Conexión Migrante takes an in-depth look at The Red Note podcast with director Craig Whitney
Conexión Migrante, an online publication serving the Mexican and Latino community in the United States, spoke with The Red Note podcast's director, Craig Whitney, last week for an in-depth looking behind the making of the podcast and the ideas that inspired the project.
A full translation of Craig's interview with Conexión Migrante about The Red Note podcast is reproduced below.
Click on the following link to read the original Spanish article on Conexión Migrante's website: La Nota Roja: una historia oral sobre los feminicidios en Ciudad Juárez
The Red Note: an oral history of femicides in Ciudad Juárez
By Diana Hernandez / Conexión Migrante
This story about the femicides in Ciudad Juárez is full of voices from those who continue to demand justice for all the murdered women.
Currently, in Mexico there are about 10 femicides per day. Guanajuato, Michoacán and the State of Mexico are some of the most dangerous regions of the country for women. However, there is a place where the murder of hundreds of young people marked a watershed in national history.
For a time, Ciudad Juárez was known as the most dangerous city in the world. In this border scenario, where drugs, weapons, violence, but also joy and hope converge, several crosses are erected in memory of “the dead of Juárez”.
This series of murders, which only highlights the femicide crisis in Mexico, is the central theme of The Red Note. The Red Note is a podcast directed by Craig Whitney, a screenwriter and film director from the USA.
Mexican journalists Lydia Cacho and Alicia Fernandez also collaborate in this project. Similarly, the voices of academics, government officials, civil society organizations and relatives of the murdered women are collected. This diverse group has the same objective: to tell the story of those young women whose lives go beyond a figure or a body buried in the desert.
Conexión Migrante interviewed Craig Whitney to learn more about this project and the complex problem it seeks to unravel.
An artificial border
The femicide crisis that hit Ciudad Juárez in the 1990s has its origins in different phenomena, each with its own degree of complexity. Therefore, it is impossible to single out a single culprit. This is how director Craig Whitney puts it:
“This problem is very complicated. To understand it, it is important to understand the connection between machismo, criminal groups, corruption, globalization, arms trafficking, human trafficking ... even the infrastructure in Ciudad Juárez. Everything is a part of the problem”.
Faced with this web, the most important thing is to consider the multiple perspectives or points of view that there are in this regard. Especially when talking about a border territory. And, in this space with one foot in the USA and the other in Mexico, there are constant struggles between different power groups.
These groups are not just drug cartels. Large companies and governments also try to build maquiladoras or perpetrate their acts of corruption in this disputed territory. But Ciudad Juárez doesn't just come down to this:
“For me, from the United States, and for many people who are also from there, the world of Juárez is very different from the life of our country. But also for the people of Mexico it is a very different life from other parts of their country, from the language to the culture,” explains Whitney.
Therefore, he adds, the border that exists between El Paso and Juárez is nothing more than an artificial border. There, people's lives have their own way of working. His own way of generating hope and resistance in the face of this whirlwind of crimes that did not end 25 years ago, but continue to leave their mark.
Hence the importance of The Red Note starting by talking about the configuration of the border. Only in this way can we understand why it takes more than one voice to tell this story. We also understand why the podcast, with that freedom that the pages of a newspaper do not grant, is the ideal space to do so. The Red Note: the lives behind the crimes
In considering this range of realities, Craig Whitney and his team decided to address the issue of the "dead in Juárez" by showing what happens beyond the tragedy:
“Of a woman who lives 20 years, her murder is only a small part of her life. The dead in Juárez are not just bodies in the desert: they are people with dreams, work, with a family... " For this reason, his podcast does not only talk about deaths, murders or drug cartels. It also speaks of the people who live in a city during the most violent years in Mexico. During the femicides. During endless investigations in which the authorities repeat the same words over and over again.
"The research methods remain the same," notes Whitney. These methods do not consider the multiple perspectives of the problem that are addressed by those who participate in The Red Note. Therefore, the solutions are not very comprehensive with the victims, with their families and with the situation in all of Ciudad Juárez.
While "there are no vaccines for femicide," as Whitney himself puts it, the problem needs to be explored from different angles. It must be seen beyond isolated cases or murders. Hence this project is called The Red Note.
Surely, those who live in Mexico are familiar with the tabloid newspapers that publish these types of notes.
On the first page there is a bloody body. At the end there are pictures of soccer players and, in the middle pages, women in bikinis. Nothing about the past of the victims of femicides or violent crimes. Nor about the complex apparatus behind them.
“There is no curiosity about the lives of the victims or about the circumstances of their deaths. In a sense, this podcast is an answer to this perspective: do you want to see a red note? Here it is. It is much more complicated than the photo of a body in the street." The fight does not end here
Craig Whitney says that as sad as it is to hear the stories about the victims, The Red Note is also a story full of surreal and hopeful moments:
"It is impossible not to be inspired when you are talking to the families and you notice their determination to do justice to their daughters."
The same happens with the collectives and civil society groups that fight to stop the deaths of women in Ciudad Juárez.
The voices of these people offer very beautiful moments, full of hope and happiness in the middle of very hard stories that people can hear on the podcast. All this is a break for the listeners during the 8 hours in which the history of the femicides in Juárez is examined.
For those interested in listening to this narration, The Red Note is available in two versions: one in English and the other in Spanish. In each one of them, you will be able to listen to the oral history about "the dead of Juárez" throughout 10 chapters of between 40 and 50 minutes.
You can download it on the platform you want. If you want to support the project, write a review on the Apple Podcast so that The Red Note continues to spread. Or simply share it with your acquaintances. Because talking about the victims is giving their families a voice, a face and hope.