Amor por Juarez

If Jesus preached in New York City what he preached in Galilee, we’d lay him in his grave again.

Woody Guthrie 

Living in a border town as volatile and spotlighted as the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border will certainly challenge one’s worldview. It has flipped mine upside down. For example, try explaining the $7 million a mile border-fence, the iron cage dividing extravagance from abject poverty, to a people who have been suppressed by injustice, raped by world governments including their own, spit on and utterly demeaned by humanity. Or try justifying the meager wages, tossed from Fortune 500 companies like bread crumbs to pigeons, to my neighbors who work in the toilsome crucibles called maquiladoras. NAFTA was supposedly cooked-up to offer hope, but looking through the eyes of my new friends it seems it has only stolen livelihoods and offered shattered dreams.

There have been more arrests of social activists in this city than Narcos. My Mexican sisters are still being plucked off of the streets of Juarez, raped, cut to piece, discarded. Over 20 this year. Their innocent voices continue to cry out from the blood stained desert sand. The murders go unsolved. 

Living on this side of the fence just might flip your worldview upside down too. But Juarez is fighting for hope.

Amor por JuarezLove for Juarez.

When I think about how deeply my heart has sunk into the desert sand, I laugh. I was swept away from the mountains, from friends, from community, from a lot of good stuff, only to land in the desert and begin to truly savor  life. But it’s not like I have this thing figured out. I am simply here tilling away at the sand, warming up to a woeful city and falling in love with a tenacious people. This desert has scoured my spirit, revealing the marrow of life. Ironically, in a city plauged by death and fear, I have learned more than ever before about life, hope, peace, justice and love.

In a season where the world is being picked apart by war, pandemics, poverty, economic and ecologic depletion and fear, I see a movement of truth and love gathering in strength. And although the church in the United States has been lying dormant in her comfortable bed, she is waking. Justice has the upper hand. The song of hope and freedom is being sung around the world. Despite our differences, our hands are reaching through the fences of life, we’re uniting.

 “We need to build justice, not walls!” – Pastor Kim Erno

 

I shot this photo in the square in downtown Juarez on April 16th, 2009.

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9 Responses to “Amor por Juarez”

  1. Oh, Matt, I love this photo! It’s our new background on our desktop. Hope you don’t mind. Your words, again, are so well spoken and straight from the heart. Wouldn’t it be amazing for people to look at the world without boarders and fences and just see people for who they are… people!

    Love you guys more than an ice cold Tecate!

  2. Lisa,
    Unfortunately I think we are stuck with fences and borders, but there is hope that we can live in a world where peace and love have a greater presence than hatred. A world where we, despite differences of opinion, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc, see each other as brothers.

    The woman in the photo was psyched when I asked her if I could take her photo. As soon as I grabbed the camera she struck her pose. In fact, I took several photos of people downtown that day. They were all super stoked to have their photos taken.

    Ice cold Tecate is super hard to beat…but your encouragement and love goes down much smoother!

  3. Poetry and inspiration–once again, you lift my spirits. Sending my amor por Juarez…and for you two.

  4. Paco's Dad Says:

    What a wonderful picture – I believe it captures one of the innocent millions of Mexican citizens….someone who had very likely dressed up in their “best” outfit to go and sit in the square to play some beautiful music and share their “amor” for their City. Who knows what kind of a life and home this beautiful lady has? God bless you for lifting her spirits by asking to take her picture – you may have very well “saved her day” by thus honoring her.

    As for NAFTA and “hope”, since NAFTA was primarily schemed up by politicians in the U.S., it’s intended purpose most surely was “profit” for American business, NOT to pring prosperity to Mexico’s poor. Certainly it has provided work for many who may not have previously had work, however, with the suppressed wages that are being paid, and since the cost of the products in the U.S. have not declined proportionately, guess where the new found riches go?

  5. “Paco’s” Dad-

    Been learning a lot about NAFTA recently. West Cosgrove, director of Project Puente, gave a super interesting lecture at a conference in El Paso last month. One of the striking things that he highlighted was that between 1994 and 2004, approximately 500,000 jobs were created in Mexico by NAFTA. BUT, in the same period, 1.5 million workers were displaced in the agricultural sector. KInd of like when Wal-Mart invades a small community and all of the small-businesses get squashed. That happened here all over Mexico.

    This debate is not new. It is indeed a Broken System. A fence that cost nearly $7 million per mile (nearly 2,000 miles on the U.S./Mex border) is a slap in the face. 10% of people caught at the border have a criminal record. 90% of them are just plain hard-working men, women and children doing all that they can to survive.

    Here is another one to think about: The U.S. NEEDS 3 million agricultural workers each year. We only give out 64 thousand visas for farm workers from Mexico.

    We could go on and on with stats, and I do not want to start a debate on this site, but the thing that sticks to my bones is that I am able to look into the eyes of the Mexican people. I get to know them. I get to see things from their perspective and it has made all of the difference. That is the one thing missing from this debate, at least from those who call themselves Christians. Before we draw lines in the sand, we must be open. We must meet those on the “other side”, listen to their hearts, and realize that they are our family.

  6. See the bloody faces lifted to the sky
    Do you want to run to a future left behind?
    I remember asking why, there lies aggression.
    Separation where there should be love
    Power plays while the people die
    Let it rain and protect us from this cruel sun
    Let it rain and protect us from this cruel sun
    I remember asking why, there lies aggression
    Separation where there should be love
    Power plays while the people die
    I remember asking why, I remember asking why
    I remember asking why, I remember asking why, why.
    Open up your eyes, your eyes and let the child learn.
    Open up your eyes, and let the child learn
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun
    Why does war kill only the small man?
    Why does war kill only the small man?
    I think we know, yes, we know
    I think we know, know, know
    I remember asking why.
    I remember asking why.
    I remember asking why.
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun
    Let it rain, and protect us from this cruel sun

    – “Cruel Sun” by Rusted Root

    Those are the kind of lyrics that push into your spirit, and find a home deep in your soul.
    Here is our request Father:

    Darken the sky, strengthen the Storm.
    Let thunder come,
    accompanied
    by the depths of Your Voice-
    forming into words and streaming
    down
    towards the hardened earth
    that is.

    Cultivate. Replenish.
    Redeem what has been lost
    beneath you.

  7. Jenah,
    I have been collecting music from our iTunes for a playlist that I have entitled “Rebel Music”, taken from Bob Marley’s song of the same title. The Rebel Music playlist is only for tracks that have lyrics that speak out against injustice, speak towards hope, freedom & justice, ask society the questions that need to be asked, and, like you wrote so well, “lyrics that push into your spirit, and find a home deep in your soul.” I just added Cruel Sun to that list. Thanks, I had not listened to Rusted Root in some time. (Misty actually just pulled out this album from an old dusty CD case full of music that we had not added to iTunes until 2 days ago! Send over any suggestions you guys have!)

    Thank you for your prayer; it is so deeply refreshing to my spirit.

  8. 5-“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce… 7-Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29

    The pastor at the church we have been visiting was preaching over this section of Jeremiah where this “tell them what they want to hear” prophet guy was telling everyone that they would be out of exile, out of Babylon in a short time. Then Jeremiah delivers the 70 years time-line. But it’s really beautiful: “plant gardens” and “seek the prosperity (or peace) of the city to which you have been carried…”

    I sat there thinking of you two, thinking of us too, seeking the good of the city.

    What’s really cool is that those verses that get brought out all of the time about “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you…” are found next. They are immersed in this context, the very context where you find your life taking root.

    Peace,
    AJ

  9. We live in paradise on the west coast of Florida…..but our hearts are in Juarez. This past December marked our 25th trip in 5 short years to serve the people of Juarez. Hundreds have become our beloved family. We bring food and clothing and receive their trust, friendship and immeasureable love. We prepare and pray and feel peace on each trip. Our team has gone to the Juarez market and downtown on a Saturday evening to see “Gerzon” a Christian praise & worship band ministering hope and joy to many! We shop in the markets, receive aid in the hospitals, play in the streets with the children and attend church in impovershed neighborhoods.
    Our strength comes from the God we serve. He is our ultimate protector.
    The soldiers and border agents seem to welcome us into Mexico, knowing that there is a need for ‘foreigners’ to return. We feel their prayers for us as we pass through the borders into Juarez.
    Our hearts ache for the children and families we’ve come to know and love deeply. This drug war is our war as we are the main consumers of the illegal narcotics crossing our southern borders. We are supplying money and weapons. Children are caught in the crossfire. Schools close down amidst threats. Most everyone knows someone affected by this violent drug war.
    But we will continue to follow our hearts and the passion that stirs our souls to help. (we also provide food, medical and clothing here in Florida to several locations for those who might be inquiring as to why we do not help here. we do).
    God loves the people of Juarez. We will continue to travel there to show the best of America (that we do care) and the love and hope of a life serving and seeking God.
    More hungry and hurting children are coming to our two feeding shelters each week and we need your support. 100%, yes 100%, of every dollar receives goes into the feeding, education and medical programs which are impacting hundreds of children and families each week.
    Thank you for caring & for sharing.
    God HAS blessed America.

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