Rosario Acosta: Justice for Lost Daughters

Rosario Acosta
Photo: Rosaria Acosta

For Rosario Acosta, a personal tragedy changed her life’s direction, turning this former accountant into an advocate for social justice.

Over the past 10 years, the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, has been turned upside down by the disappearances of more than 450 girls and wo-men and the murders of at least 300. But despite these staggering numbers, victims’ families insist that the authorities have failed to fully investigate, prosecute, and prevent these crimes. 
One group—Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (May Our Daughters Return Home)—co-founded by Rosario Acosta, a 40-year-old mother of three, has set out to change this.

Acosta’s dedication to Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa grew out of per-sonal experience. In 1997, her 10-year-old niece was abducted and murdered. Acosta, troubled by the lack of attention given to her niece’s case, left her job as an accountant to help found Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa. 

In a letter posted on her organization’s Web site, Acosta recently wrote, “The loss of our daughters devastated us, but we have been even more devastated by the lack of respect, the lack of sensitivity, and the lack of truthfulness from our institutions.” She pointed to the state and country’s “obsolete and inoperative justice system,” in which “a 72-hour waiting period is necessary before anyone can formally initiate a search for our daughters when they are reported missing,” along with widespread poverty—which forces girls to take jobs with maquiladoras, foreign-owned factories that employ Mexican workers with little pay and few protections—as the predominant problems that need to be addressed. 

Acosta travels widely to get her message across. She regularly visits Mexico City to press government officials, legislators, and members of the National Human Rights Commission to pay more attention to the situation in Ciudad Juárez, and has come to the United States to do the same. When she is not working, Acosta says she spends her time chauffeuring her daughters from place to place. She told WPR that because so many of the victims have disappeared on their way to or from work or school, she doesn’t feel comfortable letting her daughters walk or take public transportation.

Acosta appears not to be dissuaded by the uphill battle she faces. Seeing good in a terrible situation, she told WPR that losing her niece has made her more keenly aware of the value of life and that she has learned a tremendous amount from the brave mothers she works with. Her work is as important as ever: In the first month and a half of 2003, 18 new disappearances were reported.