Archive for El Toro

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.


Compadres in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez with tags , , , on 04/05/2009 by mattlindsey

Ideological commitment rings hollow if it is unconnected to vivid relationships with people who are suffering and oppressed. We cannot effectively think or act on behalf of people who are only an abstraction. Those who wish to see more of reality must be willing to really know those who are oppressed.

Bernard T. Adeney

El Toro

From the first days that we moved into the colonia, El Toro’s barbaric cries have rattled our gates. Intimidated , I just didn’t want to see him or his compadres in the street. And when I did, I tried to get out of sight, because as soon as he caught a glimpse of me he would shout bumbling mezcal-drenched  phrases that I could not understand. I only knew that he wanted me to hook him up with some spare change or food.

It could have been the mezcal talking, but several months back El Toro told me his real name. Everything about that moment was different. He approached me as I was sweeping the street, simply to talk. He did not ask me for anything, he just wanted to say hello and see what I was up to. Before our conversation ended he looked at me and said, “Everyone calls me El Toro, but my name is Arturo.” Then he shook my hand as if it were the first time that we met; Juan and Carmen did not even know that Arturo was his given name.

There was a shift in my relationship with Arturo the moment he looked me in the eyes and told me his real name, and it was something that he clearly did not do that often. From my perspective he was no longer the Bull, but Arturo; it was as if a fog lifted and I could see more clearly that this man, drowning away in cheap alcohol, is indeed a beautiful child of God, not merely the neighborhood drunk that everyone avoids and dismisses as a freak. Something clicked inside me and  a wrench was thrown into the gears of my ideological commitment to the people of Palo Chino and something much more vivid began to emerge. 

Thursday afternoon, Arturo lay sprawled out on the sidewalk across the street from our house. El Lobo was trying to drag him against a wall so that he could sit him up. When El Lobo saw me he rushed over to me carrying a dirty handkerchief asking me to drench it in water so that he could put it on Arturo’s head. I went with El Lobo to check on Arturo and El Huesos was there too. As we got Arturo to sit up, El Huesos began to thank me for being there. He told that when he had first met me last summer he thought I was just a stuck-up gringo but he has seen something different in me. He said that he can see that I actually care.

Yesterday the police forced El Toro, El Lobo, and El Huesos (Bull, Wolf, and Bones) to the ground, smashing their faces into the asphalt in front of our house, then took them to jail. This is at least the fifth time they have been taken in this year. When these cats party they do not party inside their houses. They welcome in, unashamed and crying out, the world around them; they drink to soothe the dryness inside. I am no longer intimidated by their barbaric howls or the haze of cheap liquor that follows them around, and I am beginning to see these lonely souls as brothers.