ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Women separated by the U.S.-Mexico border came together Thursday to draw attention to the murders of their loved ones in both countries.
The women attended a news conference and fundraiser at the Albuquerque Center for Peace. Paula Flores Bonilla and Irma Monrreal, both of Juarez, Mexico, traveled to Albuquerque to meet and provide support to some families of the West Mesa murder victims as well as other Albuquerque women whose loved ones remain missing.
Bonilla’s daughter María Sagrario was murdered in 1998. Monrreal’s daughter Esmeralda Herrera was slain in 2001.
Their cases as well as the murders of hundreds of other women in the Juarez area the past two decades remain unsolved.
Jayne Barela, of Albuquerque, is still searching for answers about her daughter’s disappearance in 2004. Jamie Barela was 15 years old when she disappeared, and her mother said she thinks Jamie will be the next one identified in the West Mesa murders.
Jayne Barela’s niece has already been identified as one of the West Mesa victims.
Jayne said the visit by the Juarez mothers changed her.
“I couldn’t show my emotions; at first I had everything bottled up,” Jayne Barela said. “Seeing these ladies had done something I can’t describe. I feel better.”
Lupe Lopez of Albuquerque has also established a special bond with Barela and others. Lopez’s sister Beatrice Lopez Cubelos disappeared in September 1989. Her case is now cold, but Lopez said she will continue to try to find out what happened to her sister and help others going through the same ordeal.
“There is not a rock that won’t be overturned,” she said.
She hopes to go national and work with those around the country going through similar circumstances.
Monrreal knows what it means to make people in other countries aware of her daughter’s murder.
She and three other mothers, whose daughters also were murdered in Juarez, testified before the InterAmerican Court in Santiago de Chile. The court ruled that Mexico was negligent in the murders, according to information provided at Thursday’s event.
“I’m asking everyone here not to allow what is happening in Juarez happen here,” Monrreal said. “… It is easy to kill a woman in Juarez because they know the government will not do anything. Don’t look at this as a far away problem. I never thought I’d be a victim… If you don’t do anything about it, it will continue.”
Barela said she can relate to the Juarez women and feels authorities are not listening to the families of the West Mesa victims or doing all they can to find who is responsible.
City Councilor Rey Garduño addressed the audience at Thursday’s event, saying he is sometimes “disgusted” and “ashamed” to be part of a system that has “in some ways been inhumane” to the loved ones of the West Mesa victims.
Garduño said if the victims were affluent or were of a different race, their case might have been handled differently.
“People of color always fall through the cracks,” Garduño said.
He said he would bring up the matter at an upcoming out-of-state conference.
“As a City Councilor, I cannot change everything, but I will not let it lie, I will not let it pass,” he said of the West Mesa murders.