Play reveals violence against women in drug-controlled town

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Natalia was a studious girl, intelligent and ambitious.  She was always home by eight o’clock.  One early fall night in the city of Juárez in the municipality of Chihuahua, Mexico, Natalia never returned home to her family, joining the ranks of the approximately 900 women who had been murdered before her between 2005 and 2010.

This is just one of the tragic accounts taken from Humberto Robles’ play, emWomen of Sand/em, which is currently directed by Dr. Christina Marin, theater education professor at Emerson. Amigos will host the show’s second performance at the college on Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the multipurpose room of Piano Row.

The performance follows a lecture Marin will give on Sept. 27, titled “Echoes of Injustice: Performative Activism and the Femicide Plaguing Ciudad Juárez,” in which she’ll discuss her research on Ciudad Juárez through her theatrical endeavors. The events are part of Amigos’ series to celebrate Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month.

emWomen of Sand/em, however, has been Marin’s paramount priority since 2004, when a New York University student first introduced her to the play.

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“Examining it theoretically and artistically, it has become my academic home,” Marin said.

She has been directing it for three years, in New York, Maryland, Chicago, and, last March, Boston for its Emerson debut in the Iwasaki Library.

“I’ve seen the impact that it has,” she said. “It allows people to see this situation through a more human lens.”

The reasons for Marin’s direction of this emotive staged reading are the hundreds of rapes and murders of women that occur in Juárez — and the authorities’ lack of action.  One scene lists recommendations by the Juárez police to the women of the city to supposedly protect them from rape and murder.

This scene offers advice such as having one’s keys handy and not dressing provocatively.  More gruesome advice includes inducing vomiting, so that a sexual predator may become disgusted, and leave the woman alone.

This advice has not proven helpful, Marin said, as the rapes and murders in Juárez continue. Marin promptly voiced her displeasure with these suggestions.

“Nine hundred women have been killed, and this is what they have come up with?”

Marin sees directing this play as a duty to the women of Juárez, and to an audience that probably isn’t aware of the extent of the situation.

“I’ve seen professors sitting in the audience who didn’t know this is happening,” she said.

She believes that showing the play in colleges “multiplies the educational factor of it.”

Kathy Nguyen, a freshman marketing communication student who had seen emWomen of Sand/em at her high school before coming to Emerson, spoke of the sadness she felt as she listened to the reading of the script.

“I really cried to that play,” she said.

Nguyen said she was chilled by a scene in which a young girl was pulled into a white van, raped and tortured, and then killed. The girl’s body was left on the street, a striking symbol of the events unfolding in Juárez.

“It made me more self-conscious and aware,” Nguyen said.

Marin said she wishes that she did not have to fight for human rights such as these, that people would simply treat each other with more love and respect.

But will she continue fighting?

“I will until they stop murdering women in Juárez,” she said.

emLester can be reached at sydney_lester@emerson.edu./em