Assassins gun down two young journalists in Juárez

Borderzine contributor Jago Molinet wrote this story in the newsroom of El Diario of El Paso a few hours after two young colleagues were gunned down in Juarez, Mexico. Molinet told me he wrote this in anger and frustration and as he wrote, his anger and frustration only grew. As I translated the article into English, I saw that he also wrote this lament with love, love for his fallen brothers and love for a profession that too often in Mexico today demands a journalist’s life. —David Smith-Soto, Borderzine Executive Editor

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EL PASO, Texas — The news spread like wildfire through the newsroom —two young photojournalists from El Diario gunned down in Ciudad Juárez… one dead, one wounded. They went to lunch and ended up splashed in their own blood, riddled by bullets blasted from the empty minds of unscrupulous assassins.

Dos jóvenes periodistas caen baleados en Juárez

El fotógrafo de El Diario de Juárez Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, de 21 años, fue asesinado  y su acompañante, el fotógrafo Carlos Manuel Sánchez de 18 años, resultó herido de dos impactos de bala en la tarde de Septiembre 16 en el estacionamiento del centro comercial Río Grande Mall en Ciudad Juárez. Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes… ¡Yo no sé! Los Heraldos Negros  de César Vallejo. (1918-“2010”)
[Read this story in English]

EL PASO, Texas — Fueron por comida y los cubrió la sangre.

Opera cantó el grito de Juárez contra el terrorismo

EL PASO, Texas — Un grito de paz y contra el terrorismo, a través del lenguaje universal del arte, fue uno de los objetivos principales del programa “Amor por Juárez”, presentado septiembre 11 en el Teatro Plaza, de esta ciudad. La iniciativa, de la Opera de El Paso, unió a mexicanos y estadounidenses en una jornada donde se derrochó talento, exquisitez y concordia. Destacó la llegada temprana de los espectadores, sobre todo de los más jóvenes, quienes abarrotaron las instalaciones. “Con la presentación de hoy nos unimos al dolor que sufren los mexicanos por la violencia en Juárez” dijo, la doctora Michele Stafford-Levy, una de las organizadoras. Y agregó: “También lo hacemos para recordar los sucesos terribles del 11 de septiembre de 2001”.

Juarez Violence Changing Lives: UTEP Students Affected

EL PASO, Texas — In May, 2010, UTEP student Alejandro Ruiz Salazar, 19—also an employee of the Graduate School—was the first known UTEP student slain in Juarez since the beginning of the current drug war. The same day, former UTEP student Jorge Pedro Gonzalez Quintero, 21, was murdered. According to Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the situation in Mexico is worse now than the Colombian drug war of the 1980s and 1990s ever was. “Colombia was never threatened like the government of Mexico is with the level of violence,” McCraw stated at a Capitol hearing. “At first, we all saw the violence and murders as something that would never happen to us but now so many families have been torn apart, and a once prosperous, to some extent happy city, has been destroyed,” Acosta commented.

Exodus from Ciudad Juárez impacts El Paso economy

La Juárez vacía

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Roaming the city is not what it used to be; the once busy and bustling city is losing money and residents very quickly. Recent provisional data from the INEGI show that Juárez has lost about 24% of its population. A city of 1.3 million has shrunk to one million, and 60 thousand families have migrated to other areas of Mexico or to the U.S.

As a result of this people flight, statistics from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte reveal that 116,000 houses have been abandoned, leaving 24% of the city’s homes empty. Yet those statistics may be erroneous because a study form the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez reveals that the sum might be closer to 100 thousand families leaving the city, leaving half a million (or about 40%) less inhabitants. These latter numbers do coincide; an article posted by the Diario de Juarez states that since 2006 nearly 110 thousand Mexican citizens asked for political asylum in the U.S., but only 183 obtained the asylum, less that 2% of the total.

Juarez residents continue to have faith in future

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Last January the state of Chihuahua claimed through a statewide press release with different statistics of seizures and arrests to be working hard to fight the “war against organized crime.”

Yet the 6,022 killings (645 this July, 2010 and rising) have led the people, the press and other media outlets to a different conclusion—that the Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua is a failure and the people have lost faith in the political and judiciary system in Mexico. But even in these dire circumstances, there is still a sense of hope that lingers deep within the fibers of the Mexican population. To many, these extreme circumstances have been a vehicle in the search for truth and reason and understanding, and it has been a way to grow in faith and to reconnect with family and friends. The people want to make things better from within the country, which usually means that the private sector steps in to help. For example, the Iniciativa México project is a joint effort between the private sector and the two biggest media outlets form México: Televisa and TV Azteca.

Juarez devastated by violence

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México.- Nearly every day,  news reports record at least two to three deaths in Juarez. “In 2007 we counted 353 deaths, in 2008 1067, in 2009 2620 and in 2010 until Monday 19, 1611” says Fernando Quintana, a broadcast journalist with Channel 44 TV. “El Norte, every night reports eight to fifteen deaths on its website” adds Ismael Ruvalcaba, a reporter with El Norte newspaper. President Calderón arrived in Juárez on March 16, 2010, to attend a conference entitled Todos somos Juárez. Reconstruyamos nuestra ciudad.

El Paso has a front row seat on the unending killing in Juarez

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.

Research and Education Now Cross-connects Beyond Borders

EL PASO – The University of Texas at El Paso and other research and educational institutions across the U.S. have teamed up with universities in Mexico to make it easier and more affordable for them to access the state of the art Internet research capabilities available in the U.S.

The jointly constructed optical infrastructure between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is called Cross Connect. “We have designed an innovative way for exchanging teaching and research information,” says UTEP Vice President for Information Resources and Planning, Dr. Stephen Riter. According to Dr. Riter, this started more than five years ago when UTEP used money from the National Science Foundation to begin a link of networks from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez. UTEP established a relationship with the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juárez to help enhance research tools for students in Juárez. Students in Mexico now have the ability to use video conferencing and educational demos to boost their educational experience.

Downtown El Paso as seen from the Paseo del Norte International Bridge. (Sergio Chapa/

Downtowners Express Their Hopes for El Paso

EL PASO— A taxi driver, a shopper and merchants from downtown El Paso share their perspectives of the city’s history and their hopes for its future. The following video, audio and slideshow presentations were produced by the following participants in of the Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy held recently at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP): Jessica Retis, Bradford Owen, Mark Albertson and instructor Doug Mitchell. Downtown El Paso Merchants Tell Their Story

Juarez Drug War Criminals Even Shake Down the Street Vendors

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Daytime here displays a busy city, alive and full of productive energy. Street vendors hawk their products, restaurants await the rush hour crowds and mechanics do tune-ups out of their homes. These images of a normalcy, however, are deceptive. More than 5,000 of Juarez businesses have closed their doors permanently during the past four years of drug war violence, according to Cámara de Comercio de Juárez, which has infected every aspect of Juarenses’ life. Nighttime is a different creature altogether, according to Martín, the owner of a few very profitable food stands in Juárez and no stranger to the cartels.

Bad City and Good City — The Border Twins are Conjoined at the Hip

EL PASO, Texas — Many consider them sister cities.  With a combined population of more than 2 million persons, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez form one of the largest international metropolitan areas in the world. El Paso is the 6th largest city in Texas while Ciudad Juárez has experienced a higher population growth rate than the country as a whole. Together they interact and even share citizens. Recently though, most of what is heard about this urban area has to do with the Mexican drug cartels. Still, while Ciudad Juárez is ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world, El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the United States.  In my curiosity to find how it is that this city is viewed, I talked to five students living here but originating from different cities, states, and countries to see what they think of the Sun City.

Latin Americans Need Security to Enjoy Peace and Prosperity

EL PASO, Texas — Despite the decay of democratic institutions in Latin America, democracy is on the rise in the region because citizens are demanding better government. “Challenges are big for the Western Hemisphere, but the principal idea behind solving those challenges is that governments should act responsibly to resolve them,” said Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow president of Institute of the Americas in San Diego, California speaking in the Millennium Lecture Series at the University of Texas at El Paso. The maintenance of democracy is a pressing issue in many Latin American countries. Many promises that governments there have made to their citizens have been broken, but the most important failure is to provide security for their citizens. “Safety is a big issue in every country.

El cáncer violento de Ciudad Juárez transforma su misión artística

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Los lienzos y el pincel de Cecilia Briones “La Catrina” surgen como alivio ante el panorama de violencia e inseguridad que se vive en la ciudad, en donde la artista lucha por rescatar su arte. “Es difícil, todos estamos muy asustados, sobretodo afecta el proceso creativo, te quedas impactado de tanta sangre”, dijo Briones, quien descubrió su amor por la pintura a los 17 años. Y es este cáncer violento, como ella lo nombra, el responsable de la actual transformación por la que pasa su obra. Su próxima colección a presentar tendrá por nombre Infierno Postmoderno como signo del sentimiento del cual la artista dijo necesitar liberarse. “No lo quiero tomar como bandera, pero ya es mucho y lo tengo que escupir de alguna forma”, dijo Briones,.

D.C. Scholars to Propose Solutions for U.S.-Mexico Cooperation on Organized Crime

EL PASO — A team of experts sent by the Mexico Institute in Washington, D.C. spent three days interviewing persons in Juarez to see if a lack of cross-border cooperation between U.S. and Mexican government agencies hinders efforts to quell the out-of-control consumption of illegal narcotics by Americans and the drug-cartel wars in Mexico. Andrew Selee, director of the Institute and an adjunct professor of government at John Hopkins University said the drug violence goes beyond the normal definitions of terrorism. “Seeing how some of these murders have played out in recent years has made us pay close attention to the growing violence along the borderland.”

The group of 16 scholars spent three days in February interviewing various Juarez officials including the Aduana, military commanders, the different levels of law enforcement, and others to get a real sense of how to combat the organized crime that plagues the borderland. “We recognize that the problem [bilateral cooperation] is not just in one part of the borderland, but all across it,” Selee said. The group has traveled to various drug violence hot spots such as Tijuana/San Diego, San Luis Potosi, and to El Paso/Juarez.

Women’s right activist’s death brings communities together

EL PASO – Esther Chavez Cano was no bigger than many of women and children she stood up for. “Esther, I remember as being short, smaller than most of us in this room, but oh, she was so powerful,” said UTEP professor Kathy Staudt. Cano’s small, unassuming stature was misleading. She was relentless in her efforts, and her voice, which spoke for the scores of women who were abducted, raped and brutally murdered out in the desert shanties of Cd. Juarez, Mexico, was heard around the world.

Esther Chávez Cano: An Army of One

EL PASO — She stood five feet two inches tall in her sensible heels. With her short-cropped blonde bob and piercing blue eyes behind rounded spectacles, Esther Cano looked more like a school librarian than a scrappy fighter for human rights for women in crime-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. But Cano, who died of cancer on Christmas Day at age 75, could definitely deliver a mighty wallop and often did, taking aim at political indifference and the lack of legal and police protection for women victims of violence in Mexico. Some who gathered in El Paso recently to celebrate Cano’s life and activism remember her as, “an army of one.”

“She said she was not a saint or Mother Teresa but just a human-being fighting for justice,” said niece Marta Strobach. The diminutive “güera,” or blonde, as some friends affectionately call Cano, was largely responsible for bringing international media attention to the previously ignored murders of hundreds of women and girls in the scrappy border town of 2 million residents, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, TX.

Esther Chávez Cano’s Columns in El DIario

Rape, an Act of Extreme Sadism by Esther Chávez Cano

El Diario, September 13, 1995

Rape is an act of extreme cruelty, a reflection of an accumulation of hate that the man carries inside of himself. It is the most brutal aggression that a human being can receive from another; it causes severe injury to the person’s liberty, physical integrity, mental health and sometimes to life itself. In this border city, several young women have recently died at the hands of one or several individuals who, making use of their physical strength, have raped and murdered them. It could have been you, your sister or your daughter, but this time it was other innocents who paid too high of a price for the hatred that the society, the family or others had planted in the hearts of these individuals. Despite the fact that we are about to enter the 21st century, there are still many who believe that the victim is guilty of inciting the rapist, without considering that a high number of infants and very old women also suffer this aggression.

Esther “La Güera” Chávez, in memoriam

EL PASO — El 25 de diciembre por la mañana que llamé a casa de Esther a ver cómo estaba, me enteré de la triste noticia de su deceso. Su partida en este día tan significativo para el mundo cristiano y para muchas de nosotras despertó en mí una reflexión que no acabo de elaborar. Estoy segura de que no es casual su muerte, precisamente el día que festejamos el nacimiento de Cristo. Tal vez sea una nueva esperanza. Conocí a la Güera a mi regreso a Juárez a principios de los ‘90 cuando acababan de pasar las elecciones para la alcaldía en las cuales ella había perdido con el PRD. Recuerdo que me dijo que sabía que iba a perder, pero que como ciudadanas teníamos que empezar a hacer algo para cambiar al país. Al poco tiempo me invitó a formar parte del grupo 8 de Marzo y nos reuníamos en la sala de rectores de la Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ).  Éramos un puñado de mujeres dispuestas a reclamar igualdad entre los sexos y los géneros.

El difícil camino de regreso a… ¿casa?

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Méx. — Después de la odisea —de México a una vida construida sobre un sueño americano— el retorno a su país natal, ahora desconocido, es un reencuentro desafortunado para un inmigrante de Zacatecas. Con más de 10 años de residir en los Estados Unidos, Julio [pidió que no se usara su apellido], fue deportado de vuelta a una tierra que ahora resulta más ajena que la nueva. Él se vio forzado a dejar a su mujer y bebé de nueve meses en Kansas luego de ser detenido por las autoridades y tener que enfrentar un proceso de repatriación. “Tuve una vida de aventuras, anécdotas buenas y malas, sorpresas y humillaciones, fue difícil”, confesó Julio en una noche fría luego de su ingreso a la Casa del Migrante en Ciudad Juárez.

Poverty in Juarez: An Extinguished Light

EL PASO — Juarez: a place of abundant people, a city that shares its border with El Paso, a mother of a diverse culture and tradition, and yet, a site of desperation and rampant poverty. Poverty is one of Juarez’s greatest problems, a reality that sweeps across the town like a sandstorm, seizing on its way the tender smiles and the vivid aspirations from many thousands of people. Poverty is in the fainting child who dreams of a mouthful of beans or in the search for warmth and shelter during cold winter nights. Poverty is like the subtle wind that blows outside your window; silent, constant. It is the indivisible shadow that penetrates life.

Nos quedaron a deber

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Si hay alguien que admiro por su inteligencia es Yolanda. Una mujer interesada por la comunidad, la sociedad y todo lo que sucede a nuestro alrededor. A pesar de ser madre de tiempo completo y de que toda su vida ha trabajado, siempre tiene tiempo para ver los noticieros tanto de Ciudad Juárez como de otras ciudades. No hay día que no se siente cómodamente a leer el periódico enterito. Su parte favorita son las columnas de escritores, periodistas y políticos.

Film Depicts College Life on the Border

EL PASO — Having to wake up every morning to get ready for school and get to class is something most American college students do not think twice about. But for Mexican students who live across the U.S./Mexico border, this simple task can become a challenging chore, which transports them into a more complex Americanized version of their own culture. Award winning director Maru Buendía-Senties wrote and directed a 29-minute short film based on how students tend to compare their situations and cultures to one another when they come from opposites sides of the border and attend the same university. “Entre Líneas” was filmed on the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus and on the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez border. Buendía-Senties is also a UTEP alumnus.

Reporting on the Drug War, a Dangerous Business

EL PASO — As the drug cartel violence in Ciudad Juárez continues to escalate, the news media on both sides of the border has continued to cover it. But now, the violence has spread to the newsrooms —getting the story is a job and a danger.

From the ‘Other Australia’: An Austrian in El Paso

After a month or so of experiencing severe cultural shock and asking myself whether I had really been sent to a place within the United States, I started to regard this city as the single most fascinating place I had ever been to —both from a personal perspective as well as from a professional perspective (I am a graduate student of geography).

Chupacabras sobre ruedas en Ciudad Juárez

CIUDAD  JUÁREZ, México — Más de dos mil personas se unieron al reto de una carrera ciclista de 100km donde a pesar de caídas, raspones, fracturas e insolaciones, vivieron experiencias que cambiaron su vida. “Como dice el lema, es un reto que te cambia y terminar el Chupacabras es el reto principal de casi todos los participantes,” dijo David Olivas de 26 años quien recorre la pista de Chupacabras desde hace tres años. El sábado 10 de Octubre, como cada año, se llevó a cabo una carrera ciclista de 100km en el lado mexicano de la frontera con Estados Unidos a lo largo del Río Bravo y la sierra de Juárez bajo condiciones extremas de terreno y clima. En 1994, Jorge Urías Cantú junto con su compadre Luis Villarreal compartían el sueño de llevar acabo el ciclismo de una manera formal, por lo que junto con varios amigos salían a recorrer la sierra de Ciudad Juárez en  busca de nuevas pistas. Durante uno de los recorridos por la sierra, según cuenta Luis Gabriel Sosa, director de mercadotecnia de la organización, alguien mencionó la posibilidad de que el chupacabras (leyenda sobre un misterioso animal que chupa la sangre de los animales hasta matarlos) se apareciera por ahí, por lo que el recorrido comenzó a adoptar ese nombre y cuando se formaliza la carrera, obtiene oficialmente el nombre de Chupacabras.

Warning – be aware of dangers when visiting Juárez

EL PASO — With an increasing number of drug-war killings in Ciudad Juárez, shootouts in broad daylight and random acts of violence such as the burning down of a nightclub, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) administration has warned students and faculty to be extra careful when travelling in Mexico.

Corren mil por la amistad en el verdadero Juárez

Año tras año, desde 1968 se lleva a cabo la Carrera Pedestre Internacional de la Amistad “Lic. Francisco J. Cuéllar” que reune a miles de personas para participar en las carreras de 3 km (categoría recreativa) y 10 km (categoría mayor). Esta carrera en sus inicios estaba enfocada a resaltar la amistad que hay entre las ciudades vecinas de Juárez y El Paso, por lo que el recorrido se dividía entre las dos ciudades, pero esto terminó después del atentado en contra de los Estados Unidos el 11 de septiembre de 2001.

A New Life, an Uneasy Choice Pt. 2

EL PASO — With a raging drug war that has left many in fear and confusion, the choice to move to the United States isn’t as black and white as some would hope. But for the individuals and families with money, moving to the United States isn’t just a choice, but a luxury they can afford.

War on Drugs Conference at UTEP

With violence at an all time high, a two-day conference that starts at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) will reevaluate this “war” the nation has been fighting.