In fictive works about the border femicides the police work in two countries (the United States and Mexico) is described differently. In Stella Pope Duarte's book If I Die in Juárez and in Meredith Stiehm's and Elwood Reid's Pilot of the series “The Bridge-America” (2013/14 FX/Netflix) the national police departments of the USA and Mexico are confronted with a femicide1. In her book Duarte integrates a great knowledge of the real situation regarding the femicides in Juárez, after she had interviewed some of the victim's families. The protagonists of the book are 14-year-old Evita, a poor girl who was forced to prostitution and to live on the streets, her 19-year-old beautiful cousin Petra who becomes a maquiladora worker and Mayela, a young Tarahumara Indian girl who is gifted with an outstanding talent in art. The three girls meet under fateful circumstances to investigate the femicides occurring in Juárez: they reveal the intrigue of a group of criminals until one of them is tortured and killed in an inevitably sadistic way too. The Pilot episode of “The Bridge-America” is about the investigation of a corpse: On the bridge connecting El Paso with Ciudad Juárez, a bisected, mutilated body is found. The two detectives, Mexican Marco Ruiz and American Sonya Cross decide to cooperate to solve the case. After further investigation Cross discovers that the two body parts belong to different persons: Judge Gates and Christina Fuentes, a young Mexican girl and maquiladora worker. Christina Fuentes is one of the world-famous femicides of Juárez and therefore one of uncountable inexplicable corpses. Cross suspects a serial killer behind all the cases, but learns that the Mexican police refuses to investigate further and benefits from bribery instead. The US-American and the Mexican cooperation on the Juárez femicides collapses because of the different development of the police departments, the corruption of the Mexican police and the increasing number of victims.
The differences between the two national police departments become especially visible in the pilot of “The Bridge-America”: on the US-American side is energetic but insensitive detective Sonya Cross, who wants to solve Fuentes' and Gates' murder immediately, and on the Mexican side is the exact opposite in person, Marco Ruiz, who is very passive and not interested in more work. Whereas in reality the US seems to have much less corpses and also owns a domestic violence department (since studies claimed, that most female murder victims were threatened with domestic violence before) in the series the discovery of the body has highest priority. In the book the author only describes the Mexican police and their acting, so that the department differences are invisible.In reality in the United States of Amercia the awareness about violence against women and teenage girls has risen during the last decades: the police does not only own a homicide but a domestic violence department. What unfortunately is still ignored in other countries of the world has become a fact. Many murders on females (femicides) did not happen “intentionally”. In fact many of the tragic deaths developed from domestic violence or abuse: “In 1994, Congress passed the violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) This Act, and the 1996 additions to the Act, recognize that domestic violence is a national crime and the federal laws can help an overburdened state and local criminal justice system.” (US government) Mexico however has to establish a new law, better police system and to itensify the investigation and the cooperation on the uncountable femicide cases. As a result of a low law activity in Mexico far less domestic violence cases are reported than in the United States, even though the homicide rate is incredibly high. The differences between the two national homicide departments are so enormous, that the failure of collaboration is almost predestined. Even though some femicide suspects are imprisoned, the murdering continues since over twenty years and some suspects also seem to have free accomplices. (“femicide mafia”? Possibly there are many criminals to blame.)
Corruption of the Mexican Police
Not only in present reality but also in the series and the book one can sense a corruption and misplaced behavior of the Mexican police, as they do not work seriously on the femicides and treat women generally less valuable. In the pilot of “The Bridge-America” detective Marco Ruiz indicates that the Mexican policemen are powerless regarding the uncountable femicide cases: they receive bribery to keep their eyes closed and then have to choose between obeying or being in serious trouble. (They are threatened.) In Duarte's book a passer-by claims that “people are being silenced with money, and la policia are the worst. They'd sell out their own mothers for a few pesos. And nobody talks, or it's certain they'll be killed.” (23) Also in If I Die in Juárez young Evita is caught by the police after being dismissed from home. The policemen here only pretend to be concerned about women and their safety. Later the girl is tortured, raped and beaten by one of the policemen and has to remain silent, even though she is very traumatized: [..] “The policeman unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her. Then he took her face and forced it over his crotch. Evita, struggling and crying, felt sticky wet fluid all over her face. She had never seen a man's private parts before. [...]”(Duarte 24) The corruption becomes also visible when Evita is threatened and treated very disrespectfully by a second policeman: “If you say anything about what happened to you, you'll live only long enough to regret it. What he did to you is nothing compared to what I'll do to you.” (25) and when she argues that “everyone knew they had the power to beat people, imprison them, make false charges even kill them.” (27) In the fictive world of the book and the series corruption seems to happen more often within the Mexican authorities than in the USA. One reason for this might be the high poverty rate: In Mexico more families live under poor life circumstances and therefore might be more susceptible for bribery.
Increasing Number of Victims
Women's lives are especially endangered around the US-Mexican border, because the victim number of rape and murder is constantly increasing. In the book Evita starts understanding how dangerous she lives when she discovers the headlines of the newspaper: “El Diario. On the cover was the story her brother was talking about. Two more girls' bodies had been found in el Lote Bravo, half-buried in the sand. [...]” (Duarte 23) In the end of the pilot of the series (“The Bridge”) there is a bomb scare with a menacing voice, who asks why a white body (the upper half of the body, belonging to Judge Gates) is worth more then thousands of black bodies (Christina Fuente's lower half of the body and many more in Juarez, during the years). This phrase is an insinuation regarding all the femicide cases, which keep increasing in Juárez since the 1990's and the horrible fact that the least of them is being solved. In reality the most recent trend consists of young pregnant women, who are violently murdered. Furthermore the National Citizen Femicide Observatory states that six to seven women are killed daily in Mexico, and the number keeps increasing steadily. The bodies are usually mutilated, also in the area of the breasts and the sexual organs. The corpses are often found in the desert or on the streets among garbage and waste. According to Andalusia Knoll, a freelance reporter, murderers are often the victim's husbands, ex- husbands, partners or father-in-laws. Also the reporter knows that the criminals are rarely punished and only 24% of the cases are investigated at all. In her analysis Jessica Livingston concludes that many of the femicide victims are maquiladora2 workers, like in Duarte's book or in “The Bridge- America”. Reasons for the rising number might be the sexualization and objectifying of women, especially in the maquiladoras, the failure of the police work and the emancipation of working class women.
In the pilot of the “The Bridge-America” the collaboration between both, the National Police Department of the USA and Mexico is possible after a few initial difficulties. The audience can only assume that this is due to the fact that the found body belongs to two people, connecting both countries. In If I Die in Juárez there is no collaboration and the Mexican police is very corrupt. This might be because the police is either overtaxed with the number of corpses, or because they are threatened, receive bribery or finally are really not interested in solving the cases and therefore in collaborating. In the real world in order to end or at least reduce the femicide rate in Mexico (and other nations of the world) some specific changes have to be made: The medical staff and the pathologists have to be sensitized to recognize the physical signs of femicides, domestic and sexual violence. Also the policemen and detectives have to be sensitized. The sensitization is only the beginning of the process. The (Mexican) police has to stop accepting bribery for inactivity and should not obey to further threatening by possible murderers. Additionally the Mexican citizens need to be informed about sexual and domestic violence in intimate relationships. (Past statistics show that most murderers are in the same family as their victims.) The state would need to build a larger homicide department, including all technical devices, staff and like in the United States, a Domestic Violence Department. If those steps were done properly, a better investigation of the crime would be given and more murderers and guilty people would be found. The murderers had to be punished and imprisoned which could create a saver and more durable environment for society and especially for women and adolescents. Since many border cities are affected and femicides also occur in the USA, the collaboration between the Mexican and the US-American police has to be strengthened.
1 Femicide: murder/homicide of a young woman/female person
2 Maquiladora: a factory in Mexico run by a foreign company and exporting its products to that company's country of origin.