EL PASO – The violence that overwhelms daily life in Ciudad Juarez didn’t stop Pedro Lopez from helping others pursue the dream of becoming world-class runners. But now he dreams of the American dream.
“The violence in Juarez is crazy. It became a crazy city. I remember when I was young and I could go out at whatever time and come back home late and not have any problem. What you see in Juarez now is businesses closed and no nightlife. We lost so many things,” Lopez said.
With 10 years of experienced as a coach and physical education teacher, Lopez worked at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez Campus, and the Instituto Mexico where he trained specific athletes. “I was working with them so long and I really got involved with this. It was a really good experience. The people were really talented, so they did well at the nationals and some at the international level,” Lopez said.
With some 20 years in athletics, Lopez began running track while in the fifth and sixth grades of elementary school and never stopped. The International Athletic Amateur Federation to coach and train athletes certified him in 1990. In 2009 he received a scholarship from the government of Chihuahua to study for his masters in higher education administration. Lopez was invited in 2009 by the University of Texas at El Paso to complete his doctorate degree and participate in the Educational Leadership program. “I have the big opportunity to go to UTEP with that scholarship,” said Lopez.
While completing his studies at UTEP, Lopez is honing his coaching skills as a graduate assistant coach for the UTEP Miners track and field team. But his personal goal is to bring his family to the United States. “My plan is for my wife and myself is to bring our parents from Juarez to El Paso, It’s crazy the violence we are living,” he said.
This is the biggest immigration from Juarez that El Paso has seen since the revolution in 1910-1911, he said. “I read the last data and we’re like 180,000 people from Juarez or Chihuahua moving to El Paso.”
During Miners practice, Lopez works specifically with the men and women’s distance group. On a typical session he closely monitors the times clocked on his stopwatch as the runners cross the finish line. He works one on one with the distance athletes by counseling them on their running techniques.
“I’m trying to help two guys who we are expecting to have on the team. I’m trying to help everyone that wants to go to UTEP to study and to stay in El Paso,” Lopez said. His wife Mary Carmen Vizcaino recruited two Miners Kathya Garcia and Karina Garcia who are a tremendous plus for the team.
“Pedro has more interest about people from Mexico,” said Kathya. “He supports us. He has more pressure on us because we are from Mexico and he wants to help us.”
Kathya has one more Cross Country season before she ends her career as a Miner. Transitioning from being a runner in Mexico to a Miner can make a difference on a runner.
“There is a lot of difference because in Mexico u fight with like five and here you have to fight with more then 40 people at the same time as you,” said Kathya.
“Here they have better people, better times, more support to the athletes. They have good training room and good scholarships. I think it is better than running in Mexico,” she said.
Editor’s Note – This is another in a continuing series of Borderzine articles on the migration to the U.S. of Mexican middle-class professionals and business owners as a result of the drug-war violence along the border. We call this transfer of people and resources, the largest since the Mexican Revolution, the Mexodus.
Editor’s note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Pedro Lopez is a graduate assistant coach not an assistant coach.