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by Teresa Rodríguez, Diane Montane, Lisa Pulitzer, AARP VIVA, Summer 2008
En español | Hundreds of women and girls have been abducted, raped, tortured, and killed in Juárez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Teresa Rodríguez wanted to know who, why, and at whose hand.
An excerpt from her investigative work, The Daughters of Juárez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border, follows.
From Chapter 1, “A Corpse in the Sand”
Ramona was forever worrying about her pretty child because, at sixteen, Silvia was far too trusting and possessed a naïve confidence in her ability to protect herself.
“Take care,” Ramona had repeatedly admonished the teen. “Girls are disappearing.”
“They can’t do anything to me,” Silvia always replied; it was the typical response of a sixteen-year-old girl who believed she was invincible.
It was just after 9 p.m. when Ramona stepped up to the door of the arriving bus, a blue and white version of the bright yellow school buses ridden by children in the United States. She watched the weary passengers get off, waiting to see her daughter. But as the last traveler descended the steps, there was no sign of Silvia.
She must have stopped to chat with friends while waiting for her connection at the bus transfer site downtown, Ramona thought. Most of the city’s buses stopped at the site, marked by an enormous statue of Benito Juárez García, the Mexican revolutionary war hero and former Mexican president for whom the city was named. The eight-foot-tall statue, which stood atop a large pedestal base, was made of white Carrara marble, black Durango marble, and stone quarried from Chihuahua. It stood at the center of a four-city-block park dotted by grassy patches and a few benches. Teens gathered there to play ball and bus passengers waited there for connections; it was there that Silvia made her daily transfer from one bus to another. The Moraleses lived along the Route 30 line, which traveled between the downtown district and the Juárez Airport.
Standing alone on the dark, deserted road, Ramona watched as the nine fifteen bus came and left. So did the nine thirty and ten o’clock buses. With each passing bus, Ramona’s heart raced a little faster. Wild thoughts were flashing through her mind as she tried to talk herself into staying calm. She didn’t want to think about danger. She didn’t want to think of the newspaper articles about the missing girls. She just wanted to see Silvia’s face.
By 10:30 p.m., she was in a panic. Frozen with fear, she continued to stand at the bus stop. Silvia would show up, Ramona told herself.
At 1 a.m., the last bus for the night made its stop—the final trip on the line. Silvia was not among the passengers descending the steps. Ramona watched helplessly as the driver shut the empty bus’s doors and pulled away. She felt dizzy from the dust and diesel fumes; she couldn’t seem to catch her breath as she raced home. Once there, she tried to wake her husband. But Angel was not well. Diagnosed with a tumor in his lung, he was growing increasingly weak and was not easily roused from sleep.
After pacing the bedroom for several minutes debating what to do, Ramona ran out the front door and down the street to a neighbor’s home. Her friend Sandra lived a few houses away; she had a brother-in-law who was a captain in the Juárez Police Department.
Oblivious to the time, Ramona banged on Sandra’s door. She had barely blurted out the words before Sandra was on the phone to the local hospitals and then the Red Cross. Next she dialed her brother-in-law, the police captain.
“Silvia Morales is missing,” Ramona heard her friend speak into the receiver. Could he please mobilize some forces?
Following the loss of her husband, Univision anchor Teresa Rodríguez faced down grief and, with her sons, redefined what it means to be a family. Today, her sons are heading out on their own, and Rodríguez has a new book and a new fiancé. Don't miss AARP Segunda Juventud's riveting cover story on Teresa Rodríguez, here.
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