PHOTO OF THE WEEK: October 5-12, 2007
Amada, Central Cafe, Juarez – 1992
Amada, Central Cafe, Juarez – 2007
Amada has worked the counter at the Central Cafe in downtown Juarez, since the early 1980’s. The cafe is next door to the cathedral and is a major crossroads for buses -and most of all, people on foot- heading to all directions in the city. The cafe is a crossroads, the city’s heart, and a center of transition and change.
Amada is always there. She was there in the early 1980’s when I spent most of my time in Juarez, working on many assignments until late at night, mostly for The New York Times. I went there for the same reasons and for my own evolving projects, a lot, in the 1990’s with my girlfriend Chloe. Being with Chlo changed my relationship with Amada. Now, it seemed, I was complete (to Amada’s way of thinking). She approved. Chlo made me more than the frequent gringo visitor with the camera, sitting alone, taking notes, just another person at the crossroads. To Amada, Chlo made me family.
Eventually Chlo left. She tried to stay but she needed to see “the world.” I’d been from there, come from there and I was now on the border of there. She fought with herself. She waged a battle with what she should do and was expected do and what she wanted to do. The border, this life that I lived, this reality, me, Amada, the raw struggle that is our frontera, was just too much. The “good life,” was in Austin. Not here. Not in Spanish.
She left. I stayed and I went deeper and deeper into Juarez’ heart. We both did what we needed to do.
Amada is still there, as I write this in October 2007.
I have known her, now, for 27 years. When I sit at her counter, order my coffee and postre, breath in the odor and sight and feel of the cafe, sitting before Amada, reassured by her presence, the mere act of our continuity and her decency, making my existence better, I breath deeply, more than anywhere or anytime else. She is part of my home.
When I come to her counter, always, she takes my hand, looks into my eyes with a sincerity and hope, squeezes a little, and asks (and I think she knows the answer by now), “Y, la muchacha? Ella esta Regresando (And your girl, she’s coming back?)?”
I answer, reluctantly, “No, ella no esta regresando (She is not returning).”
Amada lingers, just a moment, her hand warm and alive, “Es muy triste, es muy triste (It is very sad).” She shakes her head and resumes her work.
I always do leave there a little sad, and a little happy, and very very dizzy from the many many cups too many that I drink of the strong cafe con leche.
Or, maybe, I leave there dizzy from Amada’s love and humanity and richness.
Todo bien (It’s all good).