Tales of kindness, trust and courage give voice to civic pride in Juarez
By Omar Perez on March 7, 2011
EL PASO — A passer-by helping out an elderly woman transit a busy avenue, a young man treating a homeless man to lunch, and organizations assisting those in need, are some stories that are told everyday in Crónicas de Héroes.
In a city where residents are used to hearing bad news from local media every day about the violence-torn city of Ciudad Juarez, a new project is bringing out untold stories of unsung heroes.
Crónicas de Héroes, or Hero Chronicles, reports the stories of Juarenses helping fellow Juarenses in everyday life at www.juarez.heroreports.org, and these examples of human kindness are reported by the citizens themselves.
As local media focuses on the unfortunate situation Juarez is suffering through, its residents now have a website where they may report any valiant, or noble act of kindness they may witness.
“The campaign attempts to inject positive energy and change from the citizens, and finally recover the civic pride, give rise to optimism and bring back the spirit of courage that has characterized the inhabitants of this city,” said Yesica Guerra, Manager of Crónicas de Héroes.
A project created by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media has been around since a few the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. MIT developed heroreports.org, a website that would report the acts of kindness around the city after suffering the worst act of terrorism in the history of the U.S.. The website’s aim was to renew hope and helped rebuild optimism in New York even after the attacks.
Since then, the MIT Center for Future Civic Media has expanded hero reports to other cities in the country, including Boston, Detroit, and St. Louis. Most recently, they decided to bring the project to Juarez, a city now called the murder capital of the world, which needs hope and optimism brought back to its streets.
Christopher Csikszentmihalyi, Director of Future Civic Media was inspired to bring this project to Juarez when during one of his visits to this northern Mexican city of 1.5 million persons he heard a comment from the head of the local journalism association saying “there are no héroes in Juárez.”
That comment was still stuck in his mind later when Csikszentmihalyi met Yesica Guerra, a student at MIT and a Juarez native. He approached her about establishing the Hero Reports website in Juarez.
Guerra works on the website from Boston but in addition has help from Brenda Guerra, Local Representative, and Marco Betancourt, the official promoter of the project in the city. “These two individuals have been a crucial part of this project without their involvement, dedication and working spirit the development of Crónicas wouldn’t possible,” Yesica Guerra added.
The local project, which started back in November, has now more than 600 reports from residents who despite dealing with the drug-related violence in the city, still help others in need. Visitors from all over the country have gone into the website and browsed through the tales from Juarenses.
Posts on the website are anonymous, and through a map, viewers can see approximately where in the city the acts of kindness occurred. Hero Reports has gained support from local institutions including Universidad TecMilenio. Radio stations and local publications also present daily “crónicas” from the website to their audiences.
“It is tremendously important to have civil involvement, to have ourselves as citizens noticed and heard, to let the world know that we want a change and that change starts from the roots, we the citizens, regardless of color or markings,” Yesica Guerra said.
The MIT Center for Future Civic Media is now preparing to launch Crónicas de Héroes in Monterrey and also in Tijuana, another drug-violence affected city in Mexico.
You may visit or tell your own hero report at www.juarez.heroreports.org