Juárez, Chihuahua, México
Trapped inside of luscious glass.
“Have no false idols before me.”
Forgive me lord, I cannot resist “tchotchke.”
Ice truck, Juarez, 1975
Ice trucks up and down Avenida Juárez.
Same routine every day.
Go to the municipal ice plant, over by the railroad, buy ice, get it on the truck, head to your customers, mostly saloons.
Get the day’s orders.
A half block will usually do.
Get it inside, let the baristas chip it down to cooler-size.
The runoff gutters around the base of the bar take the ice melt away.
Good to go.
All the ice trucks eventually die from a fatal combination of age and rust.
Rancho Boots (from the book JuÃ¡rez), JuÃ¡rez, 2009
Photographs and text by Bruce Berman
Every once in awhile you have to just throw yourself on the ground and go for it. Sometimes it’s worth it. This was worth it. My eyes needed it.
JuÃ¡rez is changing. It’s good. People are dancing in the streets. The Cartel is receding into memory. JuÃ¡rez has always had its own style, its own punch, it’s little kick in the gut that reminds you you’re not in Kansas anymore.
JuÃ¡rez is the center of the world of nowheresville.
I bow to it.
There was a day when you could think of Juarez and think in color. I get whiffs of it lately, but one is so cognizant that under that shiny surface is a black and white heart that has been ripped open for all to see and it will take a long time fill with the energy and joy that was -and will be again- the hallmark of Ciudad Juarez. It will happen. It is happening now. A generation has now come that learned to live abajo, and carefully. There has been damage. No one can live under that cloud forever.
It’s nice to look back, now and again. But here, on the border, it has been years since people have allowed themselves to look forward.
There are “whiffs.”
This man shocks people in bars! He takes his battery operated tool around and for five bucks looks for masochists who, drunk (or insane?), pay him to turn up the juice, hit the button and let ‘er rip..
It takes all kinds, no?
And it takes someone to recognize certain kinds of Humanity and let ‘er rip…for…five bucks!
El Toro bi-plane on La Avenida, JuÃ¡rez, 2008
Streets of JuÃ¡rez are changing.
The murderous last few years are being replaced with growth. Planned growth.
The entire border is under development and there have been plans for decades that are now starting to happen.
It’s as if the violencia was a cleansing. Or was it a scrubbing?
In the “new” JuÃ¡rez there won’t be any Bi planes. The era is gone. Anything from the 20th Century will become increasingly a rarity.
So be it. C’est la vie. Es la vida. What can one say?
Or was it a
Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.
– James Freeman Clarke 12/31/2013
Comodante Marcos, JuÃ¡rez, 2006 Â©Bruce Berman
Maria Full Of Grace, from The Other Truth (T.O.T.) series,
JuÃ¡rez, May 2011
Photo and Text by Bruce Berman
Maria. Full of grace. And other emotions.
A permanent resident of CREAMAC, in the hills ofÂ JuÃ¡rez, way up there, near the Guadalupe, the last place on one of the last streets, near the top. Some people call it an “insane asylum.” It started as a place the mayor ofÂ JuÃ¡rez sent “street people.”
He took an old police station and created a shelter and ordered the tourist police to “get those people off the streets.” That was 34 years ago. There are still people there…from then!
I go there, driving through the anxiety streets of the troubled city, eyes are out, sharp, both ways. These days, if you keep up with the ever terrible news coming from the Cartel War, there’s a game you play, while driving in JuÃ¡rez. You match up news with the locations where it happened, that you’ve heard about: “Oh, there, that’s where the drug rehab place is: 16 murdered in three minutes. Oh…there is where the mother and son got shot. Up that street, that’s where the family got wiped out but one kid hid under the bed and survived, yeah, and over there, that’s where they put the bomb inside the guy and dressed him as a cop and called in the Cruz Roja and Policia Federal and then blew him up, right there, over by the old market.”
And so it goes.
It could go on forever on a long ride, but we race through the streets, purposely. There is no leisure inÂ JuÃ¡rez, only meaningless purposefulness.
On this day, we’re heading to the “Insane Asylum,” which seems like a more positive mission than chasing down murder scenes.
The Great Border Storm of 2011, El Paso-Juarez
by Bruce Berman Â©2011
EL PASO –It was an amazing storm. Hard to believe it happened. Zero temperatures (in El Paso!!!!). Ice. Snow. Irregular electricity. No internet. Intermittent Gas (for some people). Highways closed. Jobs (including mine. I haven’t been to NMSU since last Tuesday! Bummer! I like it) canceled. Everything closed. Voluntary curfew (requested). Went on for three to five days (depending on which part of this freaky happening we’re talking about, and, when it was all over, yesterday, it wasn’t over because there were major outages of water (I’m going to get that shower eventually…like today!).
Now I think it’ll be El Paso again and we’ll be in shorts T Shirts and swamp coolers, squishy asphalt, hoods up and steaming radiators and complaining about the heat in no time at all.
Like I said, it was like a dream and hard to believe it ever happened.
People, Horse, Van in JuarezÂ by Bruce Berman Â©2010
JUAREZ, Mexico – Juarez still stands. It is still Juarez. It is a city of my heart. I am not alone. It is insane what has happened in Juarez. There is no reference or metaphor: it just stinks. I walk the streets and there are “tastes,” of the old city. The “new city,” the one of Malls and chrome and green eco-glass, the nightclubs and shiny new cars has disappeared more than the old city has.
This might say something about what the condition of the city was before “The Troubles.”
Zaragoza (Juarez), Chihuahua, street kids at scene of a murdered woman, 05/08
Â©Bruce Berman 2010
Two border towns.
El Paso and Juarez.
One city is half dead and the other is in a coma. Guess which is which?
As always, a trip to Juarez puts everything in perspective and raises big questions. For openers:Â We don’t have to do all the things we think we need to do, there are worse things than physical death and injury, watch out for what you hear, and, we should never believe anything except what our eyesÂ feel.
My eyes tell me Ciudad JuÃ¡rez is alive.
I salute you, injured Madame JuÃ¡rez.
FOR SLIDESHOW, GO TO NEXT PAGE:
A piece written to my photography students at the end of a fine semester at New Mexico State University. Forgive the “first person.” Originally posted on their class website at www.nmsu.documentaryshooters.com:
Brucini w/New BlanÂket from aÂ Good Friend, El Paso â€“Dec. 9,Â 2009
So it comes to this, the semesÂter ends, we go our own way, we know more for havÂing known eachÂ other.
We have had our ambiÂtions and we have had our disÂapÂpointÂments but, what we mostly have had, IÂ think, is aÂ jourÂney of discovery.
At least, itâ€™s has been that way forÂ me.
I was given someÂthing wonÂderÂful today: aÂ very warm blanÂket from aÂ very good and thoughtÂful friend (she had heard that my Loft is frigid in the winÂters, aÂ conÂcrete old facÂtory buildÂing of aÂ palace, not designed to be livedÂ in).
I stopped on the way home for some ChristÂmas lights. First time in my life IÂ have bought any. How can one not sucÂcumb to this SeaÂson when such kind gesÂtures are extended?
Alameda in Mist, December 2, 2009
The view south, across Alameda street, across the Chamizal, three blocks beyond, across the bridge, into Juarez, into Chihuahua, into Mexico, beyond.
Usually the view is razor sharp. The last few days have fuzzed things up: snow, rain, and, now, this morning, fog.
Been looking south across this razor sharp landscape for a long time and, finally, a little fuzz feels right. There will be no clarity. Better people than I have written and viewed this border, came up with “clarifications,” and “explanations,” and “revelations,” and yet it goes on, untamed, inexplicable, roque.
Pretty spot/bad times-Juarez 2009
Juarez / October 2009
Day of the Dead is coming. Like every day hasn’t been that.
The streets have an eerie decay to them. Litter. Boarded up windows. Still a lot of hustle but the nights are empty and in the shadows are things no one wants to see.
Distraction de Juarez, Juarez, Mexico – April 2009
Violence? What violence?
Wha-a-a-a…we need distractions?
Si. Si se hace (I am scolding myself right now!).
Summer screen, El Paso – May 2009
Summer is here on the border. Hot. You know it’s summer when the umbrellas are out. Of course what’s in this image is not very “sopisticated.” Who walks in the Brave New World, anyway?
Musicos, El Paso – April 2009
Everyone’s wary, in El Paso/Juarez, these days. The border is at war, with itself, with it’s two yin/yang sides, with the Interiors of each of the two sides.
Everyone’s wondering where it’ll end, where they will fall on the have and have not scale, what’ll be left of this little rough Shangri La (not a Shangri La of paradise but a refuge for those who have fallen from paradise. Sort of a suburb of Shangri La).
“Maleno,” Juarez – March 2009
Juarez, March 13, 2009/ Estado Benito Juarez, Juarez, Chihuahua/Mexico
The Juarez Indios are a professional futbol team(soccer). They are in the middle of the Cartel Drug War. Much of the city of Juarez has rallied around the Indios, finding some “normalacy,” in the middle of the troubled Juarez violencia. Julio Daniel “Maleno” Frias is a star of the team, a “striker,” a troubled city’s hero. The city loves him, he’s a hero in the middle of bad news caused by rats. When “Maleno,” was younger he joined a gang. He got shot. He decided to change his life and he did. Maybe this is why the city fell in love with him, he’s a living metaphor for a city’s hopes. Maybe they just like the way he plays: smooth, quiet and intense.
Some players have left the team and others have sent their families back to the cities they came from (some in Mexico, one in Argentina), trying to avoid the touch of violence that has afflicted Juarez, Mexico’s third largest city.
The team is struggling to stay in the top tier of Mexico’s professional soccer league.
Attendance is sold out.
Futbol is trumping the war.
Life goes on.
Cordula at the fence, March 23, 2009
Anapra, NM/Colonia Anapra, Juarez, Chihuahua
Yesterday I worked with an incredible journalist from Der Spiegel (the German equivalent of Time). She is German, from the north of Germany. Works out of the DC Bureau. Sharp and smart and witty and ironic and puro journalist. We did a story at Fort Bliss. She was bright and lively and brave and charming and funny and we’d had a successful day and did a great story together. She wanted to see “El Paso.”
So we head for the border (I’m a one trick pony. To me, the border is El Paso).
Otra Linea in Juarez, March 2009
You start to wonder if it’ll ever end but it will end.
La violencia. The violence.
Sweet Border, Anapra, NM/Colonia Anapra, Juarez Chihuahua-Feb. 2009
Life goes on.
Mexico is a great pueblo. So is El Paso and southern New Mexico.
One reads the newspapers and one thinks the world has gone insane. Particularly here, on the border.
Spin Balance Landscape, Chaparral, NM-August 2008
Space. Glorious space. Wonk yer brain but we all need more space. Maybe because we wonk our brains so much. This is from the funklands of southern New Mexico. It looks right across at the slim tip of West Texas that is El Paso. Juarez, Chihuahua is the horizon.
Space. This is the Tender Mercy of No Man’s Land.