In Mexico, tortillas carry a message

Juarez tortilla shops urge customers to report missing women

POSTED: 08:52 AM MST Nov 14, 2012    UPDATED: 06:39 PM MDT Mar 10, 2014 
JUAREZ, Mexico -

A border state in northern Mexico has launched a campaign it hopes will be more effective than photos on milk cartons to help find missing women and children: It's using advertisements on tortilla wrappers.
    
At least three dozen tortilla shops have joined in the Chihuahua state campaign to print appeals for help on the thin paper wrappers that shopkeepers use to wrap up a pound or two of hot tortillas at a time.
    
"The disappearances in Juarez have to disappear," the ads read. They are accompanied by photos of "disappeared" people: a woman's bodiless clothing walks down a street appearing to hold a shopping bag; a little girl's shoes and socks stand on a curbside.
    
The wrappers include a phone number for reporting disappearances or sightings of missing people.
    
The campaign started this week, and has been welcomed by shopkeepers and customers in the violence-wracked border city of Ciudad Juarez, which is across from El Paso, Texas.
    
"The truth is a lot of people don't know about the missing young women - we are always the last to find out - so I think the governor had a good idea when he started this campaign to help families find missing people," said the owner of a Ciudad Juarez tortilla shop who did not want her identity revealed for fear of retaliation or extortion from the city's gangs.
    
Ciudad Juarez was hit by a series of eerily similar kidnap-killings of more than 100 mainly young women beginning in 1993. While those cases have tapered off, killings and disappearances continue.
    
A customer at the tortilla shop, who also didn't want her identity revealed, said the campaign could help.
    
"A lot of people don't have any way to watch TV or read the newspapers, they don't see the news, so this way they would at least know who to call or what to do in the case of a disappearance," she said.
    
Silvia Najera, spokeswoman for the Chihuahua state special prosecutor's office for crimes against women, said a total of 341 women had been officially reported missing since 1995. Of those, 316 have been found either dead or alive, while 25 cases remain open.
    
Women's rights activist Vicky Caraveo said she believes the women's killings of the 1990s and early 2000s haven't ended.  Carveo said women matching the same profile of those earlier victims continue to disappear.