Washington state Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, Justicia para Nuestras Hijas founder Norma Ledezma Ortega, ProPublica investigative journalist Vianna Davila, and The Seattle Times visual journalists Corinne Chin and Erika Schultz gathered for a virtual conversation based around The Seattle Times' Pulitzer Center-supported story, "Disappearing Daughters." The award-winning piece depicts movements of memory and solidarity in the face of femicide in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Inspired by Castro Luna's book of poetry, Killing Marías, Chin and Schultz traveled to Ciudad Juárez to report on femicide and violence against women. "Disappearing Daughters" uses photos and video poetry to tell the story of a community of mothers seeking justice for missing and murdered women.
During the event, titled "Ni Una Más: Seeking Justice for Femicide in Mexico Through Poetry, Journalism, and Law," Castro Luna read selections from Killing Marías and spoke about her process of writing the book.
"The poems, in the end, turn out to be a song of protest," Castro Luna said. "I wanted the book to create a space of remembrance and a space of solidarity. I wanted to insist on the fact that these women lived; I did not want to let them be forgotten."
Castro Luna's work is central to the project. The poems are woven into the reporting in the form of videos, for which they serve as the soundtrack and aesthetic inspiration. Chin spoke about planning the videos and how that process infomed the project as a whole.
"In the process of creating this really, really big shot list, I almost memorized every line of those seven poems, and because of that I think that we really absorbed the spirit of the poetry," Chin said. "I really wanted [the project] to be based on feelings and emotions. So taking you from that grief, and that loss, and that pain, into what Norma [Ledezma Ortega] described as rebirth."
Ledezma Ortega spoke about her experiences as a lawyer fighting for justice for her daughter, Paloma, and other missing women in Mexico. Chin said they were struck by how mothers took their memories and mourning and turned them into acts of art and protest. It is often the mothers, not the government, who track and map acts of violence in their community, despite risks to their personal safety.
Femicide and domestic violence happen not only in Juárez, but across the world. When asked what can be done about women facing violence all over the globe, Castro Luna said that one thing we can do, though small, is pay attention and not forget.
"Femicide is a project of silencing; it is a project of erasure," she said. "It is something that is so horrific that, I think, makes us afraid. So it's very easy to look away. I think what we need to do is not do that. We cannot let go of these women because the moment we do, we have given up."
This bilingual online event was co-presented by The Seattle Times, the Pulitzer Center, the International Women's Media Foundation, and Elliott Bay Book Company, with support from Humanities Washington. To hear the full conversation, click here.
The Spanish version of "Disappearing Daughters" can be found here.