimpse of some very committed youth. Luma, my friend from the moutnains of northeastern Washington, joined as the only other vehicle on the caravan at Humboldt State University.
Sacramento was quite lovely including much art and large decorated cakes welcoming Ramona. She was honored deeply and it stayed with her all along the journey. She mentioned how much it meant to her several times. It was more mainstream in style featuring Mark Klass, who lost his daughter Polly to a man who abducted her from her bedroom, raping and killing the 12 year old girl. He was very sensitive to Ramona and acknowledged the privilege his daughter's case has received compared to Ramona's struggle after all these years.
The San Francisco gathering had some very powerful art displays including nearly 400 pink crosses each with the name of a murdered woman hanging together on hundreds of tiny nails. I stood with Ramona looking at the potent image as we both cried. Audience participants took them down to give to Ramona to take to Juarez. Several very powerful poets shared their work moving everyone present.
A candle light walk took place in Santa Barbara as well as a lovely smudging ceremony. I met a young Brooks Institute of Photography student who shared her very compelling photos of Juarez with me. She has tried to get them published and i am sure she will eventually. Her work is quite powerful. She also attended the protest at San Diego's Mexican Consulate.
San Diego's gathering at the World Beat Center was lively and warm. I appreciated the inclusion of children common among Mexican families that is lacking among most white activists. Taina notices this as well.
The closing event in Tucson was very family centered including many youth participating. Derechos Humanos keeps people informed about border issues that unfortunatley most Americans ignore.
I was struck by the overall lack of participation by white activists. Tho several events were organized by white supporters, the majority of those who came to hear Ramona were people of Mexican heritage. As a white woman, i felt rather disheartened by so few American feminists attending.
It continues to be a source of anguish and concern to me that there is not an overwhelming outrage on the part of relatively privileged, white American women activists. Can anyone respond to this question? We must get the word out and insist that the corruption and misogyny be exposed and stopped immediately. An entire generation of young women is being systematically eliminated based on appearance, age, vulnerability, marginalization, poverty and ethnicity.. If this isn't intentional genocide, i don't know what is.
I just wish to say that this is a work in progress. I hope to add to this as i have time. I am quite exhausted. I drove nearly all the way except for 200 miles in my VW Vanagan that died today i am afraid. I drove it 4000 miles using only half a quart of oil. It ran wonderfully. Yesterday i had it changed. Last night i drove about 8 miles. Today, as we headed out to join a walk to bring attention to the 231 people who have died along the US/Mexican border this year, my van bit the dust after a 7 mile drive. The dip stick registered no oil, the radiator was leaking and smoke billowed out the tail pipe.
Jessica rented a car to continue to El Paso to meet the other caravans that will cross into Juarez going on a 4 day human rights delegation. Luma decided to stay with Taina and me. So we prematurely parted ways. Ramona cried as she hugged Taina, who she calls Querida, telling me to never let her go anywhere alone, to watch over her carefully. She told me her poor home is my home and to come see her. She and Taina and i all embraced tightly with tears. We hugged the other caravanistas, Nicole, Steve and Jessica. Then off they went to finish the journey.
Please show the documentary by Lourdes Portillo, "Senorita Extraviada" in your communities. Write to Congress and the Senate expressing your outrage. Contact President Fox and let him know you are paying attention to this issue. Get involved with the Mexico Solidarity Network or Amnesty International and help forward the information to generate mass outrage at this major atrocity so close to home!
So here i am, below poverty level single frontlinemom with my child in Tucson asking for help so we can go home. The van was towed to the place where the oil change occurred which won't be open til Monday. I do not know what will happen. I suspect that in my state of poverty i should have never taken this on. I do not regret losing my engine. It was well worth it to meet Ramona and continue in my quest to bring attention to the killings of the most marginalized in the Americas where i reside.
NI UNA MAS!!!!
To be continued....
In peaceful struggle, swaneagle
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