Drug War

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EL PASO — Trying to get people to talk to you about the drug war isn’t very easy. In fact, it’s been one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do in all my years as a journalism student. People will smile uneasily, look the other way and even ignore me when they hear the words “drug war.”

It’s such a broad topic that up until I started covering it, I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t think of its subcategories, of the many factors tied to it and the players involved. To be completely honest, I only thought of it when a flashy headline caught my attention.    In reading countless news stories on this subject during the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to the simplest and saddest realization —the toll on Mexican citizens is devastating, but the drug war is everywhere.

It has become apparent to me that the process of keeping tabs on anything in this drug war is practically non-existent, whether it be the number of deaths of U.S. citizens Mexico or the number of Mexican citizens moving to the United States for safety reasons. That shocked me. How did we let that happen? How can we put a war that is affecting partially every aspect of our lives on the back burner? Comparing the amount of violence to weather reports is _______.  Go ahead, fill in the blank for yourself.

I am one of many people trying to get a grip on the drug war, trying to wrap my hands on such a tragedy.  It’s more than a tragedy.  It’s a fact of life for those living on both sides of the border, for those with family, friends and the slightest bit of nostalgia for Juarez. In talking to experts in different fields, it has become apparent to me that people have their own way of dealing with this. Some of us turn to art, some to music and family, and others just turn away. I can’t say that I blame anyone for looking away, but enough is enough.

Peasants cross the bridge almost undeterred by the war zone they are walking into.

Peasants cross the bridge almost undeterred by the war zone they are walking into. (Cynthia Romero/Borderzine.com)

I wake up almost every morning knowing that when I turn on the news, there will be a slew of headlines on the drug war in Mexico. It occurred to me that while no one may be counting how many bodies have been found or how many murders of U.S. citizens have occurred, there is one thing I can do. I can count the number of times I read or hear the words, “Juarez”, “bodies”, “murdered” and “cartels” per day. I can keep track of how many times these words are programmed into my memory and that, in my opinion, is another tragedy. The fact that anyone should deal with these subjects quietly and pass them off until a new headline comes along is a tragedy.

There is so much to learn about this drug war. There is so much to open our eyes to. I believe it’s important to listen to what others have to say about this drug war but that won’t happen until we start accepting the fact that it’s not going away just because we brush it off to the side. I know there is a great amount of resilience in the people who live their lives on both sides of the border. I see it every time I walk the streets of downtown and I saw it when I was at the downtown bridge a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t crossing, I simply watched as mothers with children, tired men and hungry elders crossed the bridge almost undeterred by the war zone they were walking into. I was floored and humbled. They cross because they have to, because, although they are scared, there is no alternative reality.

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