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They are alone, there is no doubt. Searching women in Mexico are completely and absolutely alone. Alma Lilia Tapia, the spokesperson for one of the search groups that work in the State of Guanajuato—to which Lorenza Caro Flores, the woman kidnapped by an armed commando, belongs—said during a search tour in her native Salamanca, that the women Like her, those who desperately search for bones or clues that lead them to their missing people are “deranged.” She used that word followed by a very sad and resigned look. There, in an open field in the middle of the city of Salamanca, and in the presence of a couple of journalists, she said: “There is only one question that no one has ever asked us until now. “No one has asked us what we think or feel when night comes and we are alone.”
Curiously, that chosen solitude, that of the intimacy of the darkness of a room in their homes, is the only moment, as Alma Lilia describes, in which they can cry and be alone with their missing people. They review one by one the photographs of the loved one saved on their cell phone, they reread conversations, they replay audios that remained there, hidden forever as the only living memory of their absences. Nobody has asked him, because nobody really cares. The reality is even harder, that of these women, who were marked forever by a disappearance, regardless of their origin, their age or their daily reality. All or almost all of them have also lost their jobs, their friendships; Their family ties have been broken or deteriorated. They ask them to “turn the page”, that crying is not going to solve anything. And faced with the avalanche of systemic indifference, they remain silent and continue searching, digging in the ground.
Lorenza Cano Flores is 55 years old, I write in the present tense because it has been a month since an armed commando entered her house in Salamanca, Guanajuato, and murdered her son and husband, before taking her away. Nothing is known about her yet and everyone, including her fellow searchers from the collective, wants and waits for her to appear alive. Cano Flores lived in a peripheral neighborhood of Salamanca, whose landscape is a labyrinth of paved and unpaved streets with one of the six refineries that exist in Mexico on the horizon. She had been looking for her brother since 2018. She did not attend all the tours because she had a problem with one of her legs that prevented her from walking long distances. Her daughter, Laura, carried out those tasks, while Lorenza supported by sending food and snacks to the work teams.
On January 22, Guanajuato authorities announced the capture of two alleged perpetrators of Lorenza’s kidnapping—and the murder of her husband and son. A week later they were released, there was no evidence against them. It didn’t take many days for the murder of Angelita Meraz León, a 27-year-old woman who had also been searching for her brother since 2018, to once again shock a country already accustomed to this type of news, and with an official record of more than 111,000 missing people. Angelita, as her acquaintances and close friends called her, was murdered when she was working in her beauty salon, in the city of Tecate, Baja California.
The initial intention of the authorities, according to activists and people close to Angelita, was to begin the investigation of the murder as an alleged femicide. Given this situation, Meraz León’s ex-partner voluntarily presented herself to the authorities to testify and give her version. President López Obrador, when questioned about the case of this searching woman, responded that the alleged perpetrator had already been identified and assured that “everything indicated that there is no relationship with what she did.” The president was talking about Meraz León’s ex-partner, who, according to the spokesperson for the group to which Angelita belonged, had voluntarily appeared before the authorities.
The vulnerability to which all people who are part of a search group are subjected also has to do with a neglect that borders on indifference and impunity on the part of authorities at all levels of Government. Although the mechanisms and the search protocol are outlined and perfectly specified so that each authority does what it has to do, the reality is that the political quarrels between parties, the immeasurable power that some criminal groups already have in many territories of the country, poverty and structural deficiencies, the inequality that hurts in every corner of the country and a population totally sedated in the face of violence, are just some of the ingredients that fuel a fire that ends up consuming those who try to do something to change the situation.
The searching women in Mexico are alone, like when alone, in their rooms, and with the lights off, they can cry all they want; when the light of the cell phone lights up their tired faces and returns to them the image or voice of a son, a daughter, a brother, a husband…
It is a terrible scenario and a reality that is difficult to assimilate: until these tragedies come dangerously and horribly close to the rest of the citizens, it seems that they do not exist. An example was left in the nineties, the femicides, when the entire country was surprised by the – incorrectly – called “dead women of Juárez”, there in the north, as if it were a territory foreign to us, here in the center or in the south, as if the “we” did not encompass the tragedy of those women with specific names and realities that made them—then—even more vulnerable than women from the other latitudes of this burning country. As if the national tragedy of violence would not be replicated to us sooner or later as well, as if we belonged to another universe.
I have not yet met a single woman who searches for missing persons in Mexico who does not feel guilt. She blames it because they didn’t come home early from work to see the son who never came back; or for not having bought him a new cell phone because his had been lost days ago and that’s why he couldn’t communicate when he disappeared. They blame themselves for the smallest and most insignificant details, as if they were the immediate culprits and as if that fault were not that of an entire country.
A woman to know and follow: Hermila Galindo
By Julieta Sanguino
Hermila Galindo was a tireless fighter for women’s rights in the post-revolutionary era in Mexico. After the 1917 Constitution did not validate the female vote, Hermila ran as a candidate for deputy. She was the first woman to run for public office in Mexico. The newspapers denigrated her participation and mocked her for attempting something that was thought impossible. A woman could not be elected to popular office. Hermila ran for the fifth district of Mexico City and although she lost, she left her mark on the history of the country.
During the Government of Venustiano Carranza, Hermila was the president’s private secretary and when he was assassinated in 1920, Galindo decided to move away from public life. In 1940 she was awarded the decoration for revolutionary merit. After decades of struggle, women were able to vote in Mexico until 1953. Hermila Galindo’s work was essential to achieve the right to vote and be voted for in the country. During that year, President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines granted Galindo the honorary appointment of “the first woman congressman.” A year later, the politician died in Mexico City at the age of 68.
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