In early September of this year the photo image of Nidia Iveth Sánchez Bautista appeared on newspapers in the small, extremely poor Central American nation of El Salvador. The Humanitarian Affairs section of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of El Salvador had released the image and name of Nidia, an undocumented Salvadoran citizen living in Texas, and was searching for family members in El Salvador.
This is often the only way a government in highly underdeveloped third world countries, where social infrastructure for the impoverished barely exists, can locate its poor citizens. These notices are never the bearers of happy news.
In the early morning hours of Friday, August 20, the body of a woman was discovered by construction workers at a job site along an unlit stretch of Bulverde road on the far north side of San Antonio, Tx.
The body, fully clothed and still wearing a pair of sandals, was lying face down in full view 20 feet from the roadway. She had been shot three times in the head and back. She was unidentified, with no wallet or purse at the crime scene.
If this was Monterrey or Tamaulipas, Sinaloa or Ciudad Juarez, the murder would have been immediately labeled as an execution linked to organized crime, another statistic to add to the more than 29,000 deaths in the wave of violence that has overtaken Mexico since President Calderon declared war on the drug cartels in December 2006.
But this murder occurred in the United States, ironically, on a dark road only a few miles from the Stone Oak section of San Antonio, a high end residential area also known as “little Monterrey” due to the high number of wealthy expatriate Monterrey residents who have acquired homes there to escape the violence and insecurity of their “ciudad de las montañas”.
On Monday, October 11, the San Antonio media the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office identified the woman as 30-year-old Nidia Iveth Sanchez from El Salvador after her next of kin were finally located in that country and confirmed here identity.
The Medical Examiner's Office also confirmed that Sanchez was killed by gunshot wounds to her head and body and ruled the death a homicide.
The San Antonio Express & News, the city newspaper, located and interviewed several of Nidia’s friends and provided a summary of the poor, undocumented Salvadoran’s life.
“She was a mother of three who arrived in San Antonio several years ago. Some say she left her town because of an altercation with the Mara Salvatrucha, a violent gang also known as MS-13. Others said she came to San Antonio to accumulate $14,000 for her son's heart surgery.
Like anyone living far from home, Sanchez surrounded herself with tokens of familiarity, frequenting a Honduran restaurant, befriending other Central American immigrants who had carved out hardscrabble lives. El Salvador was a daily topic of conversation, friends said, as well as the family she'd left there.
Sanchez liked Mexican soap operas and dragged her friends to scary movies.
“She was just a good person,” said a man who asked that his name not be used. “She used to ask about my family, and I would ask about hers. She was very sweet.”
Sanchez worked odd jobs, first as a housekeeper and later as a waitress and nanny, friends said. When she had extra cash, she was a fixture at the dimly lit bar, drinking Dos Equis beer and dancing to reggaeton.
“She loved to dance,” Sandra said.
There are quiet rumors that she was killed by a spurned lover and even softer whispers that she was mixed up with a human trafficker. She had cryptically told friends she was going to Houston because of an argument with her boyfriend.
Investigators will say only that Sanchez had associated with people who “were involved in drugs.” Her friends deny it.
For now, it seems, her death remains a mystery.”
“Femicide”: The sanctioned killing of women.
Femicide is a stigma now permanently attached to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Many hundreds of women, some residents of Juarez state the number is closer to 5,000, have been abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in Juarez since the early 1990’s.
Two common denominators in these crimes were the depravity of the murders and the indifference of the local authorities in investigating and stopping them. In the last few years since the escalation of drug cartel war violence in Mexico, the nature of the femicides has also changed.
Instead of the sexual crime killings of the past, today’s femicides are mostly execution style killings linked to the fight between rival drug gangs.
Gabriel Rodríguez Leos, a criminologist from the state of Nuevo Leon, explains that “research shows that today’s female victims are for the most part connected to criminals either through sentimental and sexual relationships and are not active participants in the world of organized crime.”
“Some are killed by rival criminal gangs for simply being a wife or girlfriend of an enemy” he added, “A woman will appear linked with organized crime because she is dragged into that world by her husband or boyfriend, but not be an active participant. Rival criminals are killing the women for revenge against their enemies because it is easier to find the girlfriend, wife, daughter who are most vulnerable."
Rodriguez added that a few women hold low level roles such as lookouts and mules, or as guards and cooks in kidnapping rings. “It is very rare to find a woman as an assassin. Their roles as such is greatly exaggerated.”
Nidia, powerless and alone, died thousands of miles away from home, a victim like the women described in Gabriel Rodriguez’s research. She is a symbol for the many nameless women who have been murdered in Mexico’s, and the U.S.'s, drug war.
On Tuesday , October 12, six women were murdered in Ciudad Juarez. Most remained unidentified. One of these women was shot 35 times by a group of gunmen that invaded her home.
Sources used for this article:
San Antonio Express & News
El Diario de Juarez