Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has experienced immense growth in the last 10 years, but it has also become the site of the brutal raping and killing of over 200 young women and girls, as young as 12 years old-all workers in the city’s maquiladoras, mostly U.S. assembly plants and factories. Since 1993, young women and girls in Ciudad Juarez have been raped, strangled, crushed, and abandoned in vacant lots; most of the murders are unsolved and poorly investigated.
Manufacturing in Ciudad Juarez flourished following the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which brought over 200 American companies to the border town in search of cheap wage labor-about 40 cents per hour. According to the Washington Post, there are now over 3,000 factories in Juarez, and all take advantage of “low labor costs, no independent unions and no requirements to meet U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.” In addition, these companies, including big American brand names like Ford, Motorola, and General Electric, do not provide adequate transportation from the city’s industrial complex to the workers’ residences-mostly squatter settlements made up of shacks fashioned out of discarded scrapwood and cardboard from the maquilas.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has spoken out on this issue, meeting with the Secretary of Commerce, urging pressure against the industrial leaders. Thus far, little change has been made. Women still walk home on unpaved roads with poor or no lighting, and fall victim to attackers. And the feminist movement in Juarez, led by Esther Chavez, has tried to bring attention to this deplorable situation. Chavez was a speaker at Feminist Expo 2000.
The Washington Post this Sunday and today featured a story about one particular maquila worker, 12-year-old Irma Angelica Rosales, who was murdered in broad daylight after leaving a factory that manufactures wiring for General Electric, Amana, Frigidaire, and Maytag. She traveled to Juarez with many dreams: she wanted to wear “city” clothes, earn her own money, help her parents financially, and become more independent. Her death has implicated local bus drivers, a group of whom confessed to killing Rosales. The Washington Post also reports that a recent meeting of industrial leaders resulted in a resolution to install more street lamps, among other safety measures.