Archive for Ciudad Juarez

War on Drugs: Failing Humanity

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , , on 09/23/2009 by mattlindsey

Our border community is now painfully divided. It is a microcosm of our hemisphere, our world embroiled in a war on drugs. The violence is a wake-up call, not only for Mexico, but also for the U.S.

Billie Greenwood –Border Explorer

Back in April we posted a short video from The Newspaper Tree about the “War on Drugs”, the failed approach to a seemingly endless war. Our friend Billie posted an incredible article about how this war has deeply wounded our border community. She highlighted a conference that took place on Sept 20-22 (this week) at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) addressing alternative approaches to the drug-war that President Nixon started forty years ago. It is sad to say that for 40 years we have been tripping all over ourselves in failed attempts to counter the drug problem. The U.S. has over 2 million citizens in prison, the largest prison-industrial complex in the history of civilization; most of those people are in for crimes directly related to economics and drugs. We have to change the way we have been fighting against these issues.

Watch the video and check out Billie’s thoughtful article at The Border Explorer.

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Irony in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , on 09/09/2009 by mattlindsey

Dear Child of God, if we are truly to understand that God loves all of us, we must recognize that He loves our enemies, too. God does not share our hatred, no matter what the offense we have endured.

Desmund Tutu

Irony in the Desert

Still not sure how Chris sniped this photo; comes with his tactical training, I suppose. Anyhow, this is one of my favorite shots of the summer. It is a sad manifestation of the dilemma in Ciudad Juarez: Guns vs. Peace. A city crying out for hope, submerged, but rising up from beneath a heavy layer of bullets, blood and boots.

Seven

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , , , on 09/03/2009 by mattlindsey

I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to Me? Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

Amos 5:21-24

Things had been growing mighty dim for Misty and I. The desert had sand blasted us, ground us down, an abrasive torrent of grit and pain. Oppressive heat waves gripped the land, our atmosphere of joy bombarded by fear and desperation. We felt trapped behind bars and razor wire, ducking, looking over our shoulders every second, closing the door, locking the locks, checking them again. We drive through the madness, tinted windows, locked within a cab: secure, alone.

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Often sitting deep inside, peeking out from beneath the wings of God, a craving would grow for courage to walk the streets, but we could not shake the feeling our freedom had been robbed from us. We were up against the ropes, a barrage of kidney punches. Clawing, biting, scrambling for hope.

Then hope came in the form of friends and family, brave souls choosing to cross into our world and stare fear in the face with us. They arrived like a refreshing afternoon summer rain, a rain where the sun is still shining and all you want to do is turn your face towards the heavens with a wide smile, close your eyes and dance. It repelled the oppression, sent it reeling in the wake of the love, joy and peace they brought with them. We did not realize how tired and thirsty that we had become until they arrived.

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Living in Ciudad Juarez has been the most difficult thing Misty or I have ever done in our lives, especially as this city is carving new records in the history books each month: Over 250 murders in July. 300 murders in August. September has started off more grim with 19 murdered last night alone. Juarez is surging, lurching, groaning, wanting, crying, needing, praying, looking for help. This city, this desert, has built our faith, tested our strength. It has shown us what hope looks like. It has unveiled God’s raging heart for justice and fairness and shown us that we cannot wish this world into change, but we have to get dirty, bloody, step into the wave (even if it’s scary). We are awed by all of you who have stepped into the madness with us, all of you who have chosen to align yourselves with your Mexican brothers and sisters, all of you who lean on the hope of redemption, jubilee, rain from Heaven.

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Although death’s yellow claws, chipped and cracked, have raked over our own neighborhood this summer, change is coming to Colonia Palo Chino. Hope is not lost in the shimmering heat nor in the gross turbulence of violence and death. No, justice is coming like a mighty flood and a river of righteous living will follow. And it will never run dry. Never.

*One of the treasures of friends and family that visit us is learning from their perspective on the work and challenges, and their voice in bringing solutions to the problems in Juarez. These perspectives are enlightening, and bring us balance as we go forward here. Thanks to Jenah for her inspiring photography. Visit Seven for a powerful perspective on our neighborhood, Colonia Palo Chino.

Hope for the Poor: Vital Vitamins

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez with tags , , , , , , , on 08/31/2009 by mistylindsey

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

James 1:26-27

This past weekend we had a short but amazing visit from a kindred spirit who even before arriving had a passion for our neighbors here in Juarez, Mexico. Chris Knott, who spent time and effort raising awareness for Amigos back in Colorado by asking for healthcare donations or anything that would be helpful, came down for a powerful weekend and brought with him 19,804 vitamin tablets, 166 toothbrushes and 70 tubes of toothpaste. He also had a Santa-bag full of toys to give out to the kids.

Table of Vitamins zoom

After sorting and compiling the table-full of healthcare items, we headed out Saturday early morning to the neighbors’ homes to hand out health. We were hugged and kissed, and bombarded by neighbors from all directions who heard that someone had vitamins. It was a powerful morning.

Neighbors

Carmen & MagiWe gave instructions on how to give the kids their chewable vitamins, and about not eating the toothpaste.

MaryThis is going to make all the difference for these kids, who certainly don’t get the vitamins from the basic meals they eat, when their parents can even afford them.

VitaminsVitamins are a luxury which, with the exception of us, no one in this neighborhood can afford. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to see our sweet neighbor, Elvira, clap and nearly leap with joy as her face lit up when we told her we had vitamins just for her. Without teeth, she has not been able to eat properly and has been sapped of energy. This will be a tremendous and necessary sustenance for Elvira today, and so many children to whom protein and regular meals are a sparse hope.

Greening the Ghetto: Street Art

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez with tags , , , , , on 08/25/2009 by mattlindsey

I have made it my business to use the green economy as a social and economic solution to poverty. I want to Green the Ghetto.

Majora Carter

Back in February we began writing about Greening the Ghetto here in our own neighborhood in Juarez. Sure, it is a daunting prospect, but we are continuing to dream and work towards seeing it come to fruition. We have a small sputtering garden that is slowly taking root, and now, our first mural. “The first of many” as Jorge Hernandez, our good friend from Palo Chino says. He is an art student here in Juarez and he has been working on several graffiti themes for our neighborhood.

Stencil Prep

Stencil 1

Stencil 2

Stencil 3

Stencil 5

Stencil 6

Stencil 7

We have been working on themes that speak against the violence and draw attention to hope, love and peace. Jorge’s first mural is a stencil piece, a small girl cradling a bomb as if it were a teddy bear. It is a bold, straightforward statement that screams, “No more violence!”

Andale, jorge! Arriba Juaritos!

Lament por El Toro

Posted in Life in Juarez with tags , , , on 08/17/2009 by mmlindsey

El Toro

Lament por El Toro
Poem by Michael E. Lindsey

The coyotes howl – their plaintive cry
echoes through the midnight sky.

We sit around the campfire light
and wonder of El Toro’s plight

of a life on the streets of this mean town
that’s ruined many a man and struck scores down.

Alas… would the settlers who built Juarez city
now feel any shame… or even pity
for even this one who fell last night
let alone hundreds more who’ve died in the fight?

…and who will cry for this poor soul
whose life was so hard – not part – but the whole?

Will women come to see his final ground
and think of times in dance when he spun them round?

Will Mama cry and beat her breast,
“Why couldn’t this, my son, be different from the rest?”

We will miss his call as he used to pass by;
we’ll sit… and wonder… and yes, we will cry!

Good bye my friend Arturo, The Bull –
may you find rest for your weary soul.

Rest in peace, hermano.

Dark Side of the River

Posted in Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , on 08/08/2009 by mattlindsey

Poverty is not the problem, it is the symptom. The problem is an inability to share and to distribute the wealth.

In 10 or 20 years, these kids roaming the streets will be the same kind of criminals we see here today. They will be killing and trying to smuggle drugs because they won’t see the value in doing anything else. They were never given the opportunity to become an engineer or a doctor, or a teacher. If the only thing they learned was what they learned in the streets, if all they saw were people being murdered, if no one ever took them to church and no one lavished them with attention, I can assure you, they will become criminals.

Luis Fernando Cárdenas

Amor por Juarez

July was the deadliest month in the recent history of Ciudad Juarez (BOO!) and still it sits, plastered to the desert dust like a giant glowing pulsating elephant in the room. Outside my window buses roll by, kids are kicking a half-deflated soccer ball in the street, and tomorrow I will be in El Paso to pick up a small group of folks that is coming to visit us. I will run errands, spend my day in the land of the free, rub shoulders with the half-million people that live in one of the safest cities in the world; I will come home, pass through the magic-curtain back to the colonia, back to Juarez, the deadliest city in Mexico.

This is a weird place to live.

Luis Fernando Cárdenas posted his article on the El Paso’s online newspaper last month; it is one of the first pieces written towards hope that I have seen and one of the first articles that I have read in some time that speaks of the core infection of Mexico. Please, read it.

Hearing El Pasonians talk proudly about NOT crossing the border to see their family in Juarez is as much a slap in the face as so-called christians that spend $16 million dollars on a church building looming so high and extravagant that it casts a mocking shadow on its poor neighbors on the dark side of the river. If our nations churches won’t share and distribute the wealth, then we have indeed lost “the good fight.” Good ideas, catered-theology, politics without action, it is all just a sound byte, a clanging bell. What saddens me is that our best idea (as Americans) was to sink over $30 billion dollars into a fence and hundreds of millions more into the bottomless pit of the “War on Drugs.”

Living in the dark, covering our ears and tossing billions of dollars towards a war that cannot be one with AK-47’s and helicopters is the easy way out. We are at the crossroads of fear and hope. People are scrambling to find something solid to build on, something more to believe in. We cannot continue ignoring our impoverished neighbors.