This is the English translation from Spanish of the interview by Marga Britto, published August 5, 2010 at the Web Sites: Club de Lilith and HispanicLA : http://clubdelilith.com/no-somos-un-mito-entrevista-a-norma-ledezma-de-justicia-para-nuestras-hijas-268
WE ARE NOT A MYTH:
INTERVIEW WITH NORMA LEDEZMA (ASSOCIATION: JUSTICIA PARA NUESTRAS HIJAS.- CHIHUAHUA & JUAREZ MEXICO)
By Marga Britto
Norma Ledezma speaks with the authority owned by those to whom death owes them.
She is the founder of the Civil Organization: Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for our daughters), made up of parents and relatives of young women missing and/or murdered in the State of Chihuahua, where the city of Juarez is located.
The organization has been in place since 2002, and is currently pursuing the cases of more than 42 families.
Norma lost her 16-year-old daughter, Paloma Angelica. She disappeared on March 2nd, 2002, and after 27 days of desperate search, and going from one authority to another with no answers or progress, Paloma was found dead in the infamous zone known as the Cotton Field (*Campo Algodonero).
Paloma, as well as many of the other hundreds of victims of femicide worked in a Maquiladora, those industrial assembly lines brought to the Northern Border of Mexico by NAFTA, most of them owned by foreign capitals that mostly hired young, poor women, that work long hours for a meager salary.
Maquiladora is also the inspiration for the color named Fabric in the new line of cosmetics soon to be launched by MAC-Rodarte, a fact that raised the eyebrows and voices of thousands of women around the world, for their lack of sensibility to come up with a line of cosmetics inspired by Juarez and their murdered young women.
Incidentally, throughout the MAC-Rodarte scandal one voice was missing, that of the parents of the murdered woman in Juarez and Chihuahua who “inspired” this now infamous cosmetic line.
In a telephone interview, I asked Norma Ledezma about her reaction and that of the rest of the parents after learning about the MAC Rodarte cosmetics line. Her feelings were reflected in her voice:
“It was a sense of indignation, as a mother of a young girl that was murdered, and as a representative of other mothers and fathers of girls that had been disappeared and murdered throughout the State of Chihuahua, I can say that more than indignation, anger or rage, the feeling was of sadness. It deeply sadness us because this situation is so real, so palpable, so close to us, and we try so hard to perpetuate the memory of our daughters with pride, to defend this right they had to life”
The initial disbelief soon gave way to sadness and frustration. They wondered where are they heading with all their efforts? Perhaps instead of progressing in their struggle to sensitize people about this terrible problem, they were moving backwards: “They are not sensitive to the problem” she admits, referring to the society in general.
“This is a real problem, we are not a myth. The murders and disappearances of women in the State of Chihuahua are a reality. So we felt the whole thing was a mockery. “
Ledezma explained in detail the effects of confronting for the first time the image of the model choose by MAC for their campaign: a ghostly teenager, wrapped in white veils. And in this moment I understood where she gets the strength to help other families while trying to ease the pain of her own tragedy.
“You know what the image made me think of?” – She asks and then answers herself:
“I see the files and I look at the bodies. My job is to deliver the remains, and I have deliver remains to families, so many times throughout these years. And when I saw the photo of the model (MAC), I did not feel anger really, but sorrow, a sharp blow to the heart.
The terms she uses make one trembles. Her work for over eight years now, has transformed her into an expert in forensics and criminal law.
“We found the bodies of girls that have been mutilated, and when we found soft tissues they are in terrible condition, when we found bones, is so much worse”.
The Association (Justicia para Nuestras Hijas) has access to records and information relating to the investigations of cases of disappearances and murders of women. Thanks to the Mexican Constitution, citizens are provided with a Right known as: COADYUVANCIA, which is a legal term that implies that any citizen victim of a crime or offense (family members and representatives in murder cases) can contribute to the investigation.
This constitutional right has allowed Justicia para Nuestras Hijas to provide reports, evidence and proposals to assist the integration of the preliminary investigation and final process as well, and most importantly: to obtain a copy of the file of the investigation.
Upon reviewing those files over eight years ago, the families realized that the authorities were not investigating: their daughter’s files were virtually empty.
The Association has goals, Norma express them loud and clear:
“In Justicia para Nuestras Hijas we are not looking for the 15 minutes of fame or financing (although funding is essential for us to do our work) because now we’ve been avalanched with so many questions about the so called “funding”, what we seek with our work is justice, and the dignity and respect for our missing and murdered daughters and their families”.
The funding referred in her last comment, is the one agreed to in a meeting last July 29 at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Laura Carrera Lugo, CONAVIM Commissioner (National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women), Rosario Robles (President of the Citizens Advisory Council), Alejandro Negrin (General Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Interior) and the directors of MAC: Miguel Franco (MAC manager Mexico), Juan Alanis (CEO of Estee Lauder in Mexico and Latin America) and Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera (Vice President Global Affairs of Estee Lauder, representing the CEO John Dempsey).
According to the press release issued by the Mexican federal government, Laura Carrera (of CONAVIM) agreed with MAC to the following:
1. That MAC will express a public apology to all women, especially women of Mexico and Juarez (Laura Carrera forgot to mention the parents of the victims and that cases of femicide not only occur in Juárez but throughout Chihuahua).
2. That MAC will join CONAVIM in their fight to prevent violence against women through an International awareness campaign.
(Laura Carrera does not explain when or how they will join the campaign, but we agree in one thing with Carrera: “someone” must join CONAVIM in this “fight” that they are clearly loosing, since this year’s numbers of Femicides in the State of Chihuahua alone are rising (more than 230 cases since the beginning of the year), so CONAVIM: we strongly suggest you to call in reinforcements or replacements).
3. MAC Rodarte will donate ALL international profits obtained from its new line of cosmetics (which will be renamed) to a non-profit organization with extensive experience in the “subject of Ciudad Juárez” and will request information from the Citizen Advisory Board and experts in the field for the selection of this organization. (Again, when or how? And how is it that this Advisory Board knows better than the local organizations that so far have been dealing with the femicide problem with no or little federal support?)
When asked if any representative of the Mexican Federal Government, CONAVIM or even MAC had contacted Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, before this negotiation to ask for their opinion, or after the negotiations to inform them about the agreement, Norma is certain:
“Not before and not after. To this point Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has been left aside of the whole situation. We have learned though the pieces of information published in the media, but not from them, neither MAC nor Conavim”.
The day before this interview on August 2, Norma meet with CONAVIM Commissioner Laura Carrera and other government officials in Ciudad Juarez in a follow up meeting to the Ruling of the Cotton Field (**), and as Ledezma explains there were no mentions of the meeting with MAC: not a word about the agreement, not even a sympathetic or supporting sentence from the woman in charge of “fighting” against Femicide and Violence against women in Mexico.
Norma expresses a very legitimate concern: “the offensive campaign has been trivialized, now the issue is not about the lack of consideration to the pain of the families and the terrible context of the murders, what everyone is concern about is the so-called funding”.
Her comment triggers an obvious question, so obvious that no one cared to ask: what would the parents of the murdered women of Juarez and Chihuahua consider a fair resolution of this situation with MAC?
She had considered what they wanted, the answer is pretty clear: “We want the executives of Mac to come to Juarez and see what is the situation with their own eyes. We want them to meet the families, listen to their stories, and see first hand the monumental work that not only Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has been doing but that of the rest of the organizations”.
“Money is not important, money is not going to pay for the moral damage that has been done.”
And speaking of money, how is it that an Association such as Justicia para Nuestras HIjas can do all this work? Where does the funding comes from?
“When I started eight years ago with the murder of my daughter, Paloma, I was alone and never imagined that one day we would have an office and the support we get from lawyers and other people that volunteer. I think when you walk in life seeking truth and justice, doors just open for you”.
One of these doors is the Fund for Global Human Rights that has funded Justicia para Nuestras Hijas for five consecutive years. This year another door opened: Pfeizer approved a project from Justicia and will provide additional funding enough for to provide 3 paid positions. The rest are volunteers.
“What really bothers me and hurts the most is that funding has become the main theme, not the terrible situation of the femicides. And now CONAVIM is appearing in the discussions left and right. I mean, is not like anyone from CONAVIM has come here to meet the families and follow their cases!”
What about the apologies requested of MAC by CONAVIM…
“The apologies are due to the families, not to CONAVIM or the government authorities. Further more, if we are in this situation it is precisely because the authorities have been remiss, negligent, corrupt and complicit, and in some cases even perpetrators of these crimes, and you’re going to give an apology to the government? Is not like they (government) are personally insulted, hurt or angry.”
In thirty minutes of interview there had been three interruptions: there is people waiting in her offices and she is giving instructions all over the place. She speaks with the parents of Leticia Portillo, a young woman who disappeared 10 days earlier.
While waiting on the phone, I cannot help but wonder what can you say to a mother or a father in the midst of despair to find their missing daughter? What can you say to them?
Norma has the answers, I can hear through the phone as she is talking to Leticia’s mother: First is the advice. “Relax, hug your children. Kiss them, be with them and get strength from them because this is a strenuous road.”
Then the sensible disclaimer that one can guess is repeated to each family: “I do not promise to find your daughter, but I promise I’ll be with you until she is found”.
And finally hope: “We have recovered girls and put people in jail. That is what we do”.
(*) Campo Algodonero (Cotton Field) is where eight bodies were found in 1993. This field was removed with an excavator, minimizing any possibility of finding evidence.
(**) On December 10, 2009 Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (InterAmerican Court of Human Rights) published a Ruling that condemns the Mexican Government for Human Rights Violations, in particular for not preventing, investigating, or acting with proper diligence to eradicate violence against women in Ciudad Juárez, against Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez y Claudia Ivette González, girls and women that were disappear, tortured and murdered in Cd Juarez, and against their families. The dead bodies of these women along with 5 more, were tossed in an old cotton field of the city, reason why this case and its ruling has taken the name “campo algodonero” (Cotton Field)
This is the english translation of the interview in Spanish by Marga Britto, published on August 5, 2010 at the Web Sites: Club de Lilith and HispanicLA : http://clubdelilith.com/no-somos-un-mito-entrevista-a-norma-ledezma-de-justicia-para-nuestras-hijas-268