Crossed Out

Crosses are common on Mexican roadsides, memorials to fatal wrecks on the country's treacherous highways. But the clusters of pink crosses in Ciudad Juárez memorialize the unsolved murders of some 320 women in Juárez during the past decade. The latest theory says organ traffickers are at work; one body was that of a 6-year-old whose eyes had been cut out. But theory after theory—gangs, bus drivers, now traffickers in body parts—and the body count still rises.

Rigo Maldonado of Santa Ana saw the crosses last year with artists and activists visiting the border town. After touring burial sites and visiting victims' families, Maldonado last November produced "Daughters of Juárez," a multimedia exhibit in Venice. When the show closed, Maldonado took his contribution—320 pink crosses—to Centro Cultural de México in Santa Ana. There, Maldonado produced "Project Juárez," a monthlong series of workshops that ends Saturday with an exhibition of his crosses—now decorated by volunteers as commentaries on the slow-motion massacre. Some crosses are splashed with red paint, or pierced by rusty nails. Others are painted in bright pastels and adorned with sequins and pictures of the women smiling and full of life.

"I made mine pretty—the way any 15-year-old wants all things pretty," said a student from Orange County High School of the Arts, who included a picture of a girl in quinceañera attire.

"I'm going more toward the anger theme right now because I don't think people think how big the loss of their lives is," said Rindi Cullen, another participant.

"People are more aware now," said Victoria Delgadillo, co-organizer of the workshop. "And the hunger to do more is now there."

Once fearful that only artists would join in the exhibit, Maldonado says the large turnout gives him hope that art will lead to specific actions—lobbying legislators and helping such grassroots efforts in Juárez as Banda Civil and Voces sin Eco top the list.

"I guess [ignoring an issue] is just the way humans are when things are really bad," notes Maldonado. "But things change when they realize the immensity of the Juárez murders. After 10 years people are finally starting to pay attention and do some good."

"Project Juárez" shows at the Centro Cultural de México, 1522 S. Main, Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305, Sat., 6-11 p.m. Free.
 
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