Dreaming a Flat Bridge between Juárez and El Paso
Since Luis Urrea's visit to El Paso, I got sidetracked and I find myself moving around the furniture in my imagination about El Paso and Juárez. That's how I found this postcard tucked into our digital files for David Romo's Ringside Seat to a Revolution. How charming and idyllic it is, so much so it drips with the real blood of irony in comparing to what we have now. It's true, back in the day, the bridge between El Paso and Juárez was flat [*see note], and the Rio Bravo (aka, Rio Grande) was a common resource, certainly not a fenced and heavily guarded dividing line between El Norte and El Sur. Then in the early 60s the Kennedy Administration brokered the Chamizal Treaty which diverted the river into a concrete ditch. It also moved the border at the downtown bridge a hundred yards or so north, over which some pendejo engineer designed, and the feds built, a three story tall bridge. It's meaning was simple--divide one city from the other. These decisions, made in DC and DF, radically altered not only the river, but also south downtown El Paso, especially around the Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita Barrio. And over the years since the 60s the culture and the politics of the two cities has changed dramatically. It was slow change at first, but then in the mid-90s to now, the change became accelerated. The border on the U.S. side has become a military camp for a number of federal agencies, each elbowing more and more space for themselves, fewer and fewer people from the U.S. go back and forth to enjoy families and friends and entertainment to simply enjoy Mexico, and illegal drugs and immigration have become essential cash industries for the Mexican economy. And so how do we reverse this insanity? How do we make our bridge flat again?
First thought, best thought: Rewrite the U.S. drug laws; remove the capitalistic incentive from the sale of marijuana, heroin and cocaine; and treat addiction as a sickness, not as a crime. But you say this to the bureaucrats in D.C., they just talk gobbley-gook, then they turn around and show you their fat asses. I'm a poet and I should be able to say this better, but, damnit, as I write this, it's Friday afternoon, and I'm tired of the insanity I see.
Insanity like a three-story bridge that should be a flat bridge.
[**NOTE: Thanks to Roberto Camp who a long time ago explained to me that the building of that monstrosity of a bridge was a tipping point in the history of these two sister cities.]