Illustration by Bela Messex

Emotions filled the Merrill Cultural Center as an audience waited eagerly to learn Paula Bonilla Flores’ story about “feminicide.”

The Chicano Latino Resource Center held an event May 19–20 to highlight the issue of feminicide.  Almost 100 students attended.

Feminicide is a phenomenon plaguing countries throughout the world. Initially recognized in the Mexican cities of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, it is a stream of gender-based sexual violence that includes the murder of women and girls. Families of victims often face the denial of local authorities as a major obstacle toward attaining justice against the murderers, and often experience discriminating attitudes such as victim-blaming. Sagrario Gonzalez Flores, the daughter of Paula Bonilla Flores, was a victim of feminicide.

“I’m going to continue to fight for my daughter’s case and [I’m glad] that the students were made aware and sensitized to the issues at hand,” Flores said. “I appreciate them for being so young and so involved with these issues.”

Sagrario was brutally murdered by drug trafficker Jose Luis Hernandez in 1998. Although others were suspected to be involved with the murder, Hernandez took full blame to bring a hasty close to the case in 2005. To this day, the Flores family is still struggling to bring to justice all of the people who were involved.

The first day of the event included a showing of the documentary “La Carta.” The film followed the 12-year struggle of finding justice for Sagrario’s family.

The second day of the event, the book “Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas” was presented to an audience. The book is a collection of essays written by feminists, human rights activists, scholars and attorneys from Latin America and the United States. It contains testimonials by relatives of women who disappeared or were murdered as examples of feminicide.

Cynthia Bejarano is a professor of criminal justice at New Mexico State University and co-editor of the book. She said it was important to educate the general public about feminicide in order to create a larger connection between audiences.

“I hope that this event triggers some continuity with the issues from afar,” Bejarno said. “I hope that it bridges connections with the violence in cities such as Ciudad Juarez and drug consumption in the U.S. I’m happy to see that people were very engaged, and hopefully [they] will make broader connections.”

Hector Dominguez, a traveling professor of Latin American literature and culture from University of Texas in Austin, also spoke at the event.

Dominguez said people should be aware that the actions of the United States have impacts elsewhere.

“The problem in Ciudad Juarez is not due to Mexico, but it is due to the problems here in the United States, [like] criminalization of immigration and drugs,” Dominguez said.

He said student involvement was important in the wake of these crimes.

“Awareness is already there [in the affected countries],” Dominguez said. “The news is around and there are a lot of stories [of such crimes]. It is all the matter of the combination of grassroots activism [that exist in these countries] and the activism of the students.”

Paula Bonilla Flores said she was happy with the success of the event.

“I thought that this event went well overall,” said Flores. “Some girls commented on the inspiration I gave them. This serves to them as a message to move on when hard things happen to them.”