Border Land

A world where half of the people live in extreme poverty is neither just nor secure. Our security depends on more than military might; it depends on other people’s security, well-being, and a hope that replaces anger and fear. We simply cannot and will not beat “swords into plowshares” (remove the threats of war) until all people can “sit under their own vines and fig trees” and have some share in global security. Only then will we remove the fear that leads inevitably to conflict and violence.

~Jim Wallis

June 17th 2008 was a sizzling day , we melted onto the grotesque tile floor just as the power went out. It was enough to make us laugh and brush away the tears that were streaking our faces. It had been a long and heinous day. One of those days where reality is shaken and shock creeps into your core. “We just moved to Juarez? Really?”

No power meant no lights and no swamp cooler. Misty made some stick-to-the-top-of-your-mouth almond butter and honey sandwiches on our dry crumbly bread, and I carried a couple of chairs outside where there was at least a breeze pushing the air around. There was no comfort in the sandwiches so we tossed them and decided to climb onto the roof of our new house to see just where we had willingly chosen to torture ourselves. A warm breeze, strange sounds, bizarre smells and swirling lights collided with all things familar and wrecked our senses. Ranchero music pumped through the thick air. The street was alive. This was Mexico. Our hearts, which had been so gripped, so white-knuckled by the stress of the day, began to relax. With smiles growing on our tired faces, we spun to face north and there it was: the string of lights burning a yellow line in the desert sand, dividing two worlds. We had no idea at that moment just how powerful the lucid borderline was, that those yellow bulbs would have the power to hold back the violence like a sea wall breaking down waves.  We were ignorant to the unruly power that an imaginary line can wield.  Those lights, that fence, we would learn, would be a reckless assurance that El Paso would continue to bear the gleaming badge of the 3rd safest city in the U.S.  That obnoxious string of lights which has severed humanity and has carved a deep and bloody line in the desert sand has become the dividing line between a hopeless reality and the American dream. It has mutated into an insolent eyesore.  

City Lights

That night the bulbs glared and shimmered. Later, when the power returned and we lay down on our air-mattress under the creaks and rattles of the swamp cooler, we closed our eyes but the ghost-like glint of yellow continued to radiate under our eyelids. In just a few months from our arrival, Ciudad Juarez would rise in the ranks as the murder capital of Mexico, gringos would stop crossing the border, the media’s buzzing and thoughtless words would lash and whip this lonely city, the grip of fear would tighten like a leash over America, the Western Church would take a step back. 

The air is getting warm and heavy over the desert. All of the deciduous trees have exploded with life; flares of green bursting out of the dust. The spring winds have descended. At times it seems that the jet stream has abandoned its heavenly course and fallen on the land: nature’s way of raking the trash away and cleansing the desert. Hope is alive and well. I dare you to come and check it out.



~The photo above was shot by Axel Briseño. Last week we met Alex, a talented photographer and software programmer from Ciudad Juarez. He has started a photo-club and he and his compadres have posted some powerful photos. The photos are currently on display in downtown Juarez. Please take a minute to scroll through these incredible photos of our city. Check out Alex’s great Blog and Photo Club site.  Thanks for your help & friendship, Alex!


4 Responses to “Border Land”

  1. Love these words and your open heart! (This would be a good segment in a book) Your bravery is so big and such a testament to us. Thank you!

    Just started Claiborne’s, Irresistible Revolution. Freaking fantastic!! I’m at the point where he just got back from Calcutta. I’m finding myself having to pray before I pick up the book and read… it’s potentially life changing! Actually, it would be a shame to read this book and not have it change my life… I’ll keep you posted.

    Killer photo… I’ll check out these links next!

    Love you two more than chili powder covered candy!!

  2. isaac Says:

    great post! i sent you some sketches to your account.

    i’m excited to read your poem.

    an i love you guys more than SALTY chili covered candy.

  3. Wow, that is some powerful writing…powerful storytelling…and most of all powerful living you guys are doing. I’ll go follow the links now; however, my head already spins with the beauty and power of this post. Thanks.

  4. Lisa,

    Hermana, know that you are one that has spurred us on and showered us with encouragement which bolsters our courage and bravery. Mucho Amor.


    What an incredible time in history to be alive! Saying ‘yes’ to hope and change means a great deal these days. Thankfully, it is not a hollow pursuit but a liberating threshold into a very obtainable sphere of real change and depth. You are amazing and I am reeling that we get to work together to transform Colonia Palo Chino.


    You make us smile so big that it hurts. You and Paul have been a deep influence on our lives. Your commitment to this world, to living beyond the claws of our culture, is teaching us so much. Thank you for choosing to support us, encourage and believe in us. We love you!

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