Tearing through the streets of Juarez chasing the latest shooting, by Bruce Berman
An important piece on the journalists of Juarez by Brent and Craig Renaud/New York Times
“Reporters in Juárez not only cover drug cartel violence but are often targets themselves.”
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.”
EL PASO –Angelica Alvarez. A true believer. A believer in her faith. A believer in a better day. A believer in joy.
I noticed her as she worked her way down the street, engaging every person that she encountered, leaving each person she talked with a smile on their face, enthusiastically waving goodbye to her, they no longer strangers.
I followed her.
More pictures of dead bodies in the streets of Juárez?
Hard to want to do. I’m not visiting. I live here. It’s better when you have to get the images for your boss/editor and then high-tail it to the airport.
But, I’m not working for a daily paper anymore.
Iasi Emanuel Rodriquez Gamez , aka “El Enano (the dwarf),” 22, is led down a hallway, by a member of the Federal Police at the Ministry of Justice (Procuraduria de Justicia del Estado) in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
He is accused of being the leader of a kidnapping gang that kidnapped at least 19 people. Authorities alleged Rodriguez, 22, took orders from suspected kidnappers Ernesto “El Neto” Piñon de la Cruz and Jesus Eduardo “El
Lalo” Soto Rodriguez. This group is accused of committing 39 kidnappings since December 2008. The “El Lalo y de Neto,” gang has operated in Juarez over the past three years.
Sunny normal day.
I couldn’t work it in -excuses!- but beyond the Tarahamara woman and her brood, in the deep darkness of the trees, protected by yellow police tape and the Policia Federal -who shooed me away- lies a dead woman in her twenties.
Cause of death? Bullet wound.
Reason for death? Unknown.
Plaza Zaragoza. Gateway to the east valley of Juarez, the new turf of the Cartel who have all but emptied the towns there, clearing them like you’d clear a loading dock, which is what the Cartel has done.
Anything in the way is burned or buried.
Maybe this woman was in the way.
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: 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 eyes feel.
My eyes tell me Ciudad Juárez is alive.
I salute you, injured Madame Juárez.
FOR SLIDESHOW, GO TO NEXT PAGE:
Today in Juarez. More of the same. If this were anywhere else we’d be sending aide and 120,000 troops. Instead we send DEA Agents (under the terms of the “Merida Initiative”) and clandestine military “trainers,” to train soldiers and police…to do what, exactly?
The last time I heard the term “trainers,” it was the early and mid sixties and the trainers were being sent to Viet Nam.
How’d that work out for us?
More importantly, how’d that work out for Viet Nam?
Watch out Mexico, there are many many dollars seeking calamities. Buy cheap, wait, sell strong.
Anyway, six Federales and one murderer (sicario), today, so far.
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.
A rarity in this no-mans-land.
Hardship. No one is ready for it. Not man nor beast nor domicile. The aftermath will be unnavigable mud on some of the streets in Juarez: there’s always a fire from people using heaters they’re not used to using; tons of $14.95 coats will be sold on El Paso Street and Stanton Street and the various Fallas Paredes tiendas all over town; car crashes aplenty; you can bet on it. The homeless freeze. Rich people buy juniper logs for five bucks apiece to have their moment of apres ski. Everyone will adapt eventually, but by then we’ll be back in T-shirts and shorts; my loft turns to a freezer; life is anew. This is a place of the sun, not really set up for anything else.
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.
Juarez/13 June 2009
So what else is there in Juarez besides murder and catastrophe?
Right now, it doesn’t seem like anything.
But, then, there are those moments.
I walk the streets. I walk the beaten down downtown. I bus through the factory landscape with For Lease signs more plentiful every time. I walk through the night clubs on Avenida Lincoln, defying myself, defying my fear.
But it’s there. The noise comes out of the clubs, loud, but not the joyous sound, more like the power-driven sound of defiance and booze.
People wait for the situation to end. It will. Someday.
Daily, the murder rate climbs, like an upward missile, slicing through the inherent good nature of this state and city, through this sunny northern Mexico metropolis that was turned into, first, a factory for first world consumption and, then, a monument to the future of world global wage reality. It was that, just a few years ago.
Seems like an entire epoch ago.
You keep hearing about the murders.
They are the wind that blows in the perfect storm.
It ain’t all war and drugs and deals.
Or is it?
Right here, in the midst of it all is…this!
Who made this? Chinese hands? Sweat shop Haitian hands? Don’t tell me North Carolina hands! They did wingtips, right?
Who will end up with this radical pump? Where will they wear it (I think I can imagine)? Is there pain and despair there, or a happy night? Baile, baile. I hope. Will this end up on the other side of the border or is there a place, close by, that will be dazzled by the wearer of this shrine?
Is this the scariest thing I have ever seen or the funniest and why is it this that provokes my thoughts and not the library or some archive or gallery? Why is it this that reminds me of those who toil without options of what is toiled at? Is everything always going to bring my thoughts to the Cartel, to class disparities, to the haves and the have nots, to the black magic of the border? Is that my fate: to see the most outrageous shoe in the history of my life and I can only think of slavery, not aesthetics?
Can I just let it slide? That seems like a long time ago.
Ah, all this in la pumpa monumental.
I smile. I gather the image. I harness my moment. What else can you do? We’re all stumbling around, teetering on some spiky platform or another. Making it look good. We toil at what we toil at, we dance with the partners we’re given, we all try to slick it up. What else can you do?
Otra vez, calle El Paso…estas el mejor!
I have loved you for a long time.
Lomas del Poleo/Juarez, Chihuahua/Mexico
June 20, 2009
Lomas del Poleo. The battle goes on. More people leave. People fight to stay. A mean strip of ten lane highway has snaked its way through Lomas del Poleo (see previous posts or Google it). The Developers got what they needed and left what they didn’t, more or less. They don’t even blink as they plow ahead. This highway is going to happen, no matter what. The development will follow, is gonna happen, no matter what. Nothing stops the grinder. The Grid viene: Diamond Shamrock, The Chicken Colonel, Pemex, trucks full of electronic crap, three bedrooms, two baths, probably a Wal Mart (whoa..let’s not get too crazy!), the same vexing and stinking Grid that we hate and that people fight to have (Iran, Cuba, Libya, you, too, can have it!). There goes the texture, and, in the case of Lomas del Poleo, the isolation and faux rural vibe, the farm at the edge of the city, the special dream that has been Lomas: get out of the city, raise some chickens, leave us alone. A quiet hope on the edge of always possible chaos that is Juarez.
Violence? What violence?
Wha-a-a-a…we need distractions?
Si. Si se hace (I am scolding myself right now!).
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).
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.
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).
You start to wonder if it’ll ever end but it will end.
La violencia. The violence.
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.
The border fence is a stinkin’ dirty bad joke.
Do these kids look like terrorists or narcotraficantes or, even, the dreaded low wage worker that every American company has winked at, invited, used and exploited for decades?
It was only a year ago that the plight of the people of Lomas del Poleo was the highest priority of cross border activist politics. The people were systematically being robbed of their land, their court actions were, basically, being stonewalled, the injustice of the top to the bottom was blatant and a coalition of forces stepped up and, on this day did, a bi-national protest at the Mexican Counsulate in El Paso and the Mexican Counsulate in Jaurez.
That seems like long ago.
Venga Santa….come on!
If ever there was a place (other than certain parts of Africa right now) that need some kind of Devine Intervention, this is it.
Come on Santa! Forget the regalos. Paz, baby. Bring on the Peace.
If there is a Santa, bring on the Peace.
First block of America (FBA).
El Paso Street. La Frontera. I’d call it Texas but it ain’t. Everyone knows it if they’re from here. Texans hold their arms out, full length. Americans think it’s part of Mexico…or hell. New Mexicans…furgidaboutit! It’s all they have to really feel superior to.
El Paso, the nation-state of nowhere.
El Paso, Oct. 31 (Halloween), 2008
Halloween on El Paso Street, the first (or last) block of America. Everyone is dressed and laying a festival veneer over the street. 5:30pm, people still rushing to the bridge to Juarez to get home (especially these days, trying to get home before dark, before the murders begin).
Cookie is one angry Chihuahua.
This man played in the streets of Juarez for all my first years in La Frontera. He was blind. He was small. He made music like a special desert bird, joyful to bathe in just a drop of water, joyful to sing, even to the passing and witless American tourists.