CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico -- The faces of young women missing in Ciudad Juárez are now imprinted on tortilla paper wrapping. It's the government's way of ensuring this serious problem gets daily attention. But the response may be too little, too late.
In Ciudad Juárez there are dozens upon dozens of mothers living with the nightmare of a disappeared daughter. I've personally met nine of those mothers.
These girls vanished without a trace, almost as if they were swallowed whole by the streets of downtown Juárez. Their families are beside themselves with grief and desperation. Their lives will never be the same.
I remember getting my first flier for a missing girl in late 2008. It was a chilly morning in December and I was covering a protest in a public park near the university in Juárez. Some students of that university approached me and handed me a black and white flier.
The girl in the picture was smiling with dark curls framing a delicate face. Her name: Lidia Ramos Mancha, 17 years old.
“She’s a student at the university. She’s missing,” her fellow students told me. I remember a strange feeling of dread creep into the pit of my stomach.
When I was given that flier, Lidia had only been missing 4 days. This December she will have been missing four years. Her case remains unsolved. Last time I visited her family, Lidia's Christmas present was still waiting for her beside the dresser in her family’s two-room adobe home.
These girls and young women continue to disappear. The most worrisome cases all share similar traits. They are between the ages of 13 and 19. Most come from humble neighborhoods in the far eastern and western edges of the city. All used the “ruta” or bus to get around the city. All had a bus transfer in downtown Juárez, which is where most are believed to have gone missing. Two are university students. The rest are high schoolers who went downtown to look for work and never came back.
One was a teenage mother who disappeared only weeks after her baby was born. She went downtown to look for work so she could afford to buy diapers and milk for her newborn.