On April 16th, the skeletons of 12 teenage girls were found in a desert field east of Ciudad Juárez. The discovery was only the latest addition to the city's now notorious body count. The U.S.-Mexico drug war, formally waged since 2006, has turned this border city into the so-called "murder capital of the world." But, as early as 1993, Juárez had already become known as the place where girls and women ended up dead. Official estimates put the number of "femicides" around 400, and not a single one of them has resulted in a conclusive investigation or conviction.
Mexico City journalist Sergio González Rodríguez, a former arts critic, began writing about the murders in 1996, resulting in two landmark books — 2000's Hombre sin cabeza and 2006's Huesos en el desierto — that earned him death threats, a government ban by the State of Chihuahua, and cameos in novels by Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marias. His first book to be published in English, The Femicide Machine (reviewed here for the Los Angeles Review of Books by Mary Cuddehe) connects the serial killings of women in Juárez not only to drug traffickers and criminal gangs but also to what he describes as the "machines" of global capitalism that make these killings possible: war machines, police machines, economic machines, manufacturing machines, security machines, among others.
I invited Sergio to have an email conversation with me about these issues. The following is a transcript of our correspondence, which I've translated from the Spanish.
JOSH KUN: Why don't we start with the most important question: are you in Mexico? Are you OK? Did the earthquake affect you at all?
SERGIO GONZÁLEZ RODRIGUEZ: Yes, all is well, yesterday's earthquake gave me a scare, but thankfully nothing more.
JK: Before the earthquake, on the very same day, news broke of a car bomb in Tamaulipas outside the offices of a local newspaper, another act of violence in a week full of violence (deaths in Saltillo, deaths in Guerrero, the narco-blockades in Guadalajara). Is there a moment when you find yourself saying, this is just one more — just another act of violence, just one more example? Is violence now so common, so part of the fabric of daily life in Mexico, that it has stopped affecting people? Or does each death, each murder, each kidnapping, still stand as an assault, a tragedy, a motivation to take action?
SGR: In the background of this issue — the possible indifference of Mexicans to acts of violence — there are at least two things to consider:...read more