Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Chihuahua Controversy

On Tuesday they finally announced the name of El Paso's new AAA baseball team. The announcement was made at The Plaza Theatre in front of an audience of local Little League players and media. The reaction on Facebook and Twitter was quick to follow and not positive at all. You see, El Pasoan's were invited to vote for the name of the new team and given a few options to choose from. Sun Dogs, Desert Gators, Chihuahuas, Buckaroos and Aardvarks were among the options. Not a whole lot to go on... I personally voted for the El Paso Sun Dogs, but I'm not a native, don't live in El Paso and I don't have much invested with the sports teams there, so who cares what I think, right?

The city was livid when they learned that the name of the new team would be the Chihuahuas... And I don't mean just some of the city, I mean out of the thousands of reactions I read on KVIA's Facebook page Tuesday night, I could count the positive comments on one hand.

But guess what? I'm irritated too. As much as everyone in El Paso. As much has the die hard baseball fans North of the Border. I am pissed off and I want to talk about it. I should warn you that this probably isn't going to be the same as the rant most El Pasoans are having on the subject.

El Paso may be disappointed with the name, but I'm more disappointed with the way so many people reacted. Call the name estupido, lame, vergonzoso, whatever. I mean, it is after all, a tiny little dog known for the fact that it is a yappy ankle-biter and shivers even if it's 100 degrees out. I get why some people would think it's the most stupid name ever. I get why people are irritated because the "voting process," was clearly a bunch of bullshit. First they said that the name was chosen because it represents El Paso's "spirit and fiercely loyal community," and then it was said that the name was submitted by Shae Vierra and chosen at random. Hmmm... Why did we vote again? I can understand the frustration.

It's not the best choice for the team name, I get it. But the following comments that I read on Facebook after the announcement was made absolutely blew me away. Say the following things? Then you're the lame one. El Estupido. Say these things and know that the only thing bringing shame to El Paso is yourself and your bigoted, back-woods, ignorant remarks. These people represented El Paso with their reaction. And it did not look good my friends.


Desert Gators was the better one. Now we look like a beaner team.

Might as well named them the border jumpers or coyotes

That's it I'm not supporting no baseball team from El Paso named Chihuahuas. We r not from across the border. We r Americans!

They should have just called it the el paso wet backs or el paso mojados

I didn't know Juarez voted on this ... This is Texas not Mexico stupid ass ....

Might as well just name the team the "SPICS"

I know how about "Los Trafficantes" anybody ... anybody huh!? Lol

FUCK THAT NAME. good job pendejo owner, at least you'll get your dick sucked for this one. I'm pretty sure ur Chihuahua wife made you do it


I decided to remove people's names from these comments because I would hope that there may be a sliver of a chance that these people are embarrassed. Maybe there is a slight chance that they just spout out these remarks behind the protection of your computer screen and that they would never have the audacity to speak these words in public. Racial slurs never sit well with me but I find it more bothersome when they are thrown about among those of the same race. It tends to give the ignorant permission to add the words into their own vocabulary. I can't claim to know what it's like to be a Native El Pasoan or Juarense, and I never will, but I'd like to think these comments do not represent these Sister Cities. Because, for lack of a better term, these people look like fucking idiots. And I think I speak on behalf of most people when I say that we would all like to move beyond the bullshit and racism so that we can take this world to where it was always meant to be.

On another note, we have to recognize that AAA Baseball is kind of known for some questionable names so we can't be too shocked. Some of the names are just plain laughable. Certainly more ridiculous than the El Paso Chihuahuas! You have the Louisville Bats, Albuquerque Isotopes, Toledo Mud Hens, Salt Lake Bees, Harrisburg Senators, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Montgomery Biscuits, Charlotte Stone Crabs, Lansing Lugnuts, Great Lakes Loons, Asheville Tourists, Savannah Sand Gnats... Should I go on? I don't know about you but biscuits and tourists and isotopes and senators don't seem any more intimidating than Chihuahuas to me. Well, maybe Senators do, but that's a whole other blog.

There were plenty of people who were more civil in their responses and felt that the name fed into negative stereotypes about the city. However, here's my question: Why does that fact that the name has a connection to Mexico and to the Spanish language automatically make it negative? The name isn't stupid because it's Spanish, the name is stupid because it's a God damned Chihuahua! The name isn't derogatory if El Paso doesn't make it derogatory. Is the San Diego Padres name derogatory? I don't find it to be. Doesn't mean that everyone in San Diego is Latino. What about the Cleaveland Indians and Atlanta Braves? Are all the people of Georgia and Ohio Native American? Texas Rangers? All Texans are cowboys? Let's get real.

And that's the weird thing. I spoke to a lot of El Pasoans about this subject this week. Several people threw out the race card, then immediately said they would have been happy with keeping the Padres or Diablos name. How does that make sense? The Chihuahuas make El Paso out to be nothing more than a bunch of Mexicans but the Padres or Diablos wouldn't? I just don't get it. Maybe it's because I'm a gringa who isn't from El Paso, but I honestly don't understand. Feel free to enlighten me.

Maybe instead of tearing each other down and denying the roots that most El Pasoans have with all these disgusting comments we could do the right thing. If they think it's so terrible, maybe baseball fans could direct their efforts to teaming up to petition a name that better represents El Paso? Or maybe they could give this name a chance?

If it makes anyone feel any better, there are a handful of articles floating around about the name that had relatively positive comments from people who said they would have chosen the name Chihuahuas if they had been given the same 5 options. None of those commenters were from El Paso. None of those people had anything derogatory to say about Mexicans. They just took the name for what most of America will take it for. A dog. Not a connection to Juarez, not racist, not anything more than another silly AAA Baseball League team name.

Just my two cents...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Leap of Faith

I hear the stories all the time.

I used to go to Vertigo every Saturday night and party till dawn. My family used to go to Juarez every weekend and walk the tianguis and get burritos y raspas. I used to go see my Tia a few times a week, she makes the best tortillas in the world. I used to get my hair cut twice a month in El Centro for only 20 pesos. I used get my check-ups every 6 months at Washington Dental. Best dentist ever. Hell, I've even heard some "I used to" stories about the prostitutes that frequent the massage parlors on Hermanos Escobar. I've heard it all. And I have to say, I'm at my wits' end with the some of these stories. I used to. We used to. They used to. She used to.

And then there was the drug war.

I know there is so much history on the border. So much back story with the drug war and the violence. So many have been affected and so much blood has been shed. People tell me the "used to" stories but they also have their fair share of horror stories. He was shot, they were abducted, she was car jacked stories. But how do we move past this? How can everyone feel at home in Juarez once again? What will it take for the 20-somethings to flock across the downtown bridge again to bar-hop before happily stumbling back across the border at 2 am? What will it take for people to reunite with their hermanos and tios and abuelos who they haven't seen in years because they don't have the luxury of a Border Crossing Card? What will it take for all the restaurants downtown to have a full house of El Pasoans once again?

Last weekend we went out for the first time in a long time. We watched the boxing match and had a few drinks with friends at Drink Team on 16 de Septiembre. After the fight we passed through the Pronaf district as we drove back to our neck of the woods. The streets were alive. The clubs were packed, people pouring onto the streets from the entrances of El Rudo and T'Kila. When we made it to our last stop, Shadow Davidson's, I was feeling so happy, so comfortable, so... normal. I wondered to myself, why can't everyone feel this way in Juarez?

I imagine this is what Juarez used to look like. Before the war. When do we start referring to the drug war as "the war?" What's the difference between a drug war and any other kind of war? Countries collide, people die, the military gets involved. What's the difference? I haven't quite figured that out yet. But regardless, things are finally starting to calm down and I'm curious what it will take for people to see that change. What will it take for things to get back to the way they used to be. What will it take for El Pasoans to come back to Juarez?

I honestly wish I could poll the citizens of El Paso because this is something that plagues me. I have invited my co-workers to birthday parties and barbecues at my house over and over. I know they won't come though. It's almost turned into a joke at this point. I'm not trying to get shot, they'll tell me. Over my dead body, they'll tell me. The tension between El Paso and Juarez is undeniable. When I truly began to understand how deeply connected the two cities are, this tension and animosity shocked me. Oh yeah, my tios and sister and abuelos live there but I won't go there. Por nada. Ni si me pagan.

Although some people just love to perpetuate unnecessary hatred towards Juarez (like when a DJ on 95.5 FM suggested painting a large middle finger on the Asarco tower pointing towards Juarez,) I think most people are just scared shitless of the what-ifs. Everyone knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who has been directly affected by the drug war. Everyone knows someone who was kidnapped or murdered or car-jacked. It's not something you can easily move past and certainly not something that can ever be forgotten. I understand that.

I won't ever be able to forget the things I've seen here. But at the same time, the world can't stop. We have to keep living. And above all else, we have to keep enjoying the lives that we live. What kind of life is a life plagued with fear? And if we don't make an effort to get back to normal, we'll be afraid forever. I don't know about you but I don't like to feel afraid. I am always looking for a way to move away from fear.

I've talked about this with my father at length. Living in San Salvador, he's no stranger to my situation. He knows exactly what it's like to live in and love a city that has a constant travel warning from the US Embassy. In a moment of frustration this week I cried out to him. I don't fucking get it! I don't know how to convince people that Juarez is okay, that a trip over the border doesn't automatically equate to a death sentence. I just wish I knew how to make this all go away! He responded so quickly and at first the words seemed too simple to be right. But they were.

Well honey, El Paso is just going to have to take a leap of faith.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Q & A Part 1

I'm going to take some time to answer questions that I get frequently on Facebook, Twitter and via email. There are a lot of questions so I'll be doing this in a couple of blogs in the hopes that it doesn't put half of you to sleep...


What made you choose Juarez over another border town?

When I initially planned a move to Mexico, I was hoping to move to Nogales. I briefly entertained the idea of staying with the company I was working with and commuting to Tucson. After I realized what the commute would entail, that idea was off the table. I had already looked at our budget and knew that even if I could secure a "decent" job in Mexico, it still wouldn't be enough to make ends meet. We had/have quite a bit of debt and financial responsibilities in the US so I knew I would need to continue earning a US wage for the foreseeable future. Next stop TJ. Ideally, I wanted to live in Tijuana and commute to San Diego each day, but again, after looking at what that commute would be like, I changed my mind. I absolutely hate driving and having another 30 minute drive added to the already insane wait times at the Baja California POEs was just too much for me. Texas it was. We looked specifically at Matamoros, Reynosa and Ciudad Juarez because at the time I knew one woman living in each of those cities. They all told me the same horror stories and to me, none of the border towns, including those California and Arizona borders, seemed to be particularly safe. Mind you, this was in 2009 when the drug war and violence was at it's height. We ultimately chose Juarez because after looking at the job markets in various cities, El Paso was booming with opportunity compared to the alternatives. And it ended up being a smart decision as I was able to land an interview for a company on August 9th 2010, only 2 days after our arrival, and was hired about a week later. It was also a plus that Juarez is the closest border town to my husband's family in Hidalgo del Parral so a visit to his home town is just a 9 hour bus ride away.

Did you ever expect to become this popular in the immigration community?

This question literally made me LOL because I don't see myself as being "popular" in this community. There are so many people and blogs that I look up to and follow and I just feel like little old me with nothing more to offer than the next person. This week a gentleman came up to me at the grocery store and asked me if I was The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juarez. He went on to tell me how he could relate to my story and I couldn't believe it! He wasn't someone who I would ever think would read my blog, so I was touched to see that people from all walks have been following my journey. It was definitely surreal moment for me.

What do you do for a living?

I am a Russian spy.

Do you ever experience reverse racism? Guera this and guera that...

I don't personally experience it aside from a few flippant comments online from time to time, but I'm not so naive to think that it doesn't exist. I'm sure people have preconceived notions of me and the fact that I am a gringa and the fact that I am American. Why wouldn't they? That's just human nature. But I am the type of person that doesn't really consider color, so maybe that's why I haven't noticed the judgement on myself. All in all, the people I have met in Mexico have been so welcoming and so appreciative and so willing to open their hearts and homes to me. It's definitely been humbling.

How do you decide what to write about each week?

I have no clue. I just write whatever I feel like writing. It may be about something that went on that particular week, or something I am going through emotionally or a topic that I can't get out of my head. I literally just wake up on Saturdays, have a breakfast beer, and let the good times roll.

How did you get off drugs?

By locking myself in an apartment for several weeks, eating copius amounts of chicken wings and tortillas, writing in my journal for hours each day, and filling the rest of my time with the first season of Lost on DVD. This is also, coincidentally, how I found God. But that's another blog in itself.

Will you have children while in Juarez?

I hope so. People assume that because our children do not live with us, it is because we find Juarez to be an unsafe place to raise a child. That is absolutely incorrect. I would almost prefer to raise a child here so that they can experience at a young age some of what I have been luckily enough to experience as an adult in this city.

A few months ago you wrote a blog about starting a healthier lifestyle and posted a lot on Facebook about your workouts. Are you still doing that?

Yes! I am currently doing a Turbo Fire/Focus T25 hybrid program. I have lost 50 lbs since April but have had my fair share of hurdles with a foot injury in July. And let's be real, I have some pretty big issues with food and alcohol addiction that get the way of my weight loss journey. But yes, I am still trucking along. It is a never-ending process and I'm learning to be more forgiving of myself when I slip up. My ultimate goal is still health and happiness.

What is a good bar/restaurant to go to in Juarez?

I should start off by saying that it is very rare that we go out in Juarez. That has nothing to do with feeling safe or lack of cool places to go. It has everything to do with our finances. We have only been out a few times in the last 3 years but I can give some quick and simple reviews. Las Alitas on Antonio Bermudez. Loved it. Cheap beer, good wings, Applebee's vibe. Mayflower on Gomez Morin. Best crab rangoon of my life. Shitty service. Maria Chuchena on Tomas Fernandez. Too upscale for me to feel comfortable. I'm more of a hole-in-the-wall-kinda-girl, not a valet-parking-kinda-girl. Really good salsas and impeccable service. Frida's on Paseo de la Victoria. Amazing art and enmoladas. Best margarita I've had in Juarez. The city is also riddled with burrito and hamburger stands that make some of the most mouth-watering food I have ever eaten but of course most of them don't have names. As for bars? We can't really afford to drink in bars... We drink too much, we'd go bankrupt. Also, neither of us ever want to be the DD, so we usually opt to have house parties. However we have stashed a little cash over the last month and are planning a date night tonight. Our first date in over a year. I think we've decided to skip the movies and go to a bar and grill to watch the fight, so maybe I will have a better answer to this question tomorrow.

If your husband could by some chance wave a magic wand and be able to live with you in the United States legally, would you, at this point, come back or stay in Mexico?

This is a really hard question for me to answer. Honestly, I was tempted to ignore it. I didn't come to Juarez thinking that it would change my life for the better. I didn't think it would change my character or affect my marriage in the way that it has. Leaving behind a place that has provided so much for me would be difficult. Whenever there is a glimmer of hope for immigration reform that would include my family, I have to say, I get nervous. The idea of moving back to the US is a bit scary for me. It is financially tempting, but to stop the learning process that has begun within me since we moved to Mexico seems like the wrong thing to do. But man, some carpet and a bath tub and two normal paychecks and being physically closer to my family sounds pretty nice sometimes. But then I begin to question, do I really need any of that? I'm not so sure. I don't have an answer to this question. I try not to think of the what if's when it comes to things like this. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a very Merry Christmas.


I just have to say that I feel so blessed to be able to share my life with all of you. The fact that so many people are curious about our lives here, especially people who have never been personally affected by immigration, is amazing to me. I love all of your questions and comments and reflections.

Now I have a question. How did you poop before Smart Phones?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Balancing Act

It started last Saturday night. We were leaving a 4 year old's birthday party, leading a caravan of exiled mixed-status families when the Policia Municipal pulled all of us over. Everyone else was waved on as they kept Ray and I back. They asked where we were coming from. They asked where we were going. We both took our first Mexican breathalyzer tests. The police officer made a loose fist and held it to our mouths.

Sopla fuerte.

(The officer smelled his hand)

Bueno, andan bien. Eres Americana?



And so Gordo got out of the truck as ordered. He talked with the officers for a few minutes and while he was ten feet deep in negotiations, I noticed that our friends hadn't left. I was in shock and grabbed my phone to text them to move along, we'll be fine. I wasn't so sure. But our friends didn't budge. A while later, we paid a $30 mordida and were on our way. I was scared of course, but more amazed at the fact that our new friends stayed back to make sure we got out of there okay. That meant a lot to me. I know how intimidating it is to be in a neighborhood in Juarez that you're not familiar with. And I know how intimidating the police are here. So the fact that they waited for us was a big deal to me. It turned what would have been a horrible experience into an eye-opening, wonderful thing.


My car has made questionable noises since we moved to Mexico. Waiting in line to cross an international border takes a toll on any vehicle. Bumpy pavement full of potholes and the occasional unpaved road add to the problem. I've had my fair share of car problems over the last 3 years and as I've said before, being without a vehicle is my number one fear in life. I know that sounds insane and I know it's a fear I have to get over, but I'm just not there yet. In the last couple of weeks the noises had been getting worse. The car was shaking uncontrollably when in idle, even shutting off at times if I didn't throw it into neutral. This put me in quite the pickle while waiting in line to cross into El Paso every morning, not to mention waiting in line to cross back into Mexico each evening.

I had been ignoring the problem because, quite frankly, we didn't have the money to fix the car even if we knew what was wrong with it, so what's the point in trying to figure it out, right? Pretty stupid way of thinking. I see that now. My family urged me to take the car to a mechanic, insisting that finances always had a way of figuring themselves out. In desperation, I finally took their advice. I took it to a reputable taller in San Lorenzo, Servi Compactos, and was told they would get back to me with a verdict and the estimate.

I was frustrated and nervous and feeling like it was the end of the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but without a vehicle, I have no way to get to work. The buses in Juarez don't start running early enough to get me to the bridge in time to cross and catch another bus that would get me to the office by 8 am. The transit system between these sister cities don't really accommodate banker's hours. A vehicle is a must. And without the wages that I earn in the US, where would we be? My husband's earnings barely begin to cover our rent. That's why I flip a shit every time my car rumbles a bit.

In the midst of my frustration and fear, I was comforted by the fact that I have family who is willing to lend a helping hand. I have friends who are willing to switch around their schedules so that they can give me a ride to and from work. I am not alone in this city. I am not destitute. I can ask people for help. And it's okay to ask for help. I'm learning that. And now the week is over, and my car is fixed. It did work out. It will always work out. I have to keep reminding myself of that.


On an evening where a few nasty emails were trickling in here and there, I got an email from a high school student in the US. He had to listen to my podcast as an assignment for his Spanish class. He explained that he had a very conservative view of illegal immigration and admitted that he went into the assignment already determined that he would hate my husband and I. He wasn't even sure why he felt compelled to email me in the first place. He felt that we deserved everything we had coming to us.

This young man was surprised when he found himself feeling sorry for our situation. Although he went into the assignment thinking that my husband was a person who broke the law and shouldn't be allowed to live in the US, he came out realizing that my husband isn't a bad person. Ray just wanted to better his life and the life of his family. In the end, he came out of it all thinking that it's an injustice that it's been so difficult for Ray to do things "the right way." He came out respecting us and the love we have for one another.

While I don't think anyone needs to feel sorry for us, I was completely shocked that our story had caused someone to question their opinion and to see beyond the black and white of immigration law. And I swear that if the only reason any of this happened was for this one boy to see a different side of the coin, it was all worth it. If the only reason we moved to Mexico or the only reason I began this blog was because this one person was supposed to read it, I feel fulfilled and content with my life.


It was one of those weeks where something really shitty kept happening. But then out of nowhere, something amazing happened to balance out the negative. It was one of those weeks where I saw God everywhere, in everything and in everyone. I believe that He is always trying to balance things out, sometimes it's just difficult to see. At times it's seemingly impossible to detect. But it is. The good will outweigh the bad, sometimes you just have to wait for it.