Shadows and Light

I wrote this following a visit to the memorial for victims of femicide in Ciudad Juárez, México. I visited with a group of Presbyterians from three countries–the U.S., México, and Colombia–as part of a mission conference sponsored by Tres Ríos Presbytery across the border in the city of El Paso in late September 2015.

It caught me off guard. The wind whipped through my hair, dried the tears on my cheek. To know that eight women were once found in this very place, their bodies lifeless and disfigured, discarded in a weed-ridden vacant lot…


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Thousands of women like these eight have been killed in the area around Juárez, this beleaguered city of migrants, exploited by drug traffickers and corporate greed, divided from its sister city across the river by an ugly fence and border patrol forces.

The days I spent in El Paso at the end of September opened my eyes to many threads in the story of our U.S. border and immigration policy, but the stop at this memorial in Juárez broke open my heart.

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This painting mourns the depravity of femicide. It hangs in a conference room at Casa Amiga, a social service center for victims of domestic violence in Ciudad Juárez.

Juárez offers the world a new word: femicide, the gender-based killing of women. This year my sisters in Colombia won the inclusion of femicide in the nation’s legal code, and have done hard work to raise public awareness about this growing problem. Visiting the Juárez memorial alongside some of them helped me to experience the defiant hope which is also preserved in that place, that fierce commitment to life and justice.

IMG_20150924_151026552IMG_20150925_152237IMG_20150924_144917896IMG_20150924_150800945My friend Adelaida Jiménez–poet, theologian, joke teller, mother, and so much more–was moved to write this poem dedicated to the women of Juárez. I include her original here, followed by my English rendering. “Listen my brother, listen my sister… And do not keep silent, for silence is hard as indifference.”

Ciudad Juárez, septiembre 24 de 2015

A las mujeres de ciudad Juárez

En las penumbras de la noche,
Se paralizan los sentidos, se escuchan los lamentos,
De las mujeres desaparecidas de ciudad Juárez,
Dónde están las hijas? Dónde están, las hermanas?, dónde están las madres, dónde están?
A dónde las han llevado?

En las penumbras de la noche se escuchan los sollozos,
Han aparecido los cuerpos torturados, son los cuerpos
De las mujeres de Juárez, sus senos mutilados, sus vaginas
Violadas, sus cuerpos marcados por las violencias,
Dónde están sus victimarios, dónde están?

En la penumbra de la noche,
Se escuchan los estruendos de las maquilas de la muerte,
De los poderosos que comercian con la vida,
De los que invierten en la guerra,
Ya vienen por las mujeres de Juárez,
Dónde está la justicia, dónde está la justicia para las mujeres de Juárez?

En la penumbras de las noches,
Se escuchan pasos débiles, son las mujeres con sus vidas desgastadas,
En las penumbra de la noche, un rayo de luz aparece,
Una luz renace de las tumbas encontradas,
Son las mujeres de ciudad Juárez, que se levantan,
Que gritan justicia,

En las penumbras de la noche y entre el rayito de luz,
De la boca de las mujeres sale un grito de esperanza,
Y de sus cuerpos torturados flores, mariposas que simbolizan resistencia,

En la penumbras de la noche, las mujeres de Juárez caminan,
Caminan para clamar, ni una mas, ni una mas,

En las penumbras de la noche, escucha hermano mío, hermana mía,
A las mujeres de ciudad Juárez,
Y no calles que el silencio es duro como la indiferencia,
Ven al encuentro y camina junto a las que claman justicia.

Juárez, September 24, 2015

To the women of Juárez

In shadow of night
The senses falter, the lament is heard
Of the disappeared women of Juárez
Where are our daughters? Where are our sisters? Where are our mothers? Where?
Where have you taken them?

In shadow of night the sobbing is heard,
Tortured bodies appear, they are the bodies
Of the women of Juárez, breasts mutilated, vaginas
Violated, bodies marked by violence
Where are their tormenters? Where?

In shadow of night,
The maquilas of death make their racket,
The noise of the powerful who buy and sell life
Who invest in war
They are coming for the women of Juárez
Where is justice? Where is justice for the women of Juárez?

In shadow of night
Faint footsteps are heard, they are the women with their worn-out lives

In shadow of night, a ray of light appears,
A light reborn from the uncovered graves
They are the women of Juárez who arise,
Who cry out justice

In shadow of night, in that sliver of light,
From the mouth of the women comes a cry of hope,
From their tortured bodies come flowers, butterflies of resistance

In shadow of night, walk the women of Juárez,
They walk to cry out, Not one more, not one more

In shadow of night, listen my brother, listen my sister
To the women of Juárez
And do not keep silent for silence is hard as indifference
Come to the gathering and walk with those who clamor for justice

by Adelaida Jiménez, English translation by Sarah Henken

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“Flor de Arena” (Sand Flower) bronze sculpture-fountain by Verónica Leiton

About Sarah

I serve with Presbyterian World Mission as liaison to the Andean region. This blog is a place to share stories, experiences, and observations, both my own and those of friends and colleagues and the occasional item of news.
This entry was posted in Musings, Prayer, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shadows and Light

  1. Amanda Craft says:

    Sarah, thank you for this wonderful reflection about your visit. I often miss how folks are touched by what we see and experience. This was a helpful insight to that…peace!

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