A personal note on the writing of Bloody Battles Batter Business.
When I first began writing this story in August of this year the body count was a terrorizing 700, now in the early weeks of December that number has since doubled.
I hoped that by the time this story was published some of this violence might have subsided. That “they” would have stopped killing the “bad guys”, and everything would go back to what it once was. Some believe these killings are “surgical” and that only those who are guilty of corruption have fallen. But, with such an astonishing number of victims, I find that hard to believe. Tragically, I don’t see and end in sight.
The story idea for “Bloody Battles Batter Business” was given to me early in the summer when my good friend, Monica, showed concern for the abuelitas who couldn’t cross the border to get the medication that wasn’t covered by their insurance. I selfishly thought of myself and wondered how I could go on crossing alone to get my contact lenses.
It’s hard for me to read what I wrote in this article, so much has changed. It’s hard for me to think about Juarez and the unimaginable events that continue to happen every day. Visiting Juarez was like taking a short trip to visit old relatives and friends, and my tia who lived down the street. I’d like to picture her, Juarez, as she once was, a place where I’d walk to alone to pick up contact lenses, and stay to shop around and eat tacos de tripita. I would often cross the Stanton street bridge and spend the day there to remind me of my time spent in Mexicali, or Agua Prieta. I often took friends to the Mercado and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juarez drinking Cuban rum and thinking of my Nana (grandmother).
When I finally found a big enough fellow who was daring enough to escort me over the border, I was struck by what had become of the city I had always adored. Yes, there had always been taxi drivers at every corner offering to take you anywhere you needed. But this time the desperation in their voices was also evident in their eyes, dark and endless holes, pulling me into the despair and fear in their still-beating hearts. Right then and there I wished I could empty my wallet giving them everything I had in my possession just to quell the anxiety of where their next meal would come from, even if only for a moment. Although I couldn’t give much, I would hear their stories.
I could have written the story on Avenida Juarez but I let Jorge, my taxi driver, take me around downtown Juarez to the places I used to stomp around carelessly since I was fifteen years old (Sorry Mom). Some of these places were no longer there, burned down only weeks earlier. Although it was a weekday I had never seen the streets so empty. I visited the Mercado and was surprised to see it so desolate, many of the vendors unwilling to bargain, but instead almost begging.
I wondered what has happened to the albino at Fred’s who’d make me sandwiches and give me T-shirts for free for being such a loyal customer over the years. Generations of party-going kids remember Esther, who policed the area between La Playa and Tequila Derby. I’d known Esther since I started hanging out on the Avenida Juarez, “The Strip” over ten years ago. I was surprised when just two years ago she still recognized me on a night that one of my day trips ran late. Esther kept us out of Juarez jail. She gave me discounts when I would come in with a group of friends and always kept us out of trouble when someone had too much to drink. Just the other day I heard that Esther was shot on Avenida Juarez, outside the clubs she once owned.
I didn’t think I was a good enough writer for this story. It deserved so much more, a hard news writer, when I’ve only written about entertainment and sports in the past. There’s so much I want to say about Juarez, specifically Avenida Juarez, the street I spent my adolescence the place I wrote a short article about only scratching the surface of the infinite sadness that mounts day by day.
I do what I can, I listen to every story and do my best to recount them to friends, neighbors and colleagues, in and out of town, instilling in them a journalist’s obligation to tell as many people as they know.
Don’t forget her. She is and still remains to be a glorious city full of culture and honest hardworking people who would love to see an end to this nightmare. Don’t leave her behind. I’m an El Paso native, born and raised on this border, and Juarez, she is my sister.