By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Aug 16 (EFE).- A 21-year-old member of the Raramuri (or Tarahumara) ethnic group has made history as the first indigenous female state police officer in Chihuahua, an area of northern Mexico that is currently suffering from a wave of organized crime-related violence.
Liliana Moreno Holguin is an inhabitant of Creel, a highland, mostly indigenous town in the southwestern Chihuahua municipality of Bocoyna.
Her first-hand experience with discrimination and the images of violence against women and children and the scourge of addiction that marked her early childhood in the Sierra Tarahumara (part of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range) spurred her to join the state police force.
“I’d experienced discrimination in other jobs. I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I didn’t say anything,” the woman told Efe.
She joined the ranks of the State Public Safety Secretariat in March 2021 and was assigned to be a member of the Policia de Proximidad, a community police force in which she is currently employed.
Moreno Holguin received six months of training at the State Security Complex in Chihuahua city, where she underwent physical and tactical training.
She is making history at a time when a wave of violence has terrorized parts of Ciudad Juarez, where last week a criminal gang sparked a prison uprising that left two inmates dead and later killed nine civilians in fire and arson attacks.
Chihuahua ranked sixth nationwide in total homicides through the first six months of 2022, with 929 registered in the first half of the year.
But Moreno Holguin says the climate of violence will not deter her from her personal objectives and her plans to uplift her community.
“In terms of personal growth, it’s a job for valiant people. And since I want to be brave, I decided to join up,” she said.
Her story is “an example” and evidence that dreams can come true, Simeon Esparza, the Chihuahua state police force’s deputy secretary for police deployment, told Efe.
She “has been an example to all those women, female warriors, women who are an important part” of highland indigenous communities that have become an important region of Chihuahua, he said in an interview.
The presence of indigenous officers like Moreno Holguin also helps improve security conditions for the native population of Chihuahua, whose more than 100,000 members are divided into four main groups: the Guarijios, the Pimas, the Tepehuanes del Norte and the Raramuris.
“They know their community. They know the geographical part, and all of that is value-added for us when it comes time to carry out an operation, to carry out an intervention. Interventions aren’t only at times of crisis or problems,” Esparza added.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), more than 23 million inhabitants of Mexico regard themselves as indigenous, a segment of the population that has been particularly vulnerable to organized crime-related violence and disputes.
In that context, Moreno Holguin says she wants to leverage her position to help reduce high levels of alcoholism and drug addiction and also encourage people to report incidents of violence.
“I’d like for there to be a before and after because getting to this place was really tough,” she added. “Since I was a little girl I said I wanted to be a police officer, and my parents are proud of me.” EFE