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How One Data Team Uncovered the Story of Over 4,000 Missing Mexican Women

Maria Crosas Batista - Online Journalism Blog
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June 22, 2016

Mexican newspaper El Universal has put a face to the 4,534 women who have gone missing in Mexico City and the State of Mexico over the last decade: Ausencias Ignoradas (Ignored Absences) aims to put pressure on the government and eradicate this situation.

The Mexican government reported 4,281 missing women from 2005 to 2014, of which they are still looking for 2,000. The number was there — but nobody broke it down.

“The Mexican government declares reports and statistics without uploading the data. Therefore, when you want to check the information, there isn’t any document to follow or refer to.”

El Universal Data worked with Morlan, a company specialized in data analysis and programming, to gather the information from Odisea and Capea. Both are official websites which hold information on missing people but don’t present them in a downloadable format.

They were able to scrape 1,480 records (pictures and text) from Odisea in a JSON format before the website was closed down in November last year.

However, they could not scrape the data on Capea: the structure was extremely bad and journalists had to transcribe the information by hand in Excel.

By February 2016 the website had 6,787 records of which 3,054 could be systemized:

“We started reading record by record and filtered them by gender. Once we got all the missing women, we followed the structure from Odisea and started building the dataset for Mexico City.”

Once this process was completed, they matched and cleaned both datasets. This left 4,534 faces with some patterns (such as the age, body size, height or the color of the eyes), which they brought to the Mexican authorities.

Read the rest at Online Journalism Blog

Related: 'An Open Wound': Mexico's Missing Women and Girls (CNN)

  Check out Banderas Bay Women’s Shelter

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