LatinaLista — In the days before Juarez, Mexico grabbed international headlines for its daily mass killings by warring drug cartels, it was a town known as a place where the murders of countless women and young girls were being committed without impunity.
Esther Chavez Cano
Unfortunately, it still is true to this day with a big difference — the absence of a particular voice that made the world aware of these femicide murders and held, or tried to, hold the Mexican government accountable.
Her name was Esther ChÃ¡vez Cano and had it not been for Esther’s diligence in noticing and keeping track of these young women being murdered and talking about it, the world would not have known.
In 1992 ChÃ¡vez founded the women’s rights activist group Ocho de Marzo (Eighth of March) de Ciudad JuÃ¡rez, which protested strict new abortion legislation proposed by Mexico’s Partido de AcciÃ³n Nacional.
In 1993 ChÃ¡vez began keeping track of findings of murdered women in and around JuÃ¡rez, and Grupo Ocho de Marzo began calling on the government to do better at solving outstanding murder cases and bringing those responsible to justice.
In 1996 she helped a group of 11 feminist activist groups to form the Coordinadora de Organismos No Gubernamentales contra la violencia hacia las mujeres (Coordination of Non-Governmental Organizations against violence towards women), to unite all of the NGOs working for the prosecution and prevention of crimes against women. Four years of struggle by this union of groups finally gained the opening of a special investigative unit for sex crimes in the JuÃ¡rez police force.
In 1999, Chavez founded Casa Amiga, a shelter for women who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, and the only such shelter in Juarez at the time.
On Dec. 25, 2009, Esther died after a long battle with cancer. Throughout her lifetime, Esther wrote many articles and papers about the indiscriminate killings of women in Juarez. New Mexico State University Library has acquired Esther’s papers and has assembled them online in the Esther Chavez Cano Collection.
At the site, the university has posted articles authored by Esther, a video about her work, her biography and links to sites to organizations that were either started by Esther or continue her work in her memory.
The collection underscores not only all the work Esther did on behalf of these women and their anguished families but exactly how much work remains to be done to stop the killings and hold those doing them accountable.