Last week Wednesday, a middle-aged woman clad in black and having what is described as either dyed blonde hair or a blonde wig, boarded a bus in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez and shot the bus driver twice in the head. The next day, the black clad vigilante struck again—boarding a bus she proclaimed, “You guys think you’re real tough, don’t you?!” Another bus driver got two bullets to the head.
This person allegedly sent an e-mail to the authorities and media claiming responsibility for the attacks. She signed off as “Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers.” Diana is the Roman goddess of hunting (as well as goddess of the moon and birthing) and is traditionally depicted as being armed with a bow, though this modern Diana clearly prefers a gun. Police have begun a manhunt for the mystery avenger. Juárez bus drivers have decided to stay home rather than take a risk working. But why bus drivers?
Ciudad Juárez (which I paid a short visit to in the late 1990s) is just a stone’s throw from the Texas border by El Paso. In addition to a bloody war between drug cartels, Juárez has suffered from hundreds of their women being brutally murdered. One newspaper (El Diario) says that between 1993 and 2010, 878 victims bodies have been found—many of them raped, mutilated, tortured, and dumped in the desert. The New York Times says over 300 women were murdered in 2010 alone.
Several bus drivers have been arrested and charged with the crimes, having picked up the victims in commutes to factories. Many of the crimes remain unsolved. Local authorities have been accused of victim blaming.
Diana’s message to authorities and media reads, in part:
“I am an instrument to take revenge for several women. Society may think we are weak, but in reality we are brave and if we are not respected, we will make ourselves respected. Juárez women are strong.”
Diana has not claimed association and is not associated with the Real Life Superhero movement. What she is wearing sounds more like a disguise than a costume. But after studying RLSH for so long (and having documented the phenomenon in my book Heroes in the Night), I can’t help but see some parallels, even if her approach is much more extreme.
One similarity is that she is motivated by her environment. Quite a few RLSH are inspired to tackle issues they encounter face-to-face on their streets, which vary drastically. Polar Man, of Iqualiut, a small arctic village in Canada doesn’t face a lot of crime so he spends his spare time shoveling snow for senior citizens and reporting reckless skidoo (snowmobile) drivers. A RLSH named Lion Heart, of Liberia, mainly tries to educate villagers on the dangers of unsafe drinking water. More urban RLSH tend to focus on handing out supplies to the homeless or going on crime patrols. In Ciudad Juárez, there are different priorities.
RLSH say part of what they do is to draw attention to what they do. Diana has also clearly committed these killings with the intention of getting media attention, acting in front of witnesses and sending a message to the media to explain the motive to her actions. In this objective, she was successful—major media around the world has picked up on the story.
Most RLSH don’t endorse vigilantism (and certainly not murder) and neither do I. At this stage of the story, we still have many unanswered questions. Were Diana’s victims actually sex abusers or were they just bus drivers targeted at random? Is vigilantism okay in a city that can’t or won’t protect its own people?
And the biggest question may be– Is Diana a psycho killer or a superhero? I can’t answer that, but to the people of Juárez, she might be a little of both.