A walk of a few minutes through the streets of downtown Monterrey reveals up to four photos of missing persons. There are also murals with faces and names of those whose whereabouts are unknown. They are seen on every pole, on every corner.
They are the daily sign of the crisis that the capital and the entire state of Nuevo León, in northern Mexico, is experiencing, which has become the fourth entity in the country with the most disappeared according to official figures: more than 6,000.
But it was the recent increase in cases, especially of very young girls, that set off all the alarms about the insecurity that has disrupted the daily lives of thousands of women from Monterrey. They say that if they don’t take care of themselves, no one will.
“How do I know you are a journalist? Why don’t you use a tape recorder?” Guadalupe, a woman who was in a cafe after 10:00 at night in the old neighborhood of Monterrey, considered the industrial engine of Mexico, asked me suspiciously.
“I had already noticed that you walked there, that you then approached… ANDI know whatwe are like in constant alert, We got to that point”, confesses her friend Diana, sitting at the same table on José María Morelos street, the liveliest street in this area full of bars and restaurants.
If you feel terrible about unintentionally provoking that feeling in someone, it’s hard to imagine how young women suffer in a context of so much distrust and permanent tension.
Both women say they refuse to “live in fear locked up”, but they do not hide that tonight “they thought a little more” about going out alone. “Yes, we are more observant because we have no choice but to take care of ourselves. It hurts and it’s sad, but that’s how it is.”
Although other women do choose to give up their right to enjoy the night.
In the emblematic Morelos room, a nearby venue with live music, they say that “since the Debanhi case” [la joven que apareció muerta en la cisterna de un hotel en abril y cuya desaparición tuvo una gran repercusión] they receive fewer clients and, above all, they see that those who arrive go home earlier.
“Look, it’s very rare that you see single girls on the street. They always come in large groups or accompanied [de hombres]”, says María Palacios, one of their workers, who assures that now they are more aware of them when they leave the bar or that “when they are drunk” they refuse to sell them more alcohol.
“We have to take care of each other” it states.
Young man and daughter of disappeared
Nuevo León has been under the spotlight since local media reported, in early April, the disappearance of eight young women in just ten days, most of them in the capital Monterrey and its metropolitan area.
According to government figures, 376 women were reported missing this year in this state until May 12. Of these, 48 remain “not located” and six appeared lifeless.
And in a country where 95% of general complaints go unpunished, the role of the authorities in guaranteeing security and investigating these cases is under the spotlight.
But the truth is that this tragedy has already hit Nuevo León for a long time. Maya Hernández knows this, a young clinical psychology student whose mother, Mayella Alvarez, disappeared in Monterrey almost two years ago.
Being just 16 then, Maya had to grow up suddenly and not only lead the search but also run her home, where she lives with her grandmother and a little brother.
“Before my mom disappeared, I had no idea that this was a social crisis. And then I realized that I’m not the only one, that there are many disappeared in Nuevo León. And that instead of decreasing, they have increased over the years, ”he tells BBC Mundo.
He assures that, in all this time, there has been no progress in the investigation. “The Prosecutor’s Office has failed us,” he denounces, while demanding the involvement of the state governor, Samuel Garcia, as it has done with other more recent cases such as Debanhi Escobar, María Fernanda Contreras or Yolanda Martínez.
“The fact that my mother disappeared made me be more cautious and more conscientious. But every time I feel more insecure because she may not come home one day, ”she reflects.
“Why not? Why can’t we get out?” he asks those who say that this would be the solution to this crisis. “We have the right to have fun and we should not lock ourselves up at home. We already did it for a pandemic, Now we shouldn’t do it because of insecurity.”
BBC Mundo did not receive a response to two requests for interviews with the governor of Nuevo León and the State Prosecutor’s Office, whose work has been harshly criticized by relatives of the disappeared and who came to recognize clear irregularities in cases such as Debanhi’s.
The state prosecutor for femicides, Griselda Nunez, He insisted this Wednesday on ruling out that there is a generalized or organized trend of violence against women in Nuevo León, for which he assured that each case must be addressed individually.
“There is no situation of disappearance or kidnapping of women, but there are specific conditions for each of the events,” he stressed at a press conference attended by BBC Mundo.
Family Search Instructions
But these messages are far from reassuring the women of Nuevo León and its capital, who choose to take measures to protect themselves from possible attacks in a city where insecurity feels like the topic of conversation almost every day.
According to Mariana Limón Rugerio, it is “the helplessness on the part of the State” that leaves them no other way out than to organize. And more in his case, that he feels triple the vulnerabilities as woman, young person under 30 years old and journalist from Monterrey.
“I left my family an instruction on what to do and who to contact if I disappear” to help them deal “with the bureaucratic dinosaur that is Mexico,” he assures BBC Mundo.
Thanks to an application, her family can monitor her location through her phone, which the young woman promised to be aware of at all times.
According to her own instructions, her relatives should start to worry if three hours go by without her giving any news. If five pass, They must go immediately to the Prosecutor’s Office and demand that they start their search, since those first moments of the disappearance are crucial.
“Obviously I hope they never use it [el instructivo]. It is very overwhelming to explain to your parents what to do if you disappear. But I’d rather they have a body than watch over them having to look for me, because on a psychological level it is much heavier for the family not to have a corpse to bury”, acknowledges the journalist.
The young women from Monterrey with whom BBC Mundo spoke have sharpened their ingenuity in recent weeks when it comes to adopting protection measures.
From sharing your location through your cell phone at all times to carrying pepper spray or electric shock devices in your bag, to avoiding posting photos on your social networks in real time to prevent strangers from knowing your location at the moment, are some of them .
Mónica López, who is a 26-year-old special education teacher and lives in the municipality of Escobedo, regrets that they are forced to adopt these restrictions and limit themselves because they are women.
“But, although it is not fair, you end up resigning for your family and for getting home alive”, admits.
The young woman tells BBC Mundo that, as a result of the latest cases, some of her friends entered into social anxiety for which they were even happy to work from home so as not to have to go out. “It is an uncertainty. You limit yourself, you lose security, you restrict your schedules…”.
“I am afraid because I do go out, I am at night, I do go to parties. If I become the victim, I hope they call me ‘the teacher’ and not ‘the one who disappeared because she was drinking’”, he says criticizing those who tend to revictimize the victims or their relatives for their behavior as if that justified their disappearance.
And inevitably, that insecurity that is talked about so much in Nuevo León also spills over into her work and her relationship with her students.
“You lay down a lot of safety advice and recommendations, you work to get them to trust you. How ugly, because they are children, but in the end it is the culture in which they are growing up it’s our turn to prepare them at school to deal with it.”
Woman, young man and police
Early in the morning, in Fundidora Park – Monterrey’s current green lung after decades occupied by the city’s iron and steel company – you can see dozens of people playing sports.
Carolina Ayala, a 25-year-old girl who goes rollerblading almost every day, says she prefers to do it at that time than at night. “When it’s half dark, there are a lot of men, you don’t know… at this time, he’s kind of safer.”
For weeks now, he has done all the traveling in his mother’s or brother’s car. “I can’t walk alone, it scares me, and I’m very independent. But she has to take care of herself. Right now, I don’t even risk it”, account before her mother arrives, who also plays sports with her.
The authorities, so pointed out by the young women for not guaranteeing their safety, sometimes find themselves in “a complicated situation” such as the one that Gabriela Martínez admits to experiencing.
She has been a local police officer in Monterrey since she was 19 years old, but first of all she is a young woman who is also affected by the current scenario.
“Despite working in this area, there is a fear because I am also a mother. They think that one is a police officer 24 hours a day and that we have something like that chip to be more alert, but that doesn’t take away either. that something could happen to us and we are exposed”, he tells BBC World.
The officer assures that, after the increase in insecurity towards women, city agents have implemented measures to increase support and protection for young women in vulnerable situations, such as accompanying them when they are waiting alone for the arrival of their transport. .
However, Martínez is aware that one of the biggest challenges for the police is to regain the trust of citizens “which was lost due to things that happened in previous years” and thus get women to approach them in situations of risk.
“I, as a woman, obviously am going to watch over the others. I have a girl for whom I would also like someone to worry when she walks on the street. Really, that they have the confidence in us that we are going to do everything possible so that they arrive home safely, ”she promises.
But the situation of insecurity in Nuevo León does not seem to improve in the eyes of many women, who they are very pessimistic about the possibility of a solution
While some are forced to limit their movements so as not to end up kidnapped, the relatives of the disappeared continue to raise their voices so that their cases do not fall into oblivion by the authorities.
They, like many others, are still wondering what workers at the State Attorney’s Office see painted on the ground in front of their building in large letters, along with the names of some of the thousands of missing women in the state: “dwhere are they?
* With the production in Monterrey of Melva Frutos.
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