Family, Fun, and Fear?

Mardi Gras Readers (FRONT PAGE #1)

Image by Graham Blackall via Flickr

Thoughts rambling through my head today completely unrelated to my writing or querying endeavors.  But I had to put them on a page.

We’ve traveled to El Paso, Texas to visit my husband’s side of the family.  A cousin is celebrating her Quincienera and we hadn’t seen them for over a year.  We flew in today and the fun celebration is tomorrow: dinner, dancing and drinks.  All with family.  Fabulous trifecta.  And her theme is magnificent: Mardi Gras.  I’ve stolen a glimpse at her bouquet and the hand-made masks for her court (20 person entourage), and I’m so excited for her!  She will look like the most glorious and colorful princess I’d ever imagined.

But an unusual factor is included in my own mind for this weekend.  The Fear Factor.  A mere 800 yards away from where I’m typing right now is the border of Mexico and El Paso’s sister city: Juarez.  Most recently named as the deadliest city in the world.  A gruesome, bloody, vicious, and seemingly impossible war is raging in the border town where over 3,000 people have been killed in 2010 alone (over 10,000 people in the last 5 years) due to the drug cartel wars (battling each other as well as the police and federal forces).  My husband’s grandmother still lives in Juarez and refuses to leave, despite the urgings of her 7 seven children (my husband’s aunts and uncles).

It’s terrifying to think that almost half the city’s entire population has either fled or been grotesquely murdered.  And the other half are stuck in their homes and refuse to answer the door (just as terrified of corrupt police as they are of the cartels.)  El Paso has inadvertently become the refuge home for thousands.

While I hear about this on the news almost every day, physically here in El Paso its hard to understand what I’m seeing.  On the surface everything looks normal.  Like it always has for the last 8 years (since I’ve known my husband).  Things are more crowded- I’ve noticed that almost immediately upon touchdown of the plane.  And many of the cars in the area carry Mexican plates.  That’s normal with many visiting shoppers, families, and business folk traveling across the border every day.  But I see more of them than I remembered before.

But I see fear, or apprehension on many faces.  My husband’s uncles tell him not to go across the border.  For the first time in his life, my husband will not be able to visit his grandmother’s house as he’s done thousands of times before.  He spent summers there, still has (or had) dozens of friends there.  And now my husband, who knew Juarez like he knows his own facial features, is advised not to go across by his own family.  That certainly put the fear in me.  Not fear for myself, but fear for his grandmother.  His family.  The friends that may still be in J-town.  The lovable brotherly city of Juarez has become a literal hell on Earth.

I’m grateful for the life my husband and I have created for our family.  I’m grateful we’re able to visit his family and share these celebrations together.  And even more I’m grateful we live in the United States.  As screwed up as the U.S. is in many areas, and as frustrating as our Congress behaves, no matter how much I want to scream, scratch, and throw in the towel occasionally, we don’t have to live with the nightmare right across the border.  I don’t have to worry about a 15-year-old assassin with a penchant for beheading waiting outside my garage, or corrupt policemen knocking on my door for bribe money not to turn me over to the cartels,  or a newbie cartel member wanting to ‘make his mark’ every time I look out my window.

So as much as I complain about my own government and how they don’t listen and keep screwing things up and are only out for themselves, seeing Juarez only 800 yards away and knowing what’s happened, and what’s still happening, I’m going to shut up.