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Posts Tagged ‘killings’

September 10, 2010 

I’d like to introduce you to the Cadena family.

Their son Rodrigo was killed January 30th by a single bullet to the neck in a ruthless massacre at his friend’s birthday party in Ciudad Juarez. Fifteen others– mostly teenagers– were slaughtered that night by a commando of hit men who confused their party for that of a rival drug gang.

Seventeen-year-old Rodrigo Cadena was killed Jan. 30 at a friend's birthday party.

This night forever ripped a gash in the lives Adrian Cadena and his wife Guadalupe Davila. They are Rodrigo’s parents. Adrian is an auto mechanic and his wife works for the city government. The couple lives with their three remaining children in a tiny government subsidized home in south central Juarez.

Rodrigo played American football for a local community league founded about eight years ago by Juarenzes who love the sport. His team is the Jaguars. After the massacre, Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised to build the league a brand new football field in honor of those killed. I decided to check out the new field several weeks ago and write a story about it.

That’s how I met the Cadena family.

I arrived at their home late one afternoon. The family welcomed me with smiles and right away began to bring out photos of their deceased son. “Look,” said Ms. Cadena “This is my baby when he started kinder”…. “This is him after their big championship win.”

Then they shared the terrible story of the night their son died. The birthday party was for Rodrigo’s friend, Charlie, in a far off neighborhood called Villas de Salvarcar. A bunch of Jaguars teammates were at the party including other neighborhood teens.

Mr. Cadena said the last time he talked to his son was 9:30 that night. Rodrigo begged his father to let him stay just a little later. The next call the family received was to tell them their son had been killed.

The birthday party was intercepted by hit men carrying high caliber weapons. They blocked off the streets with several vehicles before storming the block and the three side by side houses where the party was held. Then they opened fire.

Rodrigo was killed along with three of his team mates. One was Juan Carlos Medrano, the Jaguars’ star quarterback. Juan Carlos was killed alongside his girlfriend, Brenda. Others survived the attack, some badly injured. One player still has a bullet lodged near his kidney.

The state attorney general later told the families of those killed that the hit men had mistakenly targeted these young people. Their intent was to hit the party of a rival gang know as the “Double A’s,” short for Assassination Artists.  They’d come heavily armed, prepared to face retaliation.

The terrible mistake was that in the football league, the category the Jaguars played for was also known as the “Double A’s” or the older adolescents. The younger adolescent category was simply known as the “A’s”. The league has since changed the category names.

“It was an army of assassins that unleashed their fury on a group of indefensible young people,” Mr. Cadena said.

Despite the horrific tragedy, I noticed an incredible strength and sense of peace in the Cadena family. I soon realized that they drew their strength from their continued support of the football league. This from a family that knew little about the sport before their son began playing four years ago.

Rodrigo’s mother told me, “I may have lost one son, but I gained hundreds more.” She was referring to the boys and teens who remain on the league. She said she sees her son in each and every one of them.

“Every kiss, every hug I receive from them, it’s as if I was receiving it from my son,” she said. “Their dreams are the same as my son’s and I want to support them.”

The Cadena family knows football kept their son straight. And they know it can do the same for other young people. So they volunteer their time with their league. They plan to go to every game this season and cheer louder than ever.

“Not 20 thousand soldiers or 10 thousand federal police or even the president himself can change the situation here in Juarez,” Mr. Cadena said. “It’s up to us, the citizens of Juarez to turn things around. Each one of us has to take responsibility for our community and work to make it better.”

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Wednesday March 24, 2010

Thirteen days have past since the last mass killing occurred in Juarez and I am just now sitting down to pick up where I left off. Three days after six people were killed at a funeral wake in Paraje del Sur, a couple of other deadly shootings vastly overshadowed their deaths and consumed the attention of the international press, including myself. I’m referring to the murder of US consulate worker Lesley Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, who worked as a detention officer in the El Paso County jail. Also killed was Jorge Alberto Salcido Cenicero, who’s wife worked for the US consulate in Juarez.

A hearse is parked in front of a home in south Juarez. This home was the site of a shooting the night before, which resulted in the death of six more people.

And this morning, there is yet another mass shooting in the Juarez headlines, unlikely to get air time or ink spent in the international press. Four young men where killed outside a funeral home they were making improvements to in their neighborhood. The news reports attribute their deaths to rival gang activity and say these were young men who were trying to reform their lives. One of dead apparently lived in El Paso.

The mass shooting thirteen days ago, occurred in a remote colonia called Paraje del Sur. From the international border it took me 40 minutes to reach the neighborhood. I put 100 miles on my car in my attempt to cover the story. Despite my efforts, though, I wasn’t able to get much insight into the attack.

Paraje del Sur is in the south eastern corner of Juarez, one of the newer neighborhoods of government subsidized housing projects meant to house employees who work the dozens of maquiladoras in that portion of the city. I often see the colonia’s name in the news as it is a common site of violence, mostly shooting deaths. This was my first visit to the neighborhood.

I arrived at about 11:30 in the morning. Despite the newness of the corner stores, and gasoline stations the colonia has a desolate feeling. In stark sunlight, there is a noticeable lack of trees as the neighborhood is built over no more than desert sand and prickly shrubs. Graffiti is everywhere.

The killings happened just a few blocks from the entrance of the colonia, which is marked by a large sign in blue lettering that says Paraje del Sur. When I arrived there were already other media there. A black hearse was parked in front of the house as the family was preparing to bury the 18-year-old boy whose wake the night before resulted in six more deaths. The family was visibly annoyed by our presence and did not want to talk, something I can sympathize with. I took a couple shots and talked with neighbors who had gathered around on the same block. I didn’t get much more than second-hand accounts, but the note of of frustration and desperation present in so many of the interviews I do was unmistakable.

The family left in a small sedan behind the hearse and the media began clearing away. I asked some of the local reporters whether there would be a press conference later on. Some of them actually chuckled at my question. “No,” they said. The only response to the media from authorities was to send us a police report with basic details. This time there would be no denouncing by the mayor, the attorney general, the federal police or military, like there was in the last massacre. The realization felt surreal to me. It felt like even mass killings, like this one– the second in seven weeks, had become just another example of the daily violence in the city.

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Friday March 13, 2010

Thursday night a family was gathered at their home in a remote south eastern corner of Ciudad Juarez. They were having a funeral wake for their 18-year-old son who was shot dead two days earlier in the same neighborhood. Close to ten o’clock friends and relatives outside the home were attacked by gunmen who fired at them with 66 rounds. Five people between the ages of 18 and 30-years-old lay dead in the front yards of neighboring homes, perhaps in their attempt to flee. A sixth person, a 21-year-old woman later died at a hospital from her wounds. Four others are still hospitalized with injuries.

This was the news I woke up to Friday morning. My plans that day did include a visit to my sister city, but not to cover yet another massacre. A sick feeling slowly bubbled in my stomach. I remember the emotional ordeal of the last mass killing– the wailing relatives, the coffins, the rain, dozens of funeral wreaths. Why more, why again, I asked myself? Where is the humanity in people? I didn’t want to cover this again, hadn’t the city gone through enough already?

But these are things beyond my control or opinion, I had a duty to carry out.  I made some calls to get directions to the neighborhood and rescheduled my previous appointments for that day. I packed my gear, hid away my passport together with a twenty and my driver’s license and left my house heading south towards the big Mexican flag flapping in the distance.

…to be continued

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