Archive - Jul 4, 2005

Various Juarez Items

I've been working away on editing my Juarez doc, and when I take a break I've been reading one or the other of 2 books, both of which are related to Juarez: either the brand new book by Charles Bowden, "A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior", or "Cosecha de Mujeres," by Diana Washington Valdez.

The first is a difficult yet tantalizing read. a sort of impressionistic biography of a real DEA agent, all names and places changed to protect the innocent/guilty, describing his long career in the depths of the underworld of narcotrafficking. Bowden's prose has inspired and enthralled me before, and this is no exception, yet I'm not sure what to make of this book - it's written perhaps like if Faulkner wrote crime thrillers, extremely nonlinear, but gritty and noir-ish, dreamy or nightmarish, vague and disturbing, and yet we are told that it is all true. I find myself wishing for the interludes filled with raw statistics that alternated with the real life stories in his earlier book, "Down by the River."

The second book, which I blogged about before when I first found out about it, is a detailed and disturbing account of the Juarez femicides. It's written in Spanish and published in Mexico just a month ago. I bought it in Mexico City and have been gradually working my way through it. I've found it easier to read than, for example, most articles in La Jornada, but harder than, say, the emails I've been getting lately from Peruvian and Bolivian and Mexican activist companer@s. The grammar is fairly straightforward, but I still find myself needing to look up unknown words quite often. There are still so many words to learn... suspira... However, many times I'm only looking something up to confirm my guess that I've made based on context, and I've realized that I'm expanding my Spanish vocabulary in the same way that I accumulated, starting from a very young age, such a prodigious (in all modesty) English vocabulary - by reading, and picking a lot up from context.

Anyway, in addition to being good spanish practice the book is a really good work, and a great source of statistics and reference data about the murders. It's also frequently the source of really disturbing, even horrifying, information. For instance (Warning: the rest of this paragraph is not for the squeamish!): At one point in the book Washington describes how several of the women murdered in 2003 were found with their necks broken, all in the same particular way. Unless I'm getting the translation wrong, forensic experts told her the theory that the killer or killers were purposely breaking the victims' necks in that certain way because it causes convulsions in the victim that increases the sexual pleasure of the killer, who is raping the victim at the moment of death. How sickening. I find it hard to imagine how anyone could be that evil and sick.

Also of interest, I've just seen in the El Paso Times that:

  • The Mexican government recently requested that the U.S. government conduct an inquiry into "Cosecha de Mujeres" because it contains information that is considered confidential by both governments.

  • The request came from the office of Carlos Borunda Zaragoza, Mexico's liaison to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. The office also has lobbied Congress against resolutions that call for a binational commission to investigate the border murders.
  • That's pretty sick, too.

    In other somewhat related news, I just read that the Mexican government claims they've caught the leader of the Juarez drug cartel, Vincente Carillo. Carillo is the brother of Amado Carillo, who was discussed extensively in Bowden's "Down by the River" that I mention above. Amado supposedly died during plastic surgery, but there are rumors, according to Bowden, that he actually faked his death so he could retire and that he's actually living safely in Chile now with his family.
    This is fascinating stuff. Is it any wonder that there's a whole subgenre of music, the narcocorrido, about the drug lords?