María Elena Chávez Caldera

María Elena Chávez Caldera

María Elena Chávez Caldera (1985–2000) was a teenager who gained fame after her death. She is one of the femicide victims of a still unidentified serial killer (or killers) in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, or, as they say in Spanish, "una mujer de Juárez" – one of the "women of Juárez".


María Elena Chávez Caldera was an economically poor young woman who used to study and work at the same time, to help support her family.

Her family lives under extremely poor conditions; During a visit by a Mexican-American woman after her death, many American citizens found out that the Chávez Caldera's could not even afford a typical kitchen, as they have to cook with old cooking instruments.

Chávez Caldera worked as a maid for a family near the place where her body was found. She worked off and on for different maquiladoras which she often doubled as a "maquiladora" worker, or someone who works at a big manufacturer, of which there are plenty in Ciudad Juárez.

María Elena was kidnapped, under circumstances that are still unclear, in 2000. The last place she was seen was at the home of her employer. Maria Elena was a maid for a family, however, the head of the family is a former prison warden of the famous prison in Chihuahua called, "El Cerezo."

When she was kidnapped, the mystery of the Ciudad Juárez murders was already making news headlines in the United States and in other parts of the world. In fact a feature length film called, [ Missing Woman] by Lourdes Portillo was shooting in the area of Anapra where Maria Elena was from. Maria Elena's sister at the time was 10 years old and she is featured in the movie saying, no, I have never met anyone who has been murdered in Cd. Juarez. Shortly after this interview her sister Maria Elena went missing and Fliers of Maria Elena being handed out everywhere in Juarez are depicted in the film. Her body was found either on October 24 or November 20 of that year; her remains could not be identified at the time.

Her mother, Julia, could not bear the thought of her daughter being kidnapped and murdered. For four years, Julia Caldera hung on to the belief that a rich man from the United States had fallen in love with her daughter, taken her across the international border line and given her a much better life than the Chávez Calderas could afford to.

When María Elena Chávez Caldera's body was found, Julia Caldera was asked to go to a site to identify some remains. She could identify her daughter's clothes, but not her remains, since they had turned into a skeleton by then.

Julia Caldera ordered for further exams to be carried on the skeletal remains found. The first two DNA tests performed proved inconclusive. By 2004, however, a prosecutor had been assigned to investigate the deaths of women in Juárez, which is across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas. However, speculation about police tampering with evidence was a rumor that people were very much into believing at the time and by the time police found a body Julia Caldera and Daniel Chavez, the parents of Maria Elena decided that they wanted DNA evidence stating these were actually the remains of their daughter. Because they were poor and uneducated, they were unaware that they could have asked for a full rape kit, or DNA evidence of who killed Maria Elena if this was the body, but instead they are in their 4th DNA tests now of just trying to confirm this is the body.

The specially assigned prosecutor from the federal attorney-general's office "(Procuraduría General)", Ángela Talavera Lozoya, had to inform the family that a third DNA test had identified the skeletal remains found in 2000 as belonging to María Elena Chávez Caldera.

Ever since, the girl's face has become sort of a symbol; she has become the victim that many people think about the most when talking about the deaths in Juárez. This is in part due to her photo being used as the cover of a book entitled "De este lado del puente" ("From This Side of the Bridge"), written by Isabel Vericat. Also, her sister, Brenda Caldera Chávez, was interviewed for a Docu-film, Lourdes Portillo's "Señorita Extraviada" ("Missing Woman"), which detailed the case of María Elena's death prominently.

ee also

*Female homicides in Ciudad Juárez

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