Friday, January 28, 2011

The Guerreras of Ciudad Juarez

I was very impressed by the story of these women bikers who are braving one of the most dangerous situations in the world to bring help and comfort to their fellow human beings. We can learn a lot about courage and compassion from Las Guerreras.

Infobae.com (English translation by Rebel Girl) and Reuters
January 25, 2011

They are ten women who get around on pink motorbikes. Every Sunday they give out money, medicine, food, clothing, and even birthday cakes in the most violent city of Mexico.

The Guerreras are mothers, housewives, and workers who have decided to help the poor in their city, which is the most dangerous one in the world as well. In cramped, metal-roofed homes on unpaved streets, the 10-member group comprising teachers, off-duty police officers and businesswomen volunteer their time to help single mothers, addicts, the elderly and the jobless, many of whom have no access to welfare and feel completely abandoned.

"Every Sunday we try to share some of what we have with people who really need help and then we ride around the city and form a council to plan what we're going to do next Sunday," Lorenia Granados, the director of the Guerreras bike club, explained to El Diario de Juárez.

Founded two years ago, this group has been working ceaselessly. "A guerrera is someone who fights not just to survive, but to get ahead. Our slogan is: 'Women without limits, making the difference'," she said.


These Mexican Robin Hoods don't go unnoticed when they ride their pink bikes. They say they're the target of propositions, but state that no one has disrespected them. "We draw a lot of attention from the children and the women cheer us on a lot. The men admire us and find us strange. Sometimes we come up against some chauvinist but we show them that we are not made just to sit around the house," one of the Guerreras says defiantly.

"It's an honor for us, because the motorbikes are made for men and we show them that a woman can do many things a man can. It's not just about getting on a bike, but using it to do good things," says Lorenia.


Despite playing host to 340 factories exporting to the United States and handling billions of dollars in cross-border trade every year, Ciudad Juarez has become one of Mexico's most desperate cities. In a forlorn desert region with few schools or opportunities, poorly paid or unemployed youngsters are enticed into joining gangs to kill rivals for as little as $100 a hit.

For the third year in a row, Ciudad Juarez leads the ranking for the most violent cities in the world, in which 25% of the cities in the list are Mexican. In Juarez, murders grew 5,681% in 25 years. In 2010, over 3,000 homicides were recorded in a population of only 1.3 million people. The city has a rate of 229 homicides for every 1,000 inhabitants.


Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, who assigned the military to fight drug gangs in December 2006, launched a major social program aimed at rebuilding Ciudad Juarez last year, but locals say progress is slow. "No one does anything," said 60-year-old Sanjuana Flores, whose daughter, a drug addict, was shot dead in 2008, leaving behind four children that Flores now looks after. Flores, receiving a handout of meat and vegetables from the pink bikers, said she was frustrated. "I've asked for help from the town hall and from town councilors. They promise things, but they are all lies," she said.

The Guerreras are not rich women either. "We are housewives, workers, we all work independently. We work the first shift at the job and the second at home. Most of us have kids who we try to bring along when we do these things to teach them that we can all do something for someone else," they add.


They are open to accepting new members "who want to help those who need support." However, the admissions process is strict: "There are rules. You would have to spend a certain amount of time rolling with us and helping, to know if you definitely wanted to belong to our group, because it isn't just taking a trip. We are trying to make a difference in the hope that someday peace will return."

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