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The Red Note podcast's investigative team talks with Lado B about Mexico's femicide crisis

Lado B, the Mexico-based news and information website, spoke with investigator Alicia Fernandez and director Craig Whitney from The Red Note last week to discuss their goals in making the podcast and its examination of Mexico's ongoing femicide crisis.

A full translation of Lado B's interview with The Red Note podcast's creative team is posted below.

Click on the following link to read the original Spanish article on Lado B's website: La Nota Roja: tras casi 30 años, la crisis de feminicidios en Ciudad Juárez continúa


The Red Note: after almost 30 years, the femicide crisis in Ciudad Juárez continues

This serial podcast tells what happened when the border city became the epicenter of feminicide worldwide and explains the causes of impunity that surround the hundreds of cases of murdered or disappeared women.

By Lado B Staff

An armed group opens fire next to the Ciudad Juárez Women's Institute, where journalists are conducting an interview. Everyone freezes, unsure of what they hear, until the sound of gunshots and broken glass dispels doubts.

A tearful young woman seeking help worries that her sicario boyfriend had followed her for revenge; the team of journalists is concerned that the shooting is a warning to end their investigation.

Thus begins The Red Note, the ten-chapter serial podcast - narrated and produced by Lydia Cacho - that seeks to account for the conditions that put Ciudad Juárez on the world map as the most dangerous city in the world, and turned it into the epicenter of femicides nationwide since the 1990s.

In an interview for LADO B, Craig Whitney, director of the podcast, and Alicia Fernández, one of the reporters involved, spoke about the importance of having the perspective of the victims and their families; as well as the context of the problem, because by understanding it you can aspire to a solution.

Explaining the "pandemic"

January 1993. The Chihuahua state police discovered the body of a woman in the desert, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez.

February 2001. Lilia Alejandra García Andrade left her job in a maquiladora, but never made it home. A week later she was found murdered.

January-October 2020. 19 femicides have been registered in Ciudad Juárez and 556 throughout the country, according to the National Public Security System (SNSP).

The dead (or rather, murdered) in Juárez continue to grow in number every year, every month, every day.

For Craig Whitney, the femicide crisis in Mexico could well be considered a pandemic and, as such, needs to be studied and understood to prevent its spread.

“When we study Juárez, we are studying the beginning of the femicide crisis in Mexico. It is important to understand why this phenomenon [happened] in [Ciudad] Juárez [to understand the national crisis],” he says in an interview for LADO B.

"It is not an exclusive problem of Chihuahua", affirms Alicia Fernández. The journalist assures that the patriarchal culture that has allowed the murder of women in a systematic way is a global problem. "It is a world culture (...) accentuated with very specific problems, such as those addressed in [the podcast]," she adds. Thus, Ciudad Juárez and its history become the key to finding the culprits, because in reality it is a group of forces that bear the responsibility for the crisis of femicides in Mexico. In this way, Craig and Alicia consider that the impunity for past and current crimes in Ciudad Juárez are due to a systemic problem.

“Criminal groups are a very important factor, but (…) it would not be so great if there is no corruption (…). So it's a factor, but the combination of factors is more responsible,” says Craig.

Contextualize to understand and solve

For Alicia Fernández, the contextualization of the situation in Juárez is the key not only to explaining femicides, disappearances and human trafficking, but also to get those who see violence from the outside involved in the search for justice.

The journalist, originally from Ciudad Juárez, says that many people ignored the complaints of the victims' families because they believed that amplifying the issue of femicides and disappearances contributed to the city being identified as inherently bad, or to stigmatize their habitants.

However, Fernández considers that the analysis and education on this problem allow us to understand that it is related to various factors, that is, it is not exclusive to Ciudad Juárez or its inhabitants; so more people decide to do something about it. She sees this research as a way of explaining to her younger self what was happening in the city she was growing up in:

“It seemed to me that it was important that we join forces to be able, together, to extract [an investigation] that is contextualizing a problem that has already been established. Because many times you only hear a note (…) and you don't hear a whole contextualization that tells you and explains a little [about] how this whole question arises (…) for me [this podcast] means explaining to that teenager what was happening".

Empathy through voices: the power of the podcast

Likewise, the The Red Note team hopes that by telling the stories of the families who are victims of femicide, disappearances, or trafficking, society will have more empathy with the cases and can understand why these people have demanded, for years, a better system of Justice; understand your frustration at not being heard.

The podcast listens to Norma Andrade, mother of Lilia Alejandra García, who says that for the mothers of the murdered young women there is no justice: “one believes that the authority is there to help her, to support her, to really investigate who murdered our daughters, and you really realize that this is not true ”.

And this is just the thing to listen to: the voices of the victims' families, because when you listen to them, "it's impossible not to have empathy," says Whitney.

In addition, Alicia adds that “right now is an interesting moment in which the problem is being made visible with a new generation of girls. There are voices rising up, I think that is important for people to understand what is happening ”.

In this sense, the director of The Red Note considers that the podcast is a format that has allowed the stories of the victims and their families to reach a wider audience and other parts of the world. This format "is a very democratic way [to tell a story]," he says.

Now, Craig says, what's next for the team is a feature-length narrative film to tackle all the stories they've told on the podcast.

The Red Note is a ten episode podcast available in Spanish and English. It is directed by Craig Whitney, produced by Estefanía Bonilla and narrated by Lydia Cacho. You can listen to it on Spotify, by clicking here, or on the Apple Podcast here.

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