The Anthropology of Femicide in Juarez

Cecilia Balli talked to a UT audience about the ongoing murder problem in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Over the past 15 years in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, strings of rarely-solved murders of young women have persisted in an atmosphere of fractioning authority and violently-contested territories – be that of street gangs, the police, or more organized drug cartels.

But in a city where men are murdered at a far higher rate than women, the murders of these maquiladoras, – or assembly plant workers – while garnering some attention, have not garnered nearly enough of the right people's attention, says Cecilia Balli, an anthropology doctoral candidate from Rice University. Not all the young women who were murdered were maquiladoras, says Balli, but the term has come to say something about the infrastructure of towns like Juarez, where industrial complexes and campuses are on opposite ends of town from many residences, forcing students and those lucky enough to find work into contact with the ills of society during their long walks or bus rides to work/school.

Balli has reported on the murders for Texas Monthly and spoke to an audience at UT Monday about anthropological factors that could have contributed to the culture of violence against women in Ciudad Juarez. She said that classifying these murders as simple jealousy killings for women's recent upward mobility in the workplace or educationally was too simplistic – as was the explanation these murders are perpetrated entirely by drug lords and power brokers in shady trade near the Mexico-U.S. border.

In a social system even more patriarchal than our own, masculinity in Mexican border towns is characterized by violence and the struggle for autonomy or sovereignty. Poor day laborers, who have little to no authority over anything in their day-to-day lives, have begun to fit the mold for lashing out against women.

In such a contested arena, "Poor men have no masculinity without a domination of space," said Balli. "So victimizing women keeps this idea of masculine status" tangible to the poorer men.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More U.S.-Mexico Border
Perry's Trump Conundrum
Perry's Trump Conundrum
Ex-governor gets moment in the sun, courtesy of the Donald

Richard Whittaker, July 10, 2015

Spare Some Change for The Totally Awesome AusChron Newscast?
Spare Some Change for The Totally Awesome AusChron Newscast?
Austin Restoration Ministries, City Council and more

Wells Dunbar, Sept. 24, 2009

More University of Texas
College Confessions From the Dorm's Snitch
College Confessions From the Dorm's Snitch
Accidentally hot-boxed, barfed on, a 24/7 buzz kill – RA life ain't easy

Katarina Brown, Aug. 23, 2017

Peter O'Toole Archives Land at HRC
Hello, Mr. Chips
Peter O'Toole archives acquired by UT's Harry Ransom Center

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 22, 2017

More by Matt Martinez
ICE Draws Cool Reception in Austin
ICE Draws Cool Reception in Austin
Immigration comes calling at the jailhouse

June 13, 2008

George H. W. 'The Dude' Bush
George H. W. 'The Dude' Bush
Do the foreign policy debacles of Bush 43 rehabilitate the career of Bush 41?

April 4, 2008


U.S.-Mexico Border, University of Texas, Crime, maquiladoras, juarexz

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle