Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fiesta Juárez 2014

Ever since the Ham Sandwich Fiasco of 2011, I've done my best to avoid reading the comments that follow online news articles. I often find myself wondering what life was like before the Internet, when readers just kept their quiet, psycho thoughts to themselves. But I am a Millennial, so that is neither here nor there. People tend to say the most asinine things when they are behind the protection of a computer screen. So when the El Paso Times did a piece on Fiesta Juárez 2014, I should have known what would follow and ignored it, but I slipped and ended up sifting through the comments on Facebook.

It was the same bullshit that people have to say about Juárez anytime the city makes a cameo in a US publication. I guess I'm still a bit naive though because each time I read a hopeful piece about how my city is on the mend and that the violence is a fraction of what it was, there is a small part of me that expects a more supportive reaction from our neighbors to the North. Obviously it's not all lollipops and rainbows in Mexico these days, but in many areas things have calmed down significantly.

After reading this article about a carnival in Juárez that is back up and running this year after a 4 year hiatus due to violence, I stupidly expected people to be more excited. I mean, El Pasoans are always telling me about the glorious days they spent in Juárez, "before the drug war."

They go on and on about the food and the music and the clubs and the tequila and the parks and the people and all the fun they used to have. And this is their big chance to have it all back again, all wrapped up into one event. But no. No, it's too dangerous. Despite the promises from the organizers of Fiesta Juárez for heightened security this time around, and the reassurance that times are indeed changing in the area, many people just couldn't be convinced. That's understandable.

Even though things are improving here, I don't mean to make light of the struggles Juárez has had. I know first-hand how it has affected people. We too witnessed corpses on the side of the road and lost friends in the midst of this... Mess. But at some point, we had to move past it and keep on living. Everyone does. And glorifying what is actually happening today in Juárez and living in the past doesn't help anyone. There are 1.5 million people in this city who need to move on with their lives and in a border town such as this, it's going to take some cooperation from our friends from the North.

Juárez is deeply connected with El Paso and vice versa. One cannot survive without the other. If people aren't going to Juárez to spend their dollars, then people won't be going to El Paso to spend their pesos. Without the trade and tourism from one city to the next, both would just be another dusty ghost town in the Southwest. Comments like those that I read on this news article only add to the real problem.

"I heard they'll be giving out free shots." 
"Youth?!?!?! There wont b any youth the rate they goin over there.." 
"Get up missing posters out if u go.....An have people crying on y this happened." 
"What so the cartel can shoot it up na I'm good." 
"Everyone make sure to wear yur bullit proof vests..." 
"Oh lovely a huge target for the drug cartel! Let's hope nothing goes down because I don't want those stray bullets hitting anyone here in El Paso!" 
"BYOG" 
"Nah I rather deploy and get paid to get shot at"

When was the last time these people were in Juárez? Have they ever even been to Juárez? Those were the first things I wondered after reading their responses to the article. I went against my promise to myself and engaged. I had to know. I questioned people directly only to find that they hadn't been in the city for years, and in a few cases, ever.

So if you haven't been here for years and clearly don't know what you are talking about, why take the time to comment? Why feed into the negativity? Why glamorize and exaggerate the violence in a city you know nothing about? It seems that the people commenting usually live along the North side of the border but don't have any current ties to Mexico. I don't get it. That would be like me pretending to have some sort of first-hand experience with the tragedies in Ferguson just because I grew up in Kansas City. It's ridiculous.

I know I've said this before, but it's almost as if people want Juárez to fail. They want it to be some sort of dangerous, no man's land where anything goes and justice went to die. I know that sounds insane, but the more and more I talk to Americans about their current perspective of the city, the clearer it becomes. Maybe I'm over simplifying, but it seems as if by categorizing Juárez as no more than a crime-ridden, violent city, it makes people feel better about the US and it's current state of affairs. And of course, violence sells newspapers and magazines and books, right? If the media can continue to point a finger at Mexico, they don't have to stop to look at the source of the problem.

Look at those Mexicans, killing their own people, selling drugs, smuggling immigrants. Shame on them.

The longer America wags it's finger, the longer it can ignore it's drug addiction, it's archaic immigration laws, it's questionable policies on gun control. And eventually, the viewpoints of certain news outlets inevitably trickle down to their readers. I really need to learn how to just keep scrolling. No matter what.

I honestly didn't mean to go off on such a tangent, but people get me going sometimes. I really just wanted to share pictures of our night at la feria, sans bulletproof vests. Because the truth is, Juárez is rebuilding. Like it or not, Juárez is putting the pieces back together. This city is resilient and it's people are insanely strong. I have faith that everyone will see that strength in time.


































To anyone who is in the area and still on the fence about whether or not to venture back into Juárez or go to this fair:

Go. Have fun. Don't listen to all the crap you read in the paper. Instead of reminiscing about the Juárez that used to be, go enjoy what it is today. I wasn't here before, but I know in my heart of hearts what Juárez truly is today. The city needs you to move on if this violent stigma is ever going to go away. The last day to enjoy Fiesta Juárez is November 2nd. Don't miss your chance.

Diviértete.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wrong Turn

The case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been going on for over 6 months now. I first heard the story when someone shared a video on Facebook of some sort of Sons of Anarchy-esque motorcycle gang that was heading to Tijuana to demand Tahmooressi's release. The idea of a bunch of gringos showing up at a Mexican prison and demanding anything seemed laughable to me.

Then the whole story began to blow up in the media North of the border. Many called his imprisonment an "outrage." Eventually, during a Town Hall meeting, I saw El Pasoans demand that Congressman O'Rourke get involved somehow and get this man out of Mexican prison. People are reportedly disgusted that President Obama has not "made a call."

¿Que que que?

If you aren't familiar with the story, Tahmooressi is an American veteran who was arrested for weapons charges on the Mexico side of the San Ysidro point of entry in April of this year. He claimed to have made a wrong turn somewhere and that he didn't actually realize he was entering Mexico. He had an AR-15 rifle, a .45-caliber pistol and a 12-gauge pump shotgun, all loaded, as well as several rounds of ammunition in his vehicle at the time. The fact that Tahmooressi was diagnosed with PTSD in March is the cause of most of the uproar in this case, which is still making it's way through the Mexican legal system.

I have been hesitant to say anything because although I have battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of some horrific situations I have been in, I obviously cannot even begin to understand what PTSD is like for a war veteran.

I am truly grateful for any veteran's service to our country and can sympathize with his condition, but can I just throw something out there?

If a Mexican tourist drove into the United States, with a trunk full of weapons and ammunition, breaking the local law, no one would question whether or not he should be put in jail. It wouldn't matter if he was an honorable Mexican war veteran, it wouldn't matter what conditions he had, and it certainly wouldn't be acceptable for some member of the Mexican government to step in and "get him out." So why should any of that matter for Tahmooressi?

Well it matters because he's American, of course. Apparently Americans should always get special treatment. Duh. In fact, even after attempting to escape from prison, Tahmooressi did not appear to receive any type of punishment. According to news sources, he was instead transferred from La Mesa to a private cell in El Hongo, one of the few Mexican prisons which is accredited by the American Correctional Association, and then given 2 hours of daily phone privileges. After a hearing he had in August, he was given 20 minutes to spend with his mother, while Mexican defendants who also had court that day could only hope to catch a glimpse of their family members from a distance. All special treatment fueled by the media attention he was receiving North of the border, no doubt.

You know those people who are always hollering things about immigrants like, "when you're in our country, you better speak our language, you better follow our rules"? Why is it that those people are the ones who are suddenly demanding the exact opposite treatment for an American in a foreign country? I swear, the hypocrisy and entitlement issues that exist in the US never cease to amaze me.

In time, it came to light that Tahmooressi had actually been in Mexico earlier that same day and even checked into a hotel in Tijuana. Listen, I was skeptical of the whole ordeal even before learning that little bit of information because how does one "accidentally" go to Mexico? PTSD or not, if you're familiar with the ports of entry along the border, you know it'd be pretty tough to come or go without realizing it. I don't mean to sound insensitive, or discount Tahmooressi's condition, I'm just having trouble wrapping my head around the details. The whole situation just seems extra sketchy.

I've been thinking about it more lately because there is some construction going on at the bridge that I use to cross into Mexico so the lines have been extra long. It's given me more time contemplate the meaning of life and/or stare at road signs until my eyes begin to cross.

I wanted to take a moment to share some pictures of the signage you'll see before you driven into Mexico. For those who aren't familiar with entering Mexico by land, or maybe at all, the following pictures show the warnings you pass as you approach and then cross the US/Mexico border. Mind you, this obviously isn't the point of entry that Tahmooressi crossed, but from my experience, they are all somewhat similar. There are more signs than what I have pictured here, these are solely what I pass alng my particular route from the US back into Mexico each day. And to be fair, there is one more U-Turn sign that I missed.

You'll have to excuse the fuzzy pictures taken from behind dirty windows, there's a little dust in Juárez from time to time.









































So tell me a little bit more about that wrong turn?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Next 30 Years

This past weekend I turned the big 3-0 so I spent a lot of time reflecting. Where my life is going, where it's been, changes I want to make, etc. Oh and I ate. A lot. I ate the entire world. And I annoyed the absolute crap out of all of my Facebook and Instagram and Twitter followers by posting pictures of my meals in all of their heart-attack-inducing glory. We partied with our friends all weekend and I drank like a fish. Like a 30 year old fish. But back to the reflecting...

I'm certainly not mourning the loss of my youth but I have to say, I honestly thought I would have life figured out by this age. Yet here I am. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I still don't always make mature decisions. I still speak before thinking and talk out of turn and I'm not nearly as responsible as I thought I would be by now.

I do have a few goals in mind for the next few years and I'd like to list them here. I'm a firm believer that whenever you share your goals with others, it just makes you that much more motivated to achieve them. Because if no one ever knows that you intend to run a marathon, let's say, it's a lot easier to fail in privacy of your own mind.

I'm sort of tired of failing.

1. My biggest goal, pun totally intended, is to lose half my body weight. This goal is rather involved because in order to achieve it, I will need to quit drinking so damned much. And if I quit drinking so much, I will quit smoking so much because I only smoke when I drink. This would be an all over makeover, mind, body and soul. It will probably be the most difficult of all my goals because I have such an addictive personality and I have trouble understanding that I don't need something more than me to feel happy. I have trouble with the idea that I don't need to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or eat unhealthy foods to be happier, but I know it's true. This is obviously really 3 goals but I'm trying keep it neat here for all you type-As and keep the list to 10.

2. I want to travel. I want to visit my dad in El Salvador, to finally visit Parral, to leave this continent, God willing. I'd like to see New York City and Los Angeles for shits and giggles. I want to get my husband on an airplane and to show him the ocean for the first time.

3. I want to have a baby in the next few years. This isn't a goal per say but really just where I see our lives going. People ask me all the time if I would have a baby in Juárez because I think they assume my son isn't here for safety reasons of some sort. I think I've cleared that up in the past but I still get asked. I would hope that God will bless us with one more little one when the time is right.

4. I want to write a book. I have started writing the book but never really taken the process too seriously. It's time to buckle down and bust it out.

5. I want to pay off my credit card debt. I know I have spent the last few years whining about our debt and how much it weighs us down. We aren't fancy people and aren't really into fancy things, but you wouldn't be able to tell that from the massive debt that we've accumulated since moving to Mexico. When we didn't have money for gas or groceries, we put it on a credit card. When the car broke down, we put it on a credit card. When we wanted to visit our kids, we put it on a credit card. And the creditors in the US totally let you suck yourself deeper and deeper into debt. It's disgusting. When your debt to credit ratio is high, they send you constant applications for more and more cards offering another thousand here, another thousand there. And then when you're finally drowning in the debt, you start getting pay day or title loan offers. We're done with that. We cut up all of our cards last month and a person who can only be described as an angel has helped us devise a plan to pay everything off. We should be debt free by the end of 2016 at the latest.

6. I want to learn a 3rd language. Maybe French or Mandarin. I'm not sure which would be more useful in life but I'm going to start looking into it. I can already count to 50 in Japanese (thanks Mr. Inouye) so maybe I should start there?

7. I want to learn how to care less about what people think. Something that annoys me so much about my personality is that I am constantly worried about how my actions affect my friends. If I've hurt someone's feelings, if I left someone out, if I said the wrong thing. It's ridiculous because I find myself obsessing over situations unnecessarily because it's likely that the person I'm so concerned about doesn't give two shits about my feelings. I'm hoping that this is something that will get easier with age.

8. I want to buy a house. This is actually a much more attainable goal than it may seem thanks to Infonavit. Infonavit it a federal mortgage program in Mexico and many employees earn credit with Infonavit after working somewhere for a certain period of time. Raymundo has enough credit now to purchase a modest (i.e. small as fuck) home now and we're tired of paying someone else's mortgage. We won't be able to buy new in the area that we want to live in so it's really just a matter of waiting until something tiny and falling apart goes on the market in the right location.

9. I want to get a green card for my husband. Despite everything that's happened and despite my love for Mexico, I still want that for him more than anything. For us. So that we can feel financially secure, so that we can travel freely from country to country to see our families, so that one of us doesn't have to do back-breaking labor for 50 bucks a week.

10. And lastly, I really want to learn every word to Juvenile's Back That Ass Up until I can karaoke it like a boss. No explanation needed.





Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kermés de San Lorenzo

Last weekend we had the pleasure of going to an event in the San Lorenzo neighborhood in Juárez. It was the first time we've gone and honestly, although this event is held annually only a couple of miles from my house, I'd never heard of it until a couple of girlfriends mentioned it to me a couple of days before.

It was sort of a combination of a religious festival, a street fair and a carnival. The city closed off several streets surrounding Iglesia San Lorenzo to have room for all of the carnival rides, food stalls and vendors selling artisan goods and the like.

As soon as we neared the area the sound of drums was overwhelming and you could see large crowds of people surrounding groups of people dancing in native clothing. Those people are referred to as matachines and they perform their danzas all day and into evening to honor Mother Mary, or a Saint, or more generally to worship Christ. The reason behind the dance varies depending on the tribe and the occasion.






These pictures don't really do them justice but if you check out my Facebook and Instagram pages, you'll find some videos of them dancing.

The matachines were spread out around the church and in the park area in front of the church there were stalls where you could buy traditional Mexican pottery, artwork, kitchenware, jewelry, toys, etc. We picked up the game Lóteria for a mere 25 pesos.




There were also carnival games set up throughout the area. The more popular games involved shooting darts at balloons and rolling marbles into numbered holes.




                


As we neared the end of the rows of game booths there were a couple questionable set ups thrown in the mix. This booth scared the absolute shit out of me...




I couldn't quite tell what the point of the game was and the tequila bottles popping out from behind those dirty stuffed animals just gave me the creeps.

Oh and Ray wanted me to show you guys one of the ticket booths... It's seen a carnival or two, that's for sure.



The food was delicious though, as always. I'm a big fan of Juárez street food so I didn't expect anything less.




                             


Enchiladas and gorditas seemed to be the big thing but everyone in my group was in the mood for tacos. Except me. I wanted a gringa. No pun intended.




The tacos were reasonably priced but why someone would want to pay 5 extra pesos to eat intestines is beyond me...




I guess that's a taste I haven't yet acquired?


             


The streets were packed and definitely gave off that Mexico vibe that so many people have easily fallen in love with. Sometimes that feeling can fade away as I spend a large portion of the week working in El Paso. The culture, the vibe, the people... What's not to love? We had a great time and definitely plan on making it an annual tradition.


             



Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Giving Tree

I was going to write something profound and meaningful to celebrate the 4th anniversary of us moving to Juárez but instead I'm just going to talk about a tree because I am an ass like that.

I started writing this blog in July after tipping back a few too many and actually accidentally hit publish. So to those of you on my direct email list who got a blog full of drunken gibberish last month, I'd like to apologize. I aim to be only half as belligerent.

So about this tree...

A while back I was talking to my dad about the weather in Juárez and mentioned how much a tree in our backyard had blossomed since his visit. The truth is, this tree I spoke of started off as nothing more than a nuisance to us.

Last year a weed popped up in our backyard. Even though I've always dreamt of having a home with a garden, the truth is that I am lazy and have no desire to get down and dirty with seeds and dirt and give endless attention to said garden. So I never pulled the weed.

A year later, I had no desire to knock down the little bush that was the result of my laziness. Raymundo bitched and moaned about this... weed, but I just let it be. Two years later, it had converted into a full blown tree, but the trunk promptly split in two.

Fast forward to today, two and a half years later. I am discussing this once weed, now tree, with my father and I see that it holds so much more significance than I could have ever imagined.

Simply put, it's a weed that grew. It was neglected and left to grow without supervision. This little weed became a tree and in time the trunk began to separate. When Raymundo saw this he tied the two trunks together with a rope. The rope caused the original trunk to become even stronger.

In time, the two trunks have grown back together and are now joined as one.

Maybe I've had just a few too many glasses of wine, or maybe I am still riding high on the romanticism of our wedding anniversary or the shock that we've actually survived the last 4 years here but I can't help but feel that this tree symbolizes my marriage and the journey we've taken together here in Juárez.




To most, this is just a picture of a tree. For me, it is so much more. It is a reminder that each marriage has it's own unique ebb and flow. It's a reminder that when we question what's going on in our lives, God finds simple ways to guide us or give us hope. It's almost as if right when we felt like nothing made sense, or that the only thing around us was disparity, He stepped in and literally planted a seed.

Like our little tree, or the tomato plant that unexpectedly grew out of the drain on the cement patio at our friend Veronica's house in Juárez, or those poppies that Robert Andrew Powell noticed in the middle of the otherwise barren Chihuahuan desert on the outskirts of town.


"Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all."


- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The 7 Wonders of My Ancient World

After nearly 4 years living in Juárez, there are a handful of things that leave me awestruck each time I encounter them on a trip back to the States. I've heard plenty of Mexpats comment that living on the border isn't like living in "real" Mexico but I never did fully understand that sentiment. To me that would be like saying that living in San Diego or Detroit is not like living in the "real" US because they are on the border. Nonetheless, I am left with a dropped jaw each time I make a visit to Missouri and see certain things that we don't have back in Juárez. And with each visit it becomes more and more apparent.

Here are 7 wonders that leave me marveling at their convenience or innovation every time I head North of the border to visit my family. Not to be confused with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this is just about things that were once a huge part of my world. Not that I should be comparing a kitchen appliance to the Great Pyramid of Giza, but whatever.

1. Dishwashers

A magic box that you put dirty dishes in and then they come out spotless and dry? The notion seems unheard of to me now. I'm blessed in that my husband helps out with all the household chores and my only real responsibilities here are to cook and do the dishes. From time to time I fantasize about what it would be like to have one of those magic cleaning boxes again...

2. Garbage disposals

You mean to tell me you can put egg shells and Ramen and jalapeño stems down the drain and then flip a switch and it all disappears? #mindblowing

3. Bath tubs

I will never understand why most people do not have a bath tub in Mexico. Baths use less water than showers and are just more efficient/cost-friendly all around. With that being said, I typically just took showers when we lived in the US, but it was always nice to know I could have a long hot soak if I wanted to.

4. Carpet

Getting out of bed in the winter with that warm, cushy carpet enveloping your feet with love? Ahhhh... Here in Mexico floors are generally tile or depending on the area, just cement or dirt. Oddly enough we have all wood floors in our current home though. Regardless, I miss being able to just run the vacuum cleaner over the floors for a quick clean up. Now it's like, sweep the whole damned house, then bust out a bucket and a mop and ugh... No thank you. Raymundo!?

5. Drinkeable tap water

The thing that probably shocks me the most when visiting my family is being able to drink the tap water. Really, in all fairness, we never drank the tap water in Arizona, but that was because it tasted like crap. Here in Juárez, if we drink the tap water, we get physically ill and small black flecks appear on our teeth. I know, I know, that was one experiment I probably shouldn't have done. I almost feel dirty drinking right from the faucet when I'm on vacation because at this point my brain is so wired to think that tap water is bad for you.

6. Refrigerated air conditioning

Late summer is the time that I miss refrigerated air the most because it's somewhat of a monsoon season in Juárez and the heavy, sporadic rains leave the air feeling thick and humid. Humidity and swamp coolers, which is what most Juárenses have if they are lucky enough to have AC, do not mix. We turn ours off all together when it's raining and give in to the sticky, sweatiness that is a given. We just try not to move much or turn on any lights. 

7. The DVR

This is the most coveted of all of the wonders for me. When I first arrived in Juárez this was obviously the least of my concerns. But after the dust settled and we had a place to rest our heads and were in search of cable service, it came up. I still remember asking a woman at Cablemas how much it would cost to add a DVR. At first I just assumed the acronym was different in Spanish because she just looked at me funny. As I explained that I wanted to be able to pause, rewind and forward live TV and record my favorite programs for later she looked at me like I just told her I wanted to ride to the moon on a pogo stick. Apparently Mexico hasn't quite reached that level of technology?

The funny thing is that although these things surprise or maybe stand out to me more and more as time passes, it's not because I feel I need them anymore. I used to long for them to be in my life again but now it's slowly turning into a, "Wow, I used to depend on that?" type of a feeling. Not with all of these things, but with a couple. Like I would really love to be laying on some fluffy carpet and binge-watching Bravo shows off a DVR right about now.

I suppose the longer you go without something, the less you need it though. That's really become a lesson in and of itself for me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2,555 Días



Raymundo,

Como nuestro amor creció con las cartas, voy a seguir la tradición. Y aunque todavía batallo con mi Español, creo que he mejorado un poco desde mi última carta.

Hoy te he amado por 2,555 días. Bueno, te amé mucho más antes de que nos casamos, pero hablo de lo oficial. Me recuerdo cuando fuimos a casarnos y me sentí tan nerviosa que no podia pensar con claridad. Mis manos sudaban, caminé en circulos. Hasta que olvidé mi bolsa en la casa esa tarde.

Y ya cuando estabamos allí, a punto de decir, "Si, acepto," tenía lágrimas en mis ojos. Y hoy en día te puedo decir que esas lágrimas fueron porque tenía tanto miedo. Había cometido tantos errores en mi vida anteriormente que no podía estar segura si estaba cometiendo otro error. No sabia que estaba haciendo, pero en fin, todo me salió bien facil, como que alguien más, o algo más me estaba dirigiendo. Tal vez fue el destino, tal vez fue Dios. Pero sea lo que sea, sabia lo que tenía que hacer. Lo que quería hacer.

Y yo se que hice lo correcto porque me has enseñado día tras día que eres el hombre indicado. Se que he equivocado durante los años. Te he gritado sin razon. Se que soy una controladora y a veces me porto como una lunática y soy más sensativa de que debo de ser. Pero no soy perfecta. Y agradezco que nunca has pedido que sea perfecta.

Los Americanos hablan de la "7 Year Itch," osea, comezón del séptimo año. Según es la temporada cuando parejas empiezan de tener dudas sobre su matrimonio y tal vez ganas de estar con alguien diferente. Dicen que pasa a muchos despues de estar juntos unos 7 años, más o menos. Y siempre tenía miedo de llegar a los 7 años casados porque no quería sentir asi.

Pero aqui estamos, y por ser honesta, la verdad es que ya he tenido mis dudas durante los años. Despues de que aprendí que no podía arreglar tus papeles. Despues de una pelea. Despues de una mentira, tuya o mia. Despues de mudar a Mexico. Pero cada vez, termino pensando igual. Aunque a veces me fastidias, y a veces quiero alejarte de mi, y a veces me molestas más que la chingada, siempre ha sido mi media naranja.

Me haces reir mas que cualquier otra persona en mi vida. Eres mi persona favorita a quien gritar, mi compañero de Netflix, mi amante, mi tutor en la vida, mi confidente. Eres mi mejor amigo.

Gracias, gracias, gracias por ser quien eres y por aceptarme como soy. Y cuando me equivoco en el futuro, porque estoy segura que lo hará, espero que recuerdas lo tanto que te amo. Espero que pasamos muchísimas mas años juntos y que nunca olvidamos de donde venímos o en donde queremos estar.

Con muchísima amor en nuestro séptimo aniversario,

Tu pinche vieja