EL PASO, Texas — About a century ago, El Pasoans lined themselves up near the border for a good view of the revolutionary war raging just across the river as gunshots and war cries echoed from the brush and dirty water.
A hundred yeas later, El Paso once more holds a ringside seat to the bloodshed of Mexican souls. Last week, shots fired from Mexico hit the windows of El Paso’s City Hall. Although no one can be sure how or when the bulk of the violence will die down, many students at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have their opinions.
“A lot of people have told me that maybe if they legalize marijuana in Juárez it would be better because then the drug lords would loose some of their power,” said Lindsy Gutierrez, a music major. She sat in the shade outside the Fox Fine Arts building of UTEP reading a book on poetry. “I don’t know if I agree with that because then they might go on to sell harder things,” Gutierrez added.
Some students don’t think the Mexican government is capable of handling the situation on its own. “Because of some of the findings, it’s interesting to see where the government stands. There is a war, yes, but exactly who is fighting whom? That I don’t know,” said Jorge Espin, a nursing student.
The situation in Juarez and the manner in which it is being handled has caused much insecurity in the general public. “It’s interesting to find out where exactly the government stands where the military is concerned. Is it helping one side or the other or is it vying for its own side. I don’t know,” said Espin.
The overwhelming number of killings in Juárez — more than 5,600 in the past two years — continues to cause much frustration for those living in and around the border. “We’re all angry at what is happening over there, but its not like we can just put on a superhero suit and go kill the bad people,” said Teira Solis, a geology student. Students at UTEP need only but to look across the freeway as they park their cars to see the hazy skies of this stifling city.
The situation across the border is much more complex than any one issue can address. “It depends on a lot of people. There is no one strategy that will fix everything,” said Solis.
Drug reform has been a highly debated issue recently around campus and the border. “I was thinking about legalization of marijuana, but I acknowledge that the problem is not just about marijuana,” said Isaac Blanco, a nursing major. Although it could very aggressively be argued that the legalization of cannabis for use and sale would help with the many problems of our sister city, it would only be a start.
The incessant violence has not been quelled by adding more government military personnel. Perhaps at this point, it is up to the citizens to take a stand.
“We proved that the army, the federal government couldn’t do it. I fear that the people are going to get up and do something, like a revolution, on their own,” said Blanco, “People getting together with their machetes.” What the people of Juárez ultimately need are results. They need their city reclaimed and a renewed confidence to walk down their own streets after dark without looking out for hooded men. “We need another Pancho Villa. We need another Che Guevara to do something. I believe the people can do something. Not the government or the army,” said Blanco.
Some 23,000 persons have been killed throughout Mexico in this drug war since President Felipe Calderon took on the cartels three years ago.