Cuidad Juarez-Unnotorious Version
I have stared at Cuidad Juarez for years from the safety (??) of I10 in El Paso. The news told of murders, cartels, danger. What I saw from the highway were eroded adobe houses in many colors, and dust. I always wanted to walk those streets and see what was up over there, perhaps because it was a no no. When some Marfa friends decided to check it out, I did not hesitate. I was in.
We parked in El Paso and walked across thus avoiding lines of cars and we literally walked right in, no problem. Me wheeling my suitcase click click click, displaying my red money bag around my neck, while my more saavy friends carried backpacks, I told them “do not tease me about this”. . and they complied. If anyone were going to be taken out, it would have been me, the very obvious and slightly nervous tourist. But I live to tell. The people we met in CJ seemed pretty Americanized to me, lots of English spoken and dollars taken alongside pesos. They are a bridge away from El Paso and in better times, probably went back and forth a lot. Parts of CJ were totally modern, with American fat and sugar filled chains and Walmart crap merchandise widely available. You’re welcome Mexico. Better hurry and get health care.
We Ubered through a fairly battered less charming area of town, to a market centered around a big church with many shops and restaurants. We walked and walked finding great restaurants, sunglasses, trinkets, snacks, you name it.
I can’t speak intelligently to the “problems” they have had in CJuarez or to the dangers that are publicized. From my viewpoint the people could not have been nicer. This is not a hugely important breakthrough, only one little experience that goes along with what I believe, which is that Mexico is our neighbor and friend. And the people are nice as hell.
One young Uber driver said he wanted to get his citizenship in order to study at UTEP. A shoe shine man had spent 7 lousy years in jail for his second crossing into the US. There was smattering of begging. Nobody enjoys begging, they just have to do it to survive sometimes.
My fears fell away to be replaced by positive experiences with each encounter that we had. People did not look at us, or act like we were out of place.
I plan to return very soon to an amazing restaurant, Maria Chuchena. It was out of this world.