This is Juarez: The War Next Door | The Truth About Mexico

Categorized | Chihuahua

This is Juarez: The War Next Door

A post by "Matt Lindsey" |

My wife and I moved to Ciudad Juarez on June 17th, 2008. We moved to help fund and bring awareness to the deep needs of Ciudad Juarez and Mexico. Our vision, while serving and bringing awareness to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is to foster light, love and hope by sharing life and investing in a community. To see more posts by this author, click here.

Almost all the dead are poor people, not drug-enriched grandees. And though we give Mexico half a billion dollars a year to encourage its army to fight drug merchants, this alleged war has a curious feature: Almost no soldiers ever die. For example, in Juarez, over 4,200 citizens have been slain in two years. In the same period, with 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers in town, the military has suffered three dead.

Charles Bowden, High Country News

My neighbor’s eyes are soft and welcoming, easing my tension as I stumble my way through our conversation about desert plants and gardening in my broken Spanish. Danny and I have shared a lot of time together, talking mostly about plants, teaching each other their corresponding Spanish or English names. Danny comes from Mexico City, a tropical region, and he knows a lot about gardening; but within the constraints of a brutal city he has had little opportunity to enjoy his love for nature. He along with his brothers and their families migrated to the border on the wings of hope and opportunity. They built their houses together on dreams of a better life for their families, eleven people living stuffed together in a tiny cinderblock house doing all that they can to help each other succeed. Instead of freedom and a better life they have found themselves surrounded by relentless tension and difficulty. These are outstanding people who have welcomed us, two gringos, into their neighborhood with open arms.

I tell this story as a parallel to the two Americans that died a couple of weeks ago in Juarez. We have seen their stories plastered all over the news, we have shifted in our chairs and taken comfort in our resolve to stay as far away as possible, convinced that we would be the target of the next strategic bullet. But it is families like Danny’s that carry the real weight of the war. It is the poor people of the world, the voiceless and powerless, that always carry the weight and residue of the affluent. Yes, two Americans tragically died that weekend, and so did at least thirty Mexicans, thirty more to add to the nearly 5,000 in the past three years. This is Juarez: Real people. Real families. Real struggles.

Charles Bowden, arguably the leading journalist and researcher on this heinous war, says that, “few discussions about the border come from facts. Most discussions of the border come from fears. We seem to prefer slogans and fantasies: free trade, ‘just say no’,’gigantic walls’.”

It is no fantasy that well over 17,000 people in Mexico have died since Felipe Calderon took office just over three years ago, or that in Juarez alone 5,000 people have been intentionally slaughtered. The easy thing to do is shake our heads in amazement and then change the channel. And while we sit comfortably in our easy chairs over 1,000,000 of our poor brothers and sisters in Juarez shut themselves behind their stick and cardboard fences and kneel on their dirt floors praying that the bullets do not pass by too closely to their baby’s head. In a city of 1.4 million, over 100,000 people have lost their jobs at U.S. owned factories. These are jobs that pay just $5-$7 a day, not even coming close to easing the burden of living in a third world country. 27% of the homes in Juarez are now abandoned. Over 10,000 business have closed and some 30-60 thousand people, the few that are able, have taken shelter in El Paso. The mayor of Juarez and the publisher of the local newspaper live in El Paso in fear of their lives. 100-400 thousand have fled Juarez for other parts of Mexico, and yet over 1,000,000 people are too poor to do anything about their situation, and their children, making disastrous choices in a crumbled society, keep dying.

The facts do not stop here. Thanks to folks like Bowden, Diana Washington Valdez and others, the deceptive veil of political ramble is being torn and the hideous truth is being revealed.

17,000 + dead in Mexico and 5,000 in our city. More U.S. guns is not the answer.

We have hesitated in the past to post a bunch of statistics about the War Next Door. We don’t want to give people another reason to run away from the border, or incite a spirit of fear over our lives and work. We believe strongly in layering all that we do and say about Juarez with words of hope, but what Mexico is currently reaping directly and absolutely affects all of our lives, whether we believe it now or realize it later. I write this because the longer we disregard them as they stand in the midst of their pain, the uglier this war will become.

Listen to Charles Bowden’s recent NPR interview here.

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