The Women of Juárez: Inside the City’s Mysterious Murders

Ciudad Juárez is a buzzing town just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, that ranks as the most populated US/Mexican border city. It also serves as the inspiration for the fictional city of Santa Teresa, one of the prominent locales of 2666. To many, Ciudad Juárez is viewed as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but to the two million residents who occupy the area, it is home. From the potholes and poor roads that blanket the city’s geography, to the pink crosses firmly planted in the nearby deserts, Ciudad Juárez is much more than the setting for many psychological thrillers and murder mystery novels (as it’s often depicted) – it’s a place where people live, raise families and grow old, like any other city in the world. Despite its robust community, authentic Mexican cuisine and affordable nightlife, Ciudad Juárez is also a city hiding many secrets – some of them buried deep in the sand.

According to Amnesty International, since 1993 more than 800 women have been brutally mutilated, murdered and had their bodies dumped in the city’s nearby deserts. Though the city also has an unusually high male homicide rate, the methods of and motivations for killing these women are especially disturbing. Many of the victims are factory workers and fit a particular profile: young (usually between 12 and 30 years old), from poor families or neighborhoods and abducted en route to and from public transportation buses known as la ruta. These systemic murders have been termed femicides, or a mass killing of women.