Riding pink motorbikes, the female “Warriors” club races through the streets of Ciudad Juarez on a mission to help the poorest residents of Mexico’s most deadly city. By day, they are police officers, factory workers or housewives, but on Sundays the team of 10 women don black leathers, rev up their bikes and distribute food and medicine across the city shaken by violence and crime.
In recent years, economic and social tensions have worsened in the notorious city, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Empty houses, closed businesses and military patrols are now part of the landscape. “During the week, we look out for people who might need help: single mothers or elderly people living alone. At the weekend, we do their shopping for them,” said Lorenia Granados, president of the “Guerreras,” or “Warriors.”
“When we created our club, we wanted to do something different. We didn’t want to get together and simply drink, like other bikers do. And we came up with this idea of helping people,” Granados told AFP. At the heart of the country’s relentless drug violence, more than 8,100 people have died in suspected drug-related attacks in Ciudad Juarez since 2008.
Some 100,000 workers in low-cost factories known as “maquiladoras” lost their jobs during the economic crisis, and around 150,000 families in the city of some 1.3 million could not afford basics such as food and medicine in 2010, according to the Solidarity Ministry. The federal government launched a 3.3 billion peso (300 million dollar) plan called Todos Somos Juarez (We’re All Juarez) over a year ago, aiming to reduce the city’s social problems, but the situation has barely improved. And private initiatives, such as the Guerreras set up two years ago, are rare.
The club has targeted single mothers because of their extreme vulnerability. “The men leave home due to the violence or unemployment and leave the women alone, at home, with their children. They don’t even know where to seek help,” Granados said. The Guerreras fill up their shopping carts with basic items like pasta, salt and diapers, spending between 120 and 160 pesos (10 and 15 dollars) from their own pockets, as they try to attract private donations. The supplies are a welcome gift for Cecilia Carillo de Santiago, who lives with her six children and a skinny dog in one room which serves as a bedroom and kitchen in a dusty, quiet neighborhood. Since finishing a contract with the Red Cross, she has been looking for another job for the past six months.
Carillo apologized for the stifling heat, pointing to a pan of peas boiling on the stove. “That’s all that’s left for dinner. You’ve come at a really good time,” she said to one of the Guerreras, smiling broadly. Isabel Lucero, a co-founder of the motorbike club, said it was an obvious choice to help some of the desperate people in Ciudad Juarez. “Giving to someone in need helps your personal development and sets an example for children. I hope that one day these children will become good people, who will help others.” Local media call the women “female Robin Hoods”, but they just see themselves as a different kind of motorbike club.
“We try to bring a bit of joy to those who have nothing. We want to bring some good news to Ciudad Juarez,” Lucero said.