Photo: Erika Gandara
After becoming the only police officer in the village of Guadalupe in northern Mexico this summer, 28-year-old Erika Gándara has gone missing.
Late last week, Gándara was taken from her home, and a dozen gunmen burned her house down, and lit two cars outside her home on fire. While local media is saying she has been kidnapped, her family has not yet filed a kidnap complaint. That same day, a fire was also set at the home of a Guadalupe councilwoman.
Monday, a missing person search officially began for Gándara who, until recently, was only a dispatcher for the police department. After 12 other officers were either killed or quit due to the fear of retaliation from the areas ruthless drug cartels, Gándara stepped up. She admitted she was frightened, but said someone had to try to protect the town, so she continued to patrol the ranch settlements with an assault rifle over her shoulder and a pistol in her hand. She was just one in the growing number of women taking over policing responsibilities in Mexico’s town.
“Lots of people here believe the police are corrupt and on the take,” Gándara said in November. “I do not believe in that because I think where the money is easy, death is going to get you in a hurry.”
With few people willing to take up the policing duties in these towns, women like Gándara and Marisol Valles Garcia—the 20-year-old criminology student and new police chief of nearby Praxedis Guerrero—are stepping up to try to make a difference, though clearly facing daily dangers.