Wednesday February 4, 2010
The heavens over Ciudad Juarez weeped today. The sky rained on a neighborhood where four days ago fifteen people, mostly high school teenagers, were massacred while they celebrated a friend’s birthday. It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy and already far too much than this city can take.
“We beg for justice. We scream for help and no one will answer,” an uncle told me as his nephew was being carried off in a coffin from his living room to a hearse.
The man broke up in sobs, “Chuyito, Chuyito,” he called to his dead nephew. “Dios mio!”
Behind him the boy’s mother wailed painfully, “Don’t take him, don’t take him. He’s mine, mine. He’s my son.”
Vigils for four of the teens where held this morning at three homes on the same street where they were killed. As the hearses arrived and family members carried out the coffins, the rain feel harder.
“Es Dios mostrando su tristeza,” said one man. “This is God showing his sadness.”
I held back my own tears and held out my microphone, which was shielded from the rain by a hotel shower cap. The scene was so surreal, how could there be so much tragedy in one place? I couldn’t imagine, couldn’t begin to phantom these people’s pain. Life is so unfair for them. To bear the pain of the crime itself and then on top of that live with such injustice. One mother lost her only two sons. One was in high school, the other a university student.
“Please,” the uncle told me. “You are from the United States. We need help. We want this to stop, we can’t take anymore. Estamos artos!”
Chihuahua governor Jose Reyes Baeza arrived in the neighborhood shortly before the coffins were carried out. His caravan of giant white SUVs looked larger than most of the houses lining the street. He spent some time in each of the homes. I think it was absolutely the very least he could do. For many families it was far too little, far too late.
A photographer from the Dallas Morning News and I were allowed to enter one of the homes where a boy was being kept. Under the dim yellow light the tiny living room felt like a humid jungle surrounded by so many memorial wreaths. A photo of the boy as a baby hung on the wall and on his coffin lay his soccer uniform. The elder women sat around the casket their wrinkled faces wrought with hurt. Children sat about with sad eyes, some slurping the soup from a bowl of menudo.
Outside people created small fires out of sticks of plywood to stay warm. The weather was gray, rainy and cold. The street was full of people, young and old. Ironically, I don’t think the neighborhood had ever been safer than it was that very moment. Police and army were everywhere. I roamed around the block taking pictures of abandoned homes and graffitied walls.
I even spoke briefly with a female police officer. She had just graduated the police academy in September. I asked her somewhat baffled, “What motivated you to become a police officer in this city?” She smiled a little and said, “Just like everyone else I was sick of seeing the city being taken over by so much violence. I felt I could do something, take action so I joined the police.” But now that she’s an officer, she says it’s not what she imagined. There are a lot of limitations to what she can do. She can’t make like Batman and clean up the streets.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Batman? Frankly, I can’t think of any better solution.