Thursday, February 26, 2009

bodies on the amole mesa

there are so many things to love about new mexico--the food, the landscape, the weather, the culture, the history, the traditions. there are some abhorrent aspects that balance these things out--the crime, the poverty, high drug use, poor education, and specific attitudes involving culture, history and traditions as they relate to women.

over the past couple of weeks we, here in albuquerque, have heard news reports (but not as many as would seem necessitated) of bodies turning up on the west mesa of town. the west mesa was once a desolate area that has been rapidly developed over the past decade, and by developed i mean that string after string of low-cost housing projects have been plopped onto a landscape that can't even begin to support their water needs, but that will be another post. a single human bone was initially discovered by someone out walking their dog on newly-turned ground in preparation for another "development," and that one bone has morphed into the discovery of TEN TWELVE dead women, one of which was pregnant (thus eleven thirteen bodies).

thirteen bodies found buried on the west mesa. they've pinpointed the burial dates to sometime within the 2004-2006 range. an actual quote from the albuquerque police chief yesterday:
"Several years ago we noticed an increasing number of young women missing in the Albuquerque area, and the fact is we are very proactive and already had the files together of the missing 24 women and we actually already had on file 17 sets of dental records," said Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz.
i guess they can claim they finally found them.

four of the women (one of which was the pregnant one) have been identified (cinnamon elks, juliean nieto, victoria chavez and michelle valdez + child); they all had histories of arrests for prostitution and/or drug usage. because of that, this whole case is being largely dismissed here in new mexico as just one of those things that happen to women here who participate in that kind of lifestyle. i have several significant problems with this: first and foremost, did they actually choose to be prostitutes? i don't have a moral issue with prostitution IF the woman (or man) chooses it for themselves; i have a huge problem with it if it is forced upon them. secondly, i doubt anyone, male or female, chooses to be a drug addict, and i can't even imagine how crushing that addiction is to one's soul. third, these women are being treated as disposable because of their lifestyles. to further this idea, the local news station, KOAT, ran this gem two days ago:
One crime expert says the 10 sets of human remains on the west mesa might be the end product of a "commercial enterprise."

As the body count on Amole Mesa moved from three to six to 10, the case is raising the possibility of a serial killer. While police have not used that term yet, they have indicated they think the remains are the work of a single person, who may or may not be dead.

When he's not teaching communication and journalism at the University of New Mexico, Dirk Gibson studies serial killers and has written a book on the subject with a second book in progress.

Gibson thinks Amole Mesa is the workshop of a commercial serial killer.

"A person who is not motivated by lust -- the traditional FBI profile --not motivated by revenge," he said. "They want to make some money."

Gibson points to a long list of profit-motivated serial killers, ranging from the so-called "black widow" who disposed of husbands for insurance money to mob hitmen who worked on a contract basis.

"My theory is someone knew the west mesa, it was familiar to them, not real close to their home and when they were told 'get rid of some bodies,' it was a good location," Gibson said.

Gibson added he does not think this is the work of a killer seeking 15 minutes of fame.

"This person didn't want the bodies discovered, didn't want the publicity, the clamor, the notoriety," he said.

Gibson said there most likely is no reason for the public to panic. He theorizes those buried on the mesa are victims of opportunity among the homeless or involved in drugs or crime.

this position places yet another filter between "us" and "them" and allows "us" to care just a little bit less about what is going on on the west mesa, i.e. "they" made bad choices and this couldn't happen to "us." i hate to tell you, but at the end of the day honey, "we" are "them" and we had all better care very much about what has happened. from john galsworthy we get the immortal wisdom of soames forsyte, "scratch the surface and you are all the same!" yes, we are. these women had mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, grandparents and children who loved them at one time--they were actually reported missing, which is why the police have those 24 names and 17 sets of dental records they are so proud of.

no woman deserves to be murdered because she is a prostitute or a drug addict.

i won't even comment on the fact that they also ran a news story yesterday saying that police were searching for two other bodies reported to be dumped in the south valley that were unrelated to this particular atrocity. and what is the front page news of the albuquerque journal today? UNM's continuing financial woes. if eleven dead bodies turned up outside of any other major metropolitan city, i have to believe it would be given more attention than this. it is indicative of the attitude towards women in machismo new mexico, particularly women who participate in illicit activities (by choice or forced upon them?), that sends shudders down my spine.

again, no woman deserves to be murdered because she is a prostitute or a drug addict. and i'm not sure i'd be writing this if it were thirteen men found out there. i'd be concerned because of the amount of death, i'm sure, but i probably wouldn't feel as strongly about the social implications of such. i think that might have to be someone else's cause.

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