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.
I said I would be back to Lomas and I haven’t been back in a year now. It’s crazy. I drive to work in Las Cruces three times a week and I look to the west and I can see you, I can see Lomas, right there, the flat top mesa poking out from behind Cristo Rey.
No, I haven’t been back. I am sorry. Life caught up with me and I had to do my labors, take care of biz, run around like a chicken without a head. And, in the meantime, I have fallen in love with a photo project, far away from here, up in Nuevo Mexico, and I have given it a lot of my attention.
All weak excuses.
I said I’d be back and continue the work we began and I haven’t.
You -and sus vecinos, sus compañeros in Lomas del Poleo- are never out of my thoughts.
Is Photojournalism Dead Yet?
by Steve Ettlinger
Born in the 1930’s, come of age in the 1950’s and 60’s, and pronounced near dead in the 1970’s and virtually buried by the closing of magazines/rise of the internet–you have to wonder how it is that some aspects of this wonderful world are still around.
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.
Sunday in Lincoln School Park. Everyone’s there: the vatos, the old low riders, the young low riders, Las Chicas, los ninos, las familias and me.
Got to get that building open again!
Fuzz cruised through, took a look, cruised out again (ándale).
As it oughta to be.
The parque was alive, tranquillo and sharp. El barrio vive otra vez…best it’s been in years.
As it oughta be…
For a slideshow:
Every once in awhile, when you’re not looking, and something new comes to you and you go, “There’s More!”
This morning, in my meanderings, I came across this quote:
“A person often meets their destiny on the road he took to avoid it.*”
The quote led me -in that totally weird way that “surfing,” around the web sometimes does- to a photographer I have never even heard of, before, let alone, known.
And his pictures are Fabulous!
From the movie The Border:
Marcy (Valerie Perrine) : (Showing her Border Patrol husband brochures about El Paso, trying to talk him into moving there, at their breakfast table, in Los Angeles) Honey sometimes you gotta dream.
Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) : (Pausing, furrowing his now signature brow) I never dreamed no El Paso.
Candy? Flowers? Lingerie?
Big day on the border. Everywhere now. Billions in tooth decay. Billions in flowers grown in eco-destroying third world corporate gardens.
Bah humbug (or whatever malapropism you say on Valentin’s Day)!
Four blocks to the bridge, to the border.
Lots of foot traffic. It comes and it goes, north then south.
The neighborhood is changing as the Medical Center becomes a reality, but it’s going to be hard to erase what the neighborhood is.
This mural, sneaked in on the side of a little building on a main street, in an alley, screams, We are alive!
Las Cruces New Mexico on New Year’s Eve 2009.
Turtle, 17, born and raised in this southern New Mexico town.
Defiant and alive.
It was as good as Times Square.
Just keep looking.
EL PASO –
New Years Day. A time for “beginnings.”
I hope. Should be.
She is an extraordinary artist. A force of nature. A giver. A maker of strong things and deep inspiration. Unmovable. A force.
The sicarios came to her studio in Juarez right before Christmas. The new scourge. “Start paying up or we’ll kill you and burn your studio down when we’re finished,” they said
This is the studio she willed into existence. Up against the mountain in Juarez she created a wall of tile and mirrors, mosaic sculpture, a thing for Juarez like nothing else. A monument. A love gesture to the city of her heart and to the heart of many of us in la frontera.
Their threat wasn’t idle. Not in these hard times in Juarez. Shortly before, the storekeeper down the street, refused to pay. She was murdered.
The Artist called her family in El Paso. They came with a pickup. All in a day. She took as much of her art as she could. She fled Juarez. Her Father, in 1910, a hundred years before, after Villa issued a death warrant, also ran from Juarez. “Fleeing runs in my blood,” she says, as we talk, in her new refuge, in El Paso.
Three of the last four posts have involved this window. The view to the south. One block to Alameda Street, two more down Stevens and, voila, you’re at the bridge, then you’re in Juarez, then if you keep going you’re on the carretera to Ciudad Chihuahua, then Torreon, then Puebla and Mexico and then… well who knows where this ends?
This is the last one of this window for awhile. I’ve been clinging to it. Home. I’ve been shooting from this window and the roof right out my back door for decades. The view hasn’t changed that much.
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:
So it comes to this, the semester ends, we go our own way, we know more for having known each other.
We have had our ambitions and we have had our disappointments but, what we mostly have had, I think, is a journey of discovery.
At least, it’s has been that way for me.
I was given something wonderful today: a very warm blanket from a very good and thoughtful friend (she had heard that my Loft is frigid in the winters, a concrete old factory building of a palace, not designed to be lived in).
I stopped on the way home for some Christmas lights. First time in my life I have bought any. How can one not succumb to this Season when such kind gestures are extended?
This street is changing. New Medical School and renewed Medical Center just down the block. Oh yeah they have the Grand Plan.
But the south side has its own Plan and the hot paint keeps coming!
Yeah man, this street is the Grand Plan dealing with the No Plan, the natural plan, the reality plan of the people who hang here, hanging onto the funk, south side people.
Been on this street for a long time.
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.
There are a lot of viejos in the Sagundo barrio. They get around.
There are a lot of kids too.
Like it always was but just fewer. It’s the heart of this isolated town.
You keep hearing about the murders.
They are the wind that blows in the perfect storm.
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.