EL PASO — Norberto Lee’s tranquil life was abruptly struck with tragedy when his father was shot and killed by masked gunmen in front of their place of business in Juarez after he refused to pay protection money to gangsters. For months his father had been receiving phone calls demanding payoffs. “The calls began after my dad arrived from a trip, but he only told one of my brothers who then told my mom and then she told me. I told the rest of my siblings and we thought it was best for him to come to El Paso,” said Lee. His father came to stay in El Paso for 10 days but felt uneasy and was unable to stay any longer.
EL PASO — The Spanish words on white poster-board picket signs carried by Nancy Gonzalez cry out for “Justice and peace for Cd. Juarez.”
To the left of Gonzalez, on a busy downtown sidewalk Selfa Chew holds up a poster with a blood-red handprint overlapping a peaceful white dove. Person after person walk by, some hesitant and others curious as they scan through the words of rage on the posters. Then they continue on with their day. Every Friday from 2p.m. to 3 p.m., a group of individuals gathers in front of the Mexican Consulate building in downtown El Paso to remind the community of the assassinations and kidnappings of innocent people taking place right across the bridge in Cd.
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.
EL PASO – Drug-war violence has crippled the economy of Cd. Juárez sending many business owners packing along with their customers, to the safer sister city across the border. El Paso has become the beneficiary of that middle-class migration since the criminal activity began to escalate in 2008. Ke’ Flauta, for example, a restaurant in west El Paso, is one of many businesses that has fled from its original location in Juárez. “Unfortunately, Juárez has gotten hit very badly with the violence. The economy is greatly affected and there are scary threats from extortionists against businesses all the time,” said Raul Aguilar, owner of Ke’ Flauta.
EL PASO – It had been a year since I’d last visited Juarez, considered the most dangerous city in the world because of unrelenting drug violence. After crossing the international bridge from EL Paso, I drove into a city under siege, past armed Mexican soldiers and army trucks lining the principal avenue leading to Juarez’s once-bustling central business district. Later at lunch, at Barrigas restaurant, a friend very much in the know shrugged and put down his fork as he explained, “The city government thought a strong military presence in this area would bring the businesses back,” he said, matter-of-factly. “And?” I asked. “It hasn’t worked,” he said, flashing an ironic smile and returning to his shrimp and steak. While he and the other friends my husband and I had lunch with last week seemed unfazed by this in-your-face show of military force on Juarez streets, the sight of so many soldiers with BIG guns left me feeling uneasy, queasy and anxious about the future of a once booming border city and important gateway to the U.S.
When I saw the soldiers strolling along with their M-16’s, a sign I’d seen on a wall in El Paso flashed across my mind like a news ticker on a TV screen: “Warez,” said the block-letter sign, a reference to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, a battle many politicians insist is not a war or even an insurgency, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has called it in public.
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. EL PASO — With a black apron around his waist and a headset on his head, the expatriated Mexican teenager places the payment for a lunch meal in the cash-register just as the drive-through starts beeping to place the next order. “When my dad came here we didn’t had any money, no money at all,” said Jose Antonio Argueta, Jr., 19. “Me and my sister had to pay everything, the house, the cars everything we had.” With a serious tone, Argueta tells how his family struggled to establish their restaurant Burritos Tony here. “My dad started working at minimum wage earning maybe like two hundred a week.”
Argueta has been working at Burritos Tony for more than a year.
EL PASO, Texas – A few basics of daily life like laundry detergent, toiletries and some medical essentials such as new dentures help 11 families with 30 children stay on track at a lower valley non-profit homeless shelter. The Reynolds house shelters families –mostly women and their children– who have fled from domestic violence in Juarez and who need some help getting back on their feet. This low-key shelter opened its doors 20 years ago when Director Dorothy Truax’s mother inherited her parent’s house. “The time she inherited it I had a brother who was working with homeless families and individuals and he used to bring them home to mom when he couldn’t find enough space. When she got this home she thought it would be a perfect place for the families.”
Throughout the last year-and-a-half the Reynolds house has housed an increase in families fleeing economic problems and the violence in Juarez. The majority of the residents, however, are there because of domestic violence.