Juarez: A Brief History

BATD ON Jul 19, 2010 AT 1:12 pm

Protests against the femicides in Juarez

Protests against the femicides in Juarez

MAC and Rodarte’s thoughtless launch of a new cosmetics collection inspired by a city infamous for poor working conditions and grisly murders of women is causing quite a stir in the fashion and beauty world. 

Clearly the companies have little knowledge of the true struggles of the female factory workers in the city which lies just along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, also often referred to as the “Femicide Capitol” due to the high number of female murder victims. 

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by President Clinton in 1993, huge American corporations have fuelled the rapid industrialisation of cities like Juarez, developing factories that offer cheap labour and a high production rate.  The factories in Juarez, called maquiladoras, have become an important part of the global economy, with 90 percent of exports going to the U.S.  These factories recruit workers from impoverished regions of rural Mexico, yet provide very little in the way of proper living conditions once these workers settle into the city.   Many are without water and electricity, and several workers live in “colonias,” camps set up outside the surrounding areas of the factories.  Meanwhile, their managers sit comfortably in aesthetically pleasing offices, enjoying luxuries that most Juarez residents wouldn’t dare to hope for.   

Most of the workers are young females who work at least 10- 12 hour days, and sometimes longer, bringing in an average of a mere $40 to $60 (about £26-£39) per week.  If given a lunch break it typically lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, and the women are often not permitted to use the bathroom until their shifts are over.  They are forced to function like robots and never speak up against the factory’s injustices for fear that they will be fired and blacklisted.  Finding transport home is difficult, as there are often no buses or shuttles that lead directly to the factories. These women usually find themselves walking home in the dark after a late shift in an area notorious for drug and human trafficking,  leaving them vulnerable to kidnapping, rape, and murder, joining the count of over 400 female victims that has built up within the past two decades. 

Memorials to those murdered

Memorials to those murdered

Mutilated corpses are found on a regular basis throughout the city, and little is often done to solve the crimes.  In several cases, families have been shown bodies of young women who are not their daughters, yet police refuse to listen or offer help in establishing the true identities of the victims.  Most of the murders, some thought to be serialised, go unsolved, and there are even rumours of police involvement.  Victims’ family members are often accused and then brutalized into false confession, unless exonerated by physical evidence.  

The situation in Juarez has seen little improvement, though there are organizations like The Juarez Project, which are working to right the injustices and provide support for the families of victims. 

The MAC Rodarte collection is so ludicrous because it attempts to beautify and market the look of these oppressed women, rather than bringing their severe living conditions to light.  And the recent statement that only a “portion” of the proceeds will go to aiding these women does not do much to make up for their ignorance.   If MAC had actually looked into the suffering of these women, which been going on since the mid 90’s, then perhaps they could have used the line to raise awareness and provide real charitable assistance to these women, not just an unknown “portion” of the sales. 

If you would like to help support the women of Juarez, visit www.thejuarezproject.com for more information on how you can get involved.  

Click here to read all about how the online beauty community have responded to this…

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