Why I’m in Juarez…

27 Jan

I am at the US-Mexico border all this week, looking at the random and now-familiar violence that has come characterize, these days,  Mexico’s fourth-largest city, Ciudad Juarez. And the killings have indeed continued: seven young men were killed on a soccer pitch the evening before I arrived, and there were two shootings on my first day here, including that of the mayor’s bodyguard by federal police. (Talk about inexplicable.)

Twenty years ago I was here to look at the impact of the twin plants, or maquiladoras, on the lives of the people who worked in them. Today some of these same people are losing children in the war between organized crime and the federal army, and among the various narco-gangs disputing this valuable territory. It used to be that twin plant employees had to put together their own homes, with scrap wood and metal sheeting, because there was not enough housing for the great influx of workers. Now I’ve heard that there are an estimated 80,000 abandoned houses lying empty in Juarez, as 250,000 Juarenses have left their homes to live in El Paso – yesterday, it took me almost an hour just to cross the Santa Fe bridge following the multitudinous line-up snaking its way through U.S. immigration.

Is there a link between the way Juarez was developed by its financial elite back then and the violence we are seeing today? Has the fact that government wasn’t there to put in roads, schools and clinics for workers — much less to guarantee their rights to  organize – meant that criminals also feel free to do whatever they like without fear of the law? I’ve been talking to some interesting observers of what is going on here, like Carlos Gonzalez of the Colegio de Chihuahua, and lawyer Gustavo de la Rosa, who has gone from fighting for the rights of workers to fighting for the rights of people unjustly detained and tortured by the army.

But readers will have a wait a couple of weeks for the full story – and what I hope will add up to a clear-sighted analysis of what has until now been little more than a sensational news story. It’s the least this depressed-looking city and its beleaguered denizens deserve.



2 Responses to “Why I’m in Juarez…”

  1. eden Baylee January 29, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    It would be good to get the full story on this. The violence is, nonetheless, extremely disturbing. Look forward to your full report, and be careful.

  2. Deb February 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Very much looking forward to your further writings on Ciudad Juarez – you’ll have a unique perspective taking the 20 year long view! Can’t believe it’s been that long since your maquiladora book ….

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