Day 3 in Juarez
Sunday morning dawns bright across southeast Juarez. I want to get a good look at the new US Consulate facility today- right next to to this hotel.
It is hard to walk in this part of town compared to other areas- it is modern, industrial and spread out.
Still I want to get a look at the huge factories- the maquiladoras south of us.
I pull out a New Testament that a kid on the plaza gave me yesterday. I flip through the pages- words of life and hope- and it hits me between the eyes- oooh I need to lose that phrase as well as some others (below).
Oh, another gift I got was some really fine mescal- Don Antonio Aguilar- made in Zacatecas and given to me by Lorenzo at the Ramada. Sipping that fine mescal and reading the life of Jesus- great combination.
Anyway, here’s the deal: have I ever had someone in El Paso do such a thing as this kid on the plaza did? I have been around El Paso quite a bit over the years. Never once was I offered a gift. It is beyond ironic that words of hope would be offered me on the streets of Juarez. I am going to hold onto this book.
So some quick breakfast – more incredibly delicious eggs, frijoles, chilaquiles, fresh fruit, etc. Some tweeting and we are off- mostly in a vehicle today due to great distances.
Note on this Walk Across Juarez
Some may think I simply present a sentimental idealized view of troubled Juarez. To be sure there are serious problems here. But I am simply giving you my experience- my first hand account of what I see. And to be sure what I am experiencing here is vastly different than what I expected.
On this walk I kept having to adjust my terminology and outlook. Like mainly that I had to keep reminding myself that my country is the USA and that I am a blue blooded Norte Americano- gringo is an easier term.
Not that I am not glad to be a US dude and very attached to my country. Quite to the contrary.
But the issue is that it is so easy and natural to connect with the citizens of Juarez. Obviously they have a small percentage of really bad guys here. But the vast majority are wholesome welcoming friends…and they are our closest neighbors. The welcome was so warm and genuine (that old Mexico vibe that I love about Chihuahua, the Sierra Madres and Copper Canyon) that the contrast to the relative coldness of the US side is stark.
Also on the terminology issue, I had to stop using phrases like:
– kill time
-shoot a picture
-take a stab at it
-I’m dead tired
…and so on. I would pop out a line like this and we would all laugh.
Honestly another typical humor point is when we would discuss the extremely negative attitude toward Juarez that we have in the US. Don’t be offended gringos, but they just chuckle when they try to get their heads around what we think daily life there is like- and how we are so molded and freaked by what our press cranks out. And how El Paso is right there and people just wont come across.
The maquis are huge and the economic and social impact is gargantuan. It is hard to believe the figures they tell me:
-70% of the 1.4 million people in Juarez are linked to the Maquis
-40%of the maqui workers have been imported- mainly from Veracruz
-The vastness of the housing areas created for the workers and the incredible crime rates there
-The 10s of 1000s of buses used to transport workers- chocking the streets starting at 5a for the 6a shift
So here is what I saw
There are these two long snakes of semis- one crawling south with raw materials. The other slithering north with finished goods for the WalMarts.
They ease past each other at the various bridges. They are filled with plastic, fabric. Car parts. They will fill Kohl’s, Lowes, AutoZone.
In a few of them there is the Meth and Cocaine we demand.
These snakes daily supply our needs. And they provide the meager subsistence that the maqui workers take home.
How Juarez and we changed
Interestingly as Juarez became our supply point some 35 years ago, this place also became the focal point for our criticism and dismay- a place to be avoided.
Perhaps Juarez earned this castigation. But we get so much from this place- they supply us with all of this. We have withdrawn and we give so little. One NGO used to 40 or so service trips here a year. Now they do 2-3. Is the need less?
And we receive so little from these rich people. We are using Juarez more than ever but listening to these people and experiencing all this great place has to offer so very little. We are so connected economically, but so removed personally.
And in my opinion this is not only wrong and unnatural, it is to our great loss.
We load up, catch the 45 south for Chihuahua City and head south.
After a quick stop at Samalayucca (sand dunes where Star Wars was made and home of an important part of the history of the Camino Real- some huge wells right in the desert), we are on the road.
The Walk Across Juarez is over.