While the reasons behind feminicides are numerous, these violent crimes often emerge from a source of long-standing gender inequities, which have been thoroughly ingrained in Mexican culture for centuries. Following the emergence of NAFTA in 1994, Juárez became a site to amplify these issues. Seemingly overnight, globalization enabled the city to become a trans-border economic hub. As the local economy grew, so too did its migratory population, which the city was not able to manage. In areas of the city with little-to-no basic services, maquiladoras proliferated. By and large, they use low-cost labor, many of them women. And not only do female workers encounter discrimination at work, but they are faced with long commutes through unsafe neighborhoods. On these desolate bus routes is precisely where La Ruta finds its story.
The thesis of the play emerges just past the halfway mark. As mothers Marisela (Charín Alvarez) and Yolanda (Sandra Delgado) are discussing how the man who murdered Marisela’s daughter admitted to the crime and was acquitted, the women have the following exchange:
MARISELA: They let him go.
MARISELA: Is it?
Perhaps this exchange was amplified by Alvarez’ masterful delivery of the final line, but here is the crux of La Ruta: while these happenings may appear to be out of a horror film, they are, in fact, taking place daily in and around Juarez. This unbelievable world in which men can admit to killing women and not face any backlash or repercussions for their actions is indeed reality.
As previously mentioned, Gomez’s use of music drives the story forward and adds emotional weight to the piece. Led by Desmaya (Laura Crotte) playing the guitar and filling the theatre with unmatched vocals, the music soundscape exists in a dreamlike world in which we are removed from reality. Sound designer Mikhail Fiksel both amplifies Crotte’s voice while at the same time removing it from her body. In fact, in one moment, Crotte’s mouth stops moving as her voice continues to carry through the theatre. The result is haunting and parallels how this woman—and others like her—lives in the shadows. Moreover, Gomez textures the play with traditional songs such as “La Bruja,” “Cielito Lindo,” and “Son Del Obrero”—but whereas these songs are typically sung by men, here women (re)appropriate them—and the stories they tell—as their own, effectively reminding audiences that while men may have written these songs and created the living hell in which the play takes place, ultimately women’s voices are the ones at the center and will be the ones to truly enact change.
Not only do female workers encounter discrimination at work, but they are faced with long commutes through unsafe neighborhoods. On these desolate bus routes is precisely where La Ruta finds its story.
The machista culture that Gomez’s critiques in his playwright’s note is fully disrupted in these moments. As the play progresses and more women join las desaparecidas, the songs are filled with a plurality of voices in addition to Crotte. This ghostly multitude follows characters through the desert as they pay homage to the fallen at the pink crosses representing Campo Algodonero, smartly designed by Regina García. While they have disappeared, these women are ever-present. This is further evidenced, again by García, through a faded desert landscape complete with missing person flyers with women’s faces pasted onto sandy concrete walls. At strategic moments, Rasean Davonte Johnson’s projections add weight to the production. The joy that projections of Fourth of July fireworks in El Paso bring to the young women turns tragic as projections of the disappeareds’ faces fill the stage once it is revealed that both Brenda and Ivonne have been murdered.