Sunday, June 24, 2012

La Mugre y Mi Uña

When I moved to Mexico I left some amazing friends behind. I never, ever thought that I would meet the women that I have met here. My friends here in Juarez are so special to me. I really can’t say enough about them. I never thought I would have this new group of people who truly understood me and where I was coming from. I feel so fortunate to have them in my life. A little over a year after we moved here, I received an email from a woman who had been living here in Juarez for about a year with her husband and daughter. She found me through this very blog. We talked for a while via email, and I could instantly tell that she was quirky and eccentric and super fucking cool. Around that same time someone else that I had met though had just moved to Juarez and we were planning a barbecue at our house so that everyone could get better acquainted.

I told Cortney that she should come. Now that I know her and her husband better, I know they were both hesitant to get together with strangers, but desperate to meet people in Juarez who could relate to their situation. Their hesitance makes sense because sometimes seemingly decent people in Juarez turn out to have their hand in the pot of delinquency that make up the danger in this city. They were on backlog at the time for a typical I-601 waiver case. After a year in Mexico, not speaking Spanish, she was coming to her wit’s end with being holed up in her apartment, so distanced from the life she knew before. I think Cortney was desperate to speak English. Their situation was different than the rest of us who live here in Juarez in that the majority of the people in our group of friends have lifetime bans with no chance at a waiver, with the exception of Stacy and I who will be able to file for our husbands after we have spent 10 years outside of the country (in 2017 and 2020 respectively.)

I still remember that barbecue, on October 6th, when I first met her. She had her hair teased, Jersey style, and was wearing a headband with a bow made of gold sequins. She was extroverted and bubbly and excited to meet everyone. I instantly felt a connection. She brought meatballs in some sort of sweet sauce, which I thought was hilarious, because who brings meatballs to a barbecue in Mexico? Either she wasn’t playing by the rules, or she didn’t know them. I have some serious reservations about making random friends in Juarez and I don’t know what it was about this woman, but I felt safe. I felt okay. We bonded over our love for Padre Kino and I felt like we had been friends since birth. Since that day we have been somewhat attached at the hip and I immediately knew we would be friends for life.

She is someone I can tell anything to, without being judged, even when she disagrees with me in every aspect. It’s hard not to judge me. I’m nuts. Seriously. I’ve had a rollercoaster of a life and it’s hard for someone to get me when they weren’t there for all of the madness. Somehow though, she does it. We can stay up talking till 4 in the morning, braiding each other’s hair and singing Adele, without a care in the world. Many of you have seen a change in me in the last year, especially those who follow me on Facebook and Instagram, and I feel I can fully accredit that change to this friendship. I have become more willing to adapt, more daring, more open, more understanding and most importantly, more positive, than I ever could have imagined.

Here we are, not even a year later, and her husband was approved and they went back to the States on Tuesday. This is the first weekend I have spent without her in a very long time. I’m not going to lie. I am so sad. I am also so happy for her, yet jealous at the same time. Obviously. Above all else though, I am happy for her. I am sad that she’s gone and I don’t have my friend around the corner anymore. This isn’t someone I became friends with out of convenience, or just because she understands all of the immigration drama. I was meant to meet this woman. It was so hard to watch them go. These are good people with good auras.

Cortney and Phil influenced mine and Ray’s lives in unforeseeable ways. They represent a different group of immigrants than we do. Phil came to the US as a child and you would never guess that he was a Mexican immigrant. He speaks fluent English and knew little to nothing of the Mexican way of life when they first came to Juarez. I had the pleasure of seeing this couple evolve over the last few months and take Mexico and it’s culture by the horns, taking away all of the positive things of life here. They were instrumental in my personal quest for positivity and optimism in life.

Cortney chose to come to Mexico with her husband and that is something I will forever respect. So many people in this world of immigration go back to their home countries alone, leaving their US citizen spouses and/or children behind and at the end of the day, a lot of the relationships simply deteriorate. Let’s be honest. I see it all the time. It’s too much change. It’s too much time apart. I think it is by the grace of God that Cortney and her daughter came with Phil to Mexico.

I am so glad that I met them. We spent a lot of time together before they left, trying to get it in. It was reminiscent of my last months in Arizona, trying to suck up as much of my friends as I could. Surprisingly, this hurts all the same. I don’t know why I wasn’t anticipating all of this when we moved to Juarez. I should have. I should have understood from my group of immigrant friends, from I2US and Facebook and American Families United, that people were going to move in and out of my life.

I should have forecasted that I would have these people, who would touch my life, and that eventually they would be moving on to bigger and better things. Living so close to the American consulate inevitably connects you with transients. For whatever reason, I didn’t anticipate meeting the people that I have met here. I don’t know what I will do when our ten years here is up. We have 8 more years. I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s time to say goodbye to the rest of the people who have touched my life in such remarkable ways. These people have become my family in a time when I am so distanced from my actual family. I am living a different life in a different world. I didn’t expect any of this and it’s so hard. At the end of the day, all I can do is be happy for those who are able to move on and be excited for all of the opportunities that the world has in store for them. I just pray that I will always be able to maintain the relationships that I have built here and will continue to build, regardless of any lines in the sand. That’s all I can do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections

I have been so insanely busy the past couple of months that I just haven’t had a chance to catch up here. I had a friend come and visit me here in Juarez, went to Phoenix for work a couple of times, got to catch my little sister’s graduation in Iowa and was training a new employee for our Albuquerque office for the better part of May. Plus, it’s definitely the busy season for the industry I work in so I’ve had a lot on my plate.

The presidential elections are coming up for Mexico on July 1st and you can definitely feel the buzz in the air, and in the media. I don’t think I ever fully realized the direct affect a president can have on a country. Well, I could imagine and do worse-case-scenarios, but I didn’t really know. I think the last presidential term in Mexico is a disgustingly, perfect example of what a government’s decisions can really do to its country. I should preface this blog by saying that I know little to nothing about politics in the US, much less in Mexico, so I really don’t know what I’m talking about here. I only know what I believe. From the bit that I’ve read, Mexico had been basically controlled by PRI for some 65 years until PAN took control in 2000. This kind of seems to be when all hell broke lose with the cartels, but that may have more to do with heightened drug addictions (thank you science) than with the actual decisions of the political parties.

I still can’t figure out which party would be considered Democratic and which would be considered Republican, if it can even be compared in that sense at all. I’m not really getting a good idea of anything when it comes to this election. I don’t have a grasp of what the candidates or parties represent. They do not seem to stand alone on any of their issues or ideas, but then again, I am not really spending a significant amount of time looking into any of this. I want to leave that in my husband’s hands and not stick my nose into it too much. He has been in the US since he could vote so this will be a first and I am doing my best to not scare him away from the process with my controlling tendencies.

I must say it’s beyond scary to sit back and watch the campaigning and the elections and just cross your fingers, hoping for the best as changes ensue in Mexico. When you think about what’s happened in the last 6 years, it’s just fucking scary. Since Calderon was elected as president in 2006 and decided to saturate the country with military troops in an attempt to fight this drug war, over 47,000 people have been murdered in Mexico.

A few weeks ago we had friends over and I was in the midst of one of my (seemingly more) frequent rages about the power of the vote when one of my girlfriends here kind of put me in my place, gently. I was speaking with our husbands about how powerful our vote is and both of the men seemed to share the sentiment that your vote doesn’t really count here in Mexico. I think a lot of people feel that way in the US as well, which is why so many people don’t vote. That is exactly why more people vote for American Idol than in the presidential elections! Even though I know that truth, I also know that when I go out and participate at the polls, I am taking my personal stand and my little step towards achieving the democracy that I believe in.

I have faith in the democratic system and although I don’t necessarily think it’s working the way it would ideally, it’s definitely better than the alternative. Anyway, that night I was going on and on about how I feel about democracy and blah, blah, blah and they gave me their take on it all. It was brought to my attention how frequent and common it is that candidates will actually give kilos of rice or beans or rice or flour or whatever to the people to literally purchase their vote. Not necessarily like in the US where they promise tax cuts, or immigration reform, or certain social services in order to win the vote of a particular demographic, but they literally give food or monetary incentives to people in exchange for their vote. Maybe I am being naïve to say that I don’t think this happens that often in the US? I’m always the first one to admit that I am young and I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m just feeling my way through life and learning along the journey, so forgive me if I am, as my mother would say, out to lunch. Regardless, the situation in Mexico is very sad and I can definitely see how an election could easily go corrupt here, even more so than in the US.

I’ve talked about this in depth with my husband I want him to understand that every journey begins with the first step and all that inspirational crap that you see on Facebook and Pintrest these days. Ignoring the corn factor, I can admit it. It’s true. Regardless of any corruption, we still need to vote and we still need to participate in the polls if we ever want to get to a point with our system where it really does work for the people and the results truly reflect what the people want. Forget about the candidates. Even if we have to sit here and decide who we hate the least, we still need to vote. If we do not participate, I believe that we are giving in and giving up and we are never going to get the system that we all long for. I am not living in La La Land people. Well, maybe a little…

I can’t imagine that the government will EVER be exactly what we want it to be, but I think it could be better than it is. This goes for any democratic nation. I’m not just talking about the US and Mexico. Again, I might be naïve and I might be young but I think if we lose faith in the system or we give up on the system and determine that the government is just corrupt so, fuck it, let just post a bunch of anti-man, anarchist shit on Facebook and do whatever we want, I think we are just taking a step backwards. Having that mentality and that attitude just hits the rewind button. A lot of people fought in all of these countries in order to have a democratic government. In my opinion, by not voting, it is a slap in the face to every soldier in Mexico, America and every other democratic nation that there is. Democracy has not always been a given and we should thank God that we have such a system in place now, regardless of how imperfectly it works. We need to vote.

I have no idea who the better candidate is in the Mexico election. I feel very lost. What I want for Mexico is the candidate who isn’t out for Chapo’s head. In my opinion, it makes much more sense to concentrate on social services within the country and bettering the economy and opportunities so that the people are not so likely (or dare I say obligated) to delve into a life of crime. To me, that is so much more important than head hunting for cartel members. Not only that, but I feel like an approach of that nature could significantly lessen the violence here by giving less attention and press time to particular gangs. I am not saying that the cartels should be ignored, but as long as Americans continue to pour billions of dollars into drug trade, Mexico will always supply the demand. Let’s concentrate on bettering the people of Mexico so that they are not so compelled to partake in all of the bullshit going on in the US.

If anyone knows of any websites or literature that could help my husband and I get a better idea of what these candidates represent, I would greatly appreciate it. The election is coming up very soon and this will be the first chance that Mr. Cruz will be in Mexico as an adult to vote in an election so he is pretty excited, and I am excited for him, but we are both a little lost. It’s hard to educate ourselves here. Even the presidential debates, which reek of sexico, have aired near midnight on Sunday evenings so we’ve missed them. If it weren’t for the cleavage, I would almost think they weren’t meant to be seen.