Lost in the pain of Juarez

This 6-foot square mural decorates the wall of a tattoo shop on Avenida Juárez across the river from where we live (photo from June 2008). Certainly created by a man, this idealized depiction of a beautiful Disney-esque young woman with nails piercing her head, face and neck is tragically unreal. There’s no blood, no tears, no one counting the dead. On this side of the river we don’t see the blood or the tears or the dead up close, but certainly on the other side the people see the blood every day. There’s a war going on, but it’s lost in the white noise of our national and regional media.

Since the beginning of the year in Juárez, Chihuahua (a 15 minute walk from my desk here on Texas Avenue in downtown El Paso) men with guns have murdered over 800 people as part of an never-ending drug war between rival gangs of narco-traficantes—the remnants of the Juárez Cartel founded by the Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who supposedly died on a plastic surgeon’s operating table getting himself a new face, and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Their bloody struggle is for control of the Juárez “plaza” (or “franchise,” perhaps a better term for American ears). Whoever wins controls the smuggling of drugs and human beings and any other illegal product that is valued north of the Rio Grande. This business, worth billions of dollars, dwarfs any other enterprise on the border.

Below is the body count between Monday 4th thru Friday the 8th, August 2008 (El Paso Times / Chihuahua State Police):

Monday: Two separate quadruple-homicides. Plus, seven other homicides.
Tuesday: A man is fatally shot in a boot shop in the village of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos. Plus, three other deaths.
Wednesday: Eight men are killed and five wounded in a Juárez drug rehab center. Plus, five other deaths.
Thursday: Three men are gunned down and another man wounded at a junkyard. Plus, nine other deaths.
Friday: The bodies of two men are found wrapped in blankets. Their hands were cut off and left next to the bodies, which showed signs of torture. Six others were slain, including Cristian Alcantar, 16, and Jesus Villanueva Dominguez, 19, who were shot and killed while riding in a Saturn Ion with Texas plates.
This sadness seems to have no end.

To begin to grasp what’s going on Juárez and here on the border, I strongly suggest you read the following articles that have recently appeared in newspapertree.com, an online magazine that covers El Paso and the region.

In the first--My Brother's Body, A True Story--Rachel Showery documents how drugs and incredible piles of money seduced first her brother and then her husband. The über-text is about her journey to retrieve her brother’s body from the morgue in Juárez in 2002. Ms. Showery decided to write this tragic and terrible family tale after reading day after day about the murderous violence that has gripped Juárez. She wrote it somehow to exorcise her own ghosts and as an offering for peace. Here, like in so many articles about the violence in Juárez and Mexico, the line between the men in uniforms (police or army) and the narco-traficantes seems very nebulous.

The second--15 Minutes of Hell in an Juarez Prayer Meeting--is by Molly Molloy, a librarian by trade and a long-time observer of the border and the issues that affect it. Since January the violence across river has exacerbated everyday and Molly, because she can’t find sufficient news in U.S. regional or national papers, spends her mornings reading the Juárez dailies. She counts the dead. It’s her obsession. Like all of us, she has good friends across the river, and she loves the city. The constant news of the murders has overwhelmed her. She has felt powerless and angry. Then she read about the massacre of eight people on August 13, 2008, at the CIAD (Center for Drug and Alcohol Integration) Rehabilitation Center #8 in the Colonia First of September in the foothills of the Sierra Juárez in the southwest part of the city was just too much. People had come together to offer themselves to God. It reminded her of her own upbringing in Louisiana, the little church where she learned the tenets of Christianity. She had no choice but to go went to investigate for herself. This is her report, and it’s frightening. It appears that the narco-traficantes even consider drug rehabilitation centers as competitors and therefore enemies. They must believe, like Amado Carillo Fuentes before them, that “Only the dead are innocent.”

For further news on this continuing tragedy, I suggest you sign up for the newspapertree.com newsletter on their home page. Their news will be personal and local and so, like the Showery and Molloy pieces, will give you a true taste of what’s going on.


Anonymous said...

Um...that image on the tattoo shop is from the 1981 Debbie Harry album "KooKoo," not is not some generic "Disney-esque young woman." And, yes, it was done by a man for Debbie Harry--namely, HR Geiger.

Sheesh, dude.

Bobby Byrd said...

Dear Anonymous Dude,
Very cool. Many thanks. I’m sort of old and in the way sometimes. Especially re music. I didn’t even know who Debbie Harry is. Or was. I just googled it and saw all the many images and found out. But my words really inconsequential. More important were the two articles which I hope you read. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Bobby Byrd said...

The original image, from which the mural was cloned, is by H.R. Giger and you can learn more about its making at http://www.hrgiger.com/music/kookoo.htm
And Debbie Harry still is.
Thanks Anonymous Dude.

Bobby Byrd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.