Archive for Violence in Juarez

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.

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!

Service in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , , , on 07/31/2009 by mattlindsey

The greatest sin of political imagination is thinking there in no other way except the filthy rotten system we have today.

Jesus for President

Serve Who?

This billboard says, “Serve your community”.

Ambiguous and obnoxious billboards are infecting this already polluted city. Flooding the streets with more assault rifles strengthens the violence, injects more fear, closes more doors, lowers the bar. It is ludicrous that they are replacing “Amor por Juarez” billboards with guns.

Just who will those guns be serving?

New Desert War

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez, Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , on 07/29/2009 by mmlindsey

It was hot. Tensions were boiling under the strain of the desert sun. Everyone was gripped, toes dug into the baking sand.

New Weapons

The bombs whistled, cutting through the shimmering heat waves like melted butter.The Attack They could not out run them. Bombs colliding with flesh, fear on every face.Incoming!

Fear...

Running from the bombs

When the dust settled, laughter was rippling over the water soaked soil and could be heard across Colonia Palo Chino, everyone happy and refreshed!

The Victim

Boots on the Ground

Posted in Violence in Juarez with tags , , , , , on 07/04/2009 by mattlindsey

The operation’s staffing level remains at 7,500 soldiers and 2,300 federal police officers, Torres said… Deaths had dropped to around one or two a day in March but are now averaging about seven homicides daily. More than 130 people have been killed so far this month. More than 2,300 people have been killed since January 2008.

By Daniel Borunda/El Paso times

Independence Day.

Boots on the Ground

Photo shot on 4th of July at the downtown border bridge.

19,600 boots on the ground in Ciudad Juarez, just a thin muddy river dividing independence and forced submission.

So on this Independence Day, here’s to our Mexican brothers and sisters who long for opportunity, dignity and true freedom.

Shadows in the Desert

Posted in Life in Juarez with tags , , , , , , on 06/30/2009 by mattlindsey

Bring me the music for the revolution
It puts my mind at ease, to know
We’re the problem, we’re the solution
The cure and the disease
But life is trying to force me
Force me to trust
I’ve done all I can
I’ll do what I must

Ben Harper

I used to sleep at night. That all changed when I moved to the most violent city in Mexico in a house surrounded by razor-wire. A broken front door that did not lock, creeks of a cinderblock house sagging and flexing under the heat, sounds of a restless city penetrating the walls of wood and concrete, my mind was constantly kept from rest. Violent and wild dreams became frequent, waking me to pray for our hurting city, pacing the floor or staring into the darkness at the empty ceiling.

It was 4 am one morning in February when we awoke with hearts racing to heavy foot steps running across our roof directly over our bed. We could not sleep the rest of the morning, wondering, peeking out windows, praying. We never learned who was using our roof to get around the colonia. I remember feeling vulnerable and anxious, going through scenarios of how to protect my wife, my life.

It happened again Saturday night, same time. 4 am, noises and footsteps on our roof, but this time not running. We spied out the windows for a short time then we went back to bed, we had been through this one before. Five minutes later, more noises. Up we flew back to the windows, listening, praying. Nothing. What was it? Is someone trying to break in? Back to bed. Three minutes later unmistakeable presence on the roof. I ran to the office, made a quick call to Juan who lives a half-block away, got dressed and snuck outside. I met Juan at the front gate, he grabbed a large piece of scrap wood and we began searching through the blackness for whoever was hanging around our house.

We walked to the far end of the property and noticed down the hill a small party dwindling at the ex-drug lord’s house. Four naked people in a dirty swimming pool sipping beers. We were unsure if it was someone from the party who had been creeping around, so we turned back toward the house, and then I saw it. The body. It was laying down on our roof in the shadow of the swap cooler. I immediately thought that he was laying there in the shadow, still and quiet, waiting to make his move. “Juan, there he is!” I whispered. I climbed up on the low roof as quietly as I could, gave Juan my hand and helped him up, and we walked up to the body. He was young, mid twenties, dressed like he had been to a party, fake diamond earrings, shiny belt buckle, pearl button cowboy shirt. He did not stir. Is he asleep? Is he faking it, ready to jump up and fight or run? Dead? I scanned his shirt and the roof for blood but did not see any. We carefully stood over him ready to fight, ready for anything. Juan poked him in the shoulder with the stick and quietly told him to wake up. Adrenaline pumped through my veins. I was glad that we were able to finally confront the guy who had kept Misty and I up for the past 45 minutes. He was not dead. He was blitzed, totally drunk, passed out. Another nudge with the stick and he began to stir.

Roof

“What are you doing on my roof? This is my house, Compa.” Juan held the long stick out toward him.

His eyes blinked and fluttered and he finally became fully aware of where he was. He began chewing a piece of gum that had been tucked away in his mouth. He leaned up on his elbows, the stick inches from his face. “Calmase. Take it easy. Take it easy.”

I was surprised that this guy could speak intelligible words. He slowly sat up.

“Who are you?” Juan questioned, “Where are you from? Whose family are you?”

He stood up on wobbly feet. ” I’m Lalo’s cousin. Don’t worry about it. What’s with the stick? You gonna hit me with it?”

More forcefully, Juan said, “You can’t be sleeping on my roof. What are you doing up here?”

Juan had every right to hit the man, call the cops, whatever he wanted. I could have taken advantage, kicked him off the roof. He had had me worried and anxious for 45 minutes. He had threatened us, scared my lovely wife and trespassed on our roof. Juan chose grace, and once the guy realized that we weren’t going to kick the crap out of him, he began browbeating us. “Tomorrow I am going to come back and hurt you both! You’ll see!”

He stumbled across the roof, over the razor wire and onto the neighbor’s roof. I was amazed that he did not get tangled into a bloody pulp in the razor wire. He walked the length of our neighbor’s roof toward the street, stopping to sputter more threats along the way. He managed to land back on the ground without our help. I jumped off the roof and into our front patio, the adrenaline still racing, ready for whatever. Glaring, he walked passed our house within feet of me, with an empty 40 oz Carta Blanca beer bottle in his hand. It had been laying on the ground right where he jumped off the roof. ” You f**ing gringo, I will see you tomorrow!” He  walked up the street fifty feet, turned, and hurled the 40 oz. bottle toward our house. It collided with the razor wire and shattered right next to my Tacoma. Juan jumped off the roof and we walked over to our next door neighbors’ who were standing out in front of their house. The lonely drunk walked up to the next block, turned around and threw a rock at all of us. It only made more dogs bark.

We never called the cops. Juan walked back home and I went back to bed. I was exhausted but struggled to fall asleep. I dreamt about people breaking into our house, I was scared and helpless and too late to protect my wife. It made me lean into God’s arms as I tried to give him my cares and stress.