Commuting to Drug War’s Stalingrad « Zócalo Public Square
Read it all. It’s not very long.
Being a war correspondent has its downsides. I’ve seen a headless body left hanging from an overpass at dawn, and covered several mass murders. At a drug rehab center I stood outside the tiny building where 17 people had been massacred on a sidewalk that was drenched in blood. I’ve talked to too many grieving victims of senseless violence, including parents of slaughtered children, and children of slaughtered parents. It all remains horrifying, trust me.
I realize there are plenty of journalists in places like Afghanistan or famine-struck Somalia who must bear witness to similar horrors, but they have to fly across many time zones to encounter them. What’s surreal about my reporting assignment is that I commute to it from America’s quotidian tranquility – sometimes I even swing by my Starbucks drive-thru en route to the war zone next door.
Indeed, I live in one of the safest cities in the United States – El Paso, Texas, had the lowest crime rate among large cities in CQ Press’ 2010 crime report – and work in one of the world’s most notorious murder capitals – Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The two cities have historically been intertwined far more than other major border communities. San Diego and Tijuana are divided by a large buffer zone, and San Antonio, which has long claimed to be the gateway to Mexico, is a two-hour drive away.
El Paso’s downtown runs right into downtown Juarez. For generations of families crossing the border into Mexico was like crossing the street and many did just that to shop, get a haircut or visit “abuelita.”