Diana Washington Valdez is a daring journalist who has dedicated her life to serving the public and truth through her work. Her books, news articles, essays, blogs, and collaborations with documentaries have provided a resounding voice to the powerless.
She is known globally for her research work focusing on the dishonorable death spree of women that started in 1993 in Juarez city, in Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The book she wrote titled: “The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women” was published in the year 2006 by Peace at the Border and was later released in 2007. However, there was an earlier version of the book published in Spanish in 2005 by Oceano under the title of “Cosecha de Mujeres.” Drawn before the public, it exposed high-level corruption linked to the women’s assassinations, the drug cartel in Juarez and Mexico’s famous “dirty war.”
She continued investigating even when she was threatened
The reporter faced serious threats from corrupted police and some very prominent people due to her newspaper investigation into the murders (she also faced a narrow escape from being arrested in Mexico). She answered back by broadening her investigation into a book, she wrote articles for foreign media and blogs also by collaborating in various documentaries.
In El Paso, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official, named Sandy Gonzalez, told Klaus Wollstein the German filmmaker that “Diana’s life is in danger” because of her investigative research. She was named “a witness to the truth” by a former Federal Bureau of Investigation official, Frank Evans. Her groundbreaking and scrupulous reporting has provided extensive and exclusive material not only for her newspaper but also for other book publishers and blogs.
Her work and investigation into the women’s murders revealed corruption even at the highest levels of government. Her book caused such a sensation that it was actually sabotaged in various manners during its initial release. The U.S. government was asked, by a Mexican official, to conduct an inquiry into the book “because it contained information, of the Mexican and U.S. governments, considered confidential”
The book was also blocked from a South American country, however Washington Valdez arranged to make it available online for free, although it meant sacrificing some book sale proceeds. At one of her book signings in El Paso, Texas, FBI agents that were present during the event, afterwards revealed to her that the drug cartel planned to send people there to confront her. Furthermore, FBI said the cartel people did show up, looked around but later left the event without approaching her.
The journalist was the first person to publicly link members of the drug cartel to some of the women’s murders, and she exposed how similar murders were taking place in other parts of Mexico and in Guatemala, places where the same cartel and their accomplices operated.
She further extended her work collaborating on two significant documentaries about the murders, one in English called “Border Echoes” and the other in Spanish “Bajo Juarez”. She has traveled to many cities and countries to talk about the murders.
Her astonishing series “Death Stalks the Border,” were published by the El Paso Times in year 2002, and she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, she also received the Texas APME First Place Award. She was the first journalist to develop such a significant investigation and reveal the extensive corruption that hindered official investigations in the country of Mexico. People around the world, that saw the series, eventually made their way to the border in order to do their own research – academics, journalists, students, musicians, artists and others. Until this day, people are amazed that one journalist could carry out such an immense project practically singlehanded.
Her reputation as an experienced and respected reporter prompted Spanish-language news channels and a book publisher to ask her to publish with them. She was also awarded a national journalism award in Mexico for her work and investigation on the murdered women.
Due her expertise, Ms. Washington Valdez was invited to brief a U.S. congressional delegation, which traveled to the border to investigate the crimes. Human rights investigators and even law enforcement officials on both parts of the border have consulted with her for her knowledge about the slayings.
You can read more in her book Harvest of women (or “Cosecha de mujeres” in Spanish), where she unveils names, links between the drug cartel and the authorities, the known families involved, how young boys of prominent families (known as juniors) organized orgy parties with drugs, sex and practically turned the killing of young women into a sport event and how all was intended to be buried.