People Take the Streets of Cd. Juárez

Monday, June 13, 2011 2:06 AM

Javier Sicilia in Cd. juarez

It is no secret that the violence happening in our sister city of Cd. Juarez hasn’t ceased. Thousands have died, many have fled the city and some are now living with us here in El Paso, Texas.  But what about those who cannot leave?  Those who cannot do anything about their situation? Juarenses have dealt with  the corruption, the impunity and social injustice. They get up every morning and go to work, take their children to school and hope for the best. Now and then, we will see a news clip where small groups of people go out to the streets and demand justice. Unfortunately, usually they are ignored.

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia’s son was one more victim of the violence that has permeated not only Cd. Juarez but Mexico in general. Sicilia’s pain was so much that he decided to ask for justice and organized “Caravana por la paz con justicia y dignidad” “Caravan for peace, for justice and dignity.” This group started a nation wide march demanding justice for all the dead. On Thursday, the caravan  ended the march in Cd. Juarez.  Sicilia and the caravan  came to Juarez to comfort those who have lost a family member to the violence,  he invited Juarenses to come out to the streets and speak out, to share their stories and to demand justice.

On Friday, June 10, I along with other El Pasoans, gathered at Armijo Park in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio and walked in a scortching heat across the Stanton Street International Bridge into Cd. Juarez to join the march where Sicilia was to speak. There was tension within the group since we didn’t know what to expect once we crossed into Juarez. A group of Juarenses welcomed us and we continued to walk towards the “Monumento Benito Juarez” where  Sicilia would be speaking. We got there and slowly, before we knew it, over 3,000 people gathered.  Banners, art,  music, dance and poetry was all over the place. Of course, being in Juarez, the many street vendors were there selling burritos, raspas, agues frescas, elotes and much more. The event officially started when Juarenses welcomed Sicilia and he shared his story along with inspirational words encouraging our cities to speak out. Emotion overtook him as he addressed the crowd.  Media from all over the world were present and didn’t miss a beat. A group of activists spoke out against the Mexican government.

It wasn’t until the people of Cd. Juarez, our neighbors, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters and sons, one by one, shared their story. They had all lost a loved one. As I listened to their stories, my heart simply broke. I tried to hold back the tears but I couldn’t. I looked around and realized everyone around me had tears in their eyes. Old and young, male and female, they all felt and shared the pain. I wondered how many of the people present also had lost a loved one to the senseless violence.  Many of the speakers expressed anger, sadness, and impotence. We all listened attentively and with respect. Some sang out chants of peace,  while many others prayed. Emotions were all over the place.

The event went into the night. I met many people that came with the “Caravana.” They shared their experiences and we bonded.  It was getting late and decided to walk back to El Paso. I walked the dark and semi-empty streets of Juarez but I was not afraid. A friend escorted me to the Santa Fe International Bridge.  As we walked, I felt sad for the people. Their stories resonated in my head over and over. I asked myself, ‘What is my role in this struggle for peace and justice?’ As an El Pasoan, ‘Why should I care?’ Halfway back I felt empowered,  I felt a rush of adrenaline and walked  with no fear. As I crossed the border, I stopped and looked down into the Rio Grande. I looked and realized that the Rio Grande was the only thing that separates Juarez and El Paso. We are one community with a river running through the middle… and it happens to be an international border… but we are still one people. We do need to care. What can we do? We have to acknowledge  the situation in Cd. Juarez,  oppose it, create awareness… but the best thing we can do is to pray for our sister city.

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