The role of grassroots communication in the Juarez femicides


In this article, Fiona Jeffries highlights grassroots efforts of civil society organizations that investigate and publicize the tragic violence perpetrated on women and girls in Juarez, Mexico. Jeffries draws our attention to the hundreds of women and girls that have gone been murdered and disappeared in Juarez with impunity. In particular, the article discusses the instrumental role that documentary filmmakers have played in politicizing the crimes, raising global awareness, and challenging dominant neoliberal strategies adopted by the state that emphasize individualization and responsibilization. The widely publicized documentary entitled Señorita Extraviada by Lourdes Portillo is discussed in depth. 


External Authors

Fiona Jeffries


As a result of the state’s neoliberal strategies which deflects responsibility away from the state, a significant portion of the investigative work of the Juarez murders is delegated to activists, journalists, and filmmakers. The release of Señorita Extraviada coincided with a pivotal point in the events and activism of the Juarez murders. In November 2001, it was discovered that eight women’s mutilated bodies were dumped across from the headquarters of the Maquiladora Association. In addition to this, a Juarez defence lawyer working on feminicide cases was murdered by the police. These events sparked feminist and human rights organizations from around the border to come together and protest gender-based violence. In December 2001, 30 000 protestors from both Juarez and El Paso gathered in Juarez. In March 2002, hundreds of women dressed in black marched from Chihuahua City to the Juarez-El Paso Border to show their support.

Señorita Extraviada

Señorita Extraviada is an important example of grassroots communication that challenges government and media deflection strategies of individualization and responsibilization that places blame on the victim and their families. This documentary challenges the dominant narrative of the murders by centering on the standpoint of the victims, their family members, women living in Juarez, and feminist activists. Señorita Extraviada examines the social, economic, and political insecurity in Juarez which facilitates a climate of fear and impunity where many individuals are too afraid to discuss the violence. 


“Señorita poses a direct challenge to the official story, which has attributed the disappearances and murders to some combination of the women’s fault, the unfortunate yet inevitable cost of rapid and uneven modernization, a result of the dangerous flux of a border zone, and the illicit temptations of the city’s underworld, all of which is fueled, in the state and media narrative, by women’s reckless presence in public.”




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