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‘City Of Omens’ Examines Dangers Facing Women In Tijuana

 June 25, 2019 at 10:29 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Drug cartel violence and addiction across the border are often viewed as a largely male issue, but nearly two generations of women into wanna have been caught up in that violence and the hard choices they face. Battling poverty and illness experts have called the phenomenon of dead and missing women at the border of femicide. You've CSD, epidemiologist in we're up has been on a quest to find what's behind the femicide is research and conclusions are in his new book called City of Omens. A search for the missing women of the borderlands and Dan were up joins me now. Dan, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. You first started conducting research into wanna in 2013 which was primarily focused on the HIV epidemic. What led you to look at issues facing women into one a more broadly Speaker 2: 00:51 so as an epidemiologist, you know, my job is to track epidemics to understand them and then hopefully work to try to prevent them. I came down to Tijuana to do research primarily on HIV as you said, cause that's what I was trained in. But when I got to HIV, I, it became abundantly clear to me early on that HIV was only one of the, what I describe as epidemics, uh, facing marginalized people living in Tijuana who were primarily and disproportionately women working in the sex trade and women who were injecting drugs. And often those two groups were overlapping, Speaker 1: 01:28 overlapping and also pressured by a number of different, yeah, Speaker 2: 01:32 yeah, absolutely. So, you know, what struck me immediately was the level of law enforcement and you know, this was people being roused from where they might be sleeping on the street or in the canal or you know, stories are really horrific stories of extortion, physical and sexual assault at the hands of police. But you know, when you start looking at the issues, it seems like the structures just keep getting higher and higher. So, you know, it's not just that the police are victimizing women, but that on the other side it's the cartels and when it's not the cartels, it's clients and when it's not any of those, it's the, the way that the border has hardened, which has made cross border traffic tourism to Tijuana, much more difficult and left women in a much more economically vulnerable situations. Speaker 1: 02:22 The homicide rate in Tijuana is skyrocketing once again. How is that affecting the city's female population? Speaker 2: 02:29 So as you said in the intro, it seemed, you know, we often think of the homicide rate is, you know, driven primarily by the drug trade and, and almost entirely among men. However, what I've noticed is that, you know, looking at the statistics over the past 30 years or so until wanna is that not only has the homicide or the murder rate, I should say in the city increased, but the proportion of women who are being murdered is also increasing. So recently, 2007 the murder rate among women was 1.8 per hundred thousand. But in the last few years it's increased to as many as 40 per hundred thousand. Speaker 1: 03:10 What does the title of Your Book City Bowman's mean? Speaker 2: 03:13 As an epidemiologist, I look at a number of different risk factors and some of them are, you know, engagement with police and some are as sort of distant as where people are living or where they came from and the kinds of jobs that they had. I'm always trying to think of ways to better communicate the kind of science that I do. And these risk factors to me often seem like omens. They might seem like sort of instinctive ways to follow a narrative that can lead you if you understand them correctly, to a certain kind of truth. Speaker 1: 03:47 And all of this that you've compiled to all of these factors that lead to increasing danger for the women in Tijuana in particular. Are there any signs of positive change? Speaker 2: 03:59 I am a natural optimist, so I always try to look for the bright sides. And really I think the struggle is to identify for individual women what their potential pathway out of their current situation is. So for some women that I interviewed in the book, they were able to navigate through the sex trade, avoid the drug trade, which is a major, an increasing source of income for women and also a violence and death and find a, uh, you know, a landing spot within Tijuana's economy. But that's not the case for everyone. And I think it wouldn't honor the women that I bet shared their stories with me to just suggest that there's a simple solution. What I do think is that increasing the militarization of the border, just assuming that we can punt our concerns about migration and immigration over the border and think that they're going to go away is a recipe for disaster for, you know, marginalized women for women who, um, historically have been working in the sex trade to serve American tourists and have now effectively been abandoned. So I think we have a duty to, to at least understand their stories and hopefully work towards policies that recognize the imbalance at the border and the vulnerability that we can produce, um, through our border policies. Speaker 1: 05:20 I've been speaking with Dan [inaudible] and he'll be speaking about his book, City Omens, a search for the missing women of the borderlands tonight at Warwick's bookstore in La Jolla and Dan. Thank you. Thanks, Ron. Speaker 3: 05:37 Yeah.

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Author and UCSD epidemiologist Dan Werb will be speaking about his new book "City of Omens: A Search For The Missing Women of the Borderlands," Tuesday at Warwick's.
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