Is Juarez, Mexico, just another border town?
Juarez, Mexico is a border town, and border towns are always infamous because of the violence and danger, in different measures, that always lurk in them, mainly due to the contrasting differences in between the two countries. But, is Juarez just another border town? There are plenty of stories about Juarez, dubbed five years ago the “most dangerous City in the world,” but ever since I can remember it has always been a different kind of City: a sort of Twilight Zone where some of the most outlandish things can happen. However, border towns in general have many different types of myths or legends. Some people might tell you that most of them are only hearsay and lies, but some others will swear they’re true, since they have lived them.
I don’t know about the other border towns, but no matter how obscure, or out of the ordinary those tales are: there’s always a possibility that in Juarez, they might actually had happened. I’m 55 now, a lot of years have passed since my youth days in Juarez, the City is still in the news; almost every week, it’s still close to my heart, and I have almost no hair left, so let’s go back to 1979 (I had a lot of hair then: a lot!):
The first thing out of alignment that night was that I skipped going to the Disco, since Conejo (my trusted friend and minion), who didn’t know how to enjoy dancing, craved something else. I loved to dance on those days, but there were six other days in the week (the Discotheques used to be opened every single day of the week, from 8 p.m. all the way to 8 a.m.).
He tricked me in the following manner: “You always go to the disco and dance with Mexican girls, right?”
I replied, “Yes.”
Then he added, “You dance with them and then usually you get lucky at your apartment afterwards, right?”
I had a very well placed apartment just blocks away from the main discos of the day, and those were the wild Disco days in the late 70s, so the odds were with me.
I looked at him, reminisced a little, smiled, and then replied, “Yes…and?”
“Have you gotten lucky with an American girl, yet?”
“Of course I ha-“
He stopped me abruptly, “A real-blonde-blue-eyed-American girl, not a Mexican American.”
I didn’t have to think twice about that one, so I dryly and sadly replied, “No.”
“Well, this is your chance, since they usually hang out at the drive inns.”
Nothing else was needed. We started cruising through the drinking drive inns of the famous border city in our search for “real” American girls (all perspectives change when you’re young and don’t know any better). We didn’t have to look much, since when we arrived at El Bronco (The Roudy One) we immediately saw them: an extremely-good-looking-blonde-American Woman, of about 24, with a good-looking Mexican-American friend, about 23. Later on we found out the blonde was 30 and her friend 29, but like I said: we were young, plus remember the “don’t know any better part?” The Blonde was a full fledged ten, and the Mexican-American girl was easily an eight plus.
That night finally arrived when my conquest was going to be truly international, there was an obstacle, however, we didn’t speak English very well, but with Conejo in tow: I took the challenge. Conejo was my best friend at that time, very Mexican looking, an extremely good talker (mostly about nonsense), and the funniest person alive. I have to add that Conejo’s two-front-bucked teeth helped a lot (he not only was funny, but looked funny as well, that’s why we called him Conejo: rabbit in Spanish): the perfect partner for picking up girls. We had always been lucky with women, but this was the easiest pick-up ever (being so young, who’s going to suspect anything?). Conejo and the Mexican-American Girl hit it off very nicely, and the Blonde and I were advancing quite rapidly as well (too rapidly actually, but you always blame successes on your own self).
While we were drinking our second round of beers, I received the information (information IS power!) that their car, a recent-model ford maverick, was parked in the back, in one of the dark places where usually the “best action” happened. So, I made my move, and took advantage of their vehicle’s geographical location. The sex was great (all two minutes of it), let’s face it: that’s what it usually is at that age; even though we want to fantasize, it was always over before we even knew it.
After we lit our cigarettes she said, “If you come with me to El Paso, to my apartment, you’re going to love it!”
I had always been lucky with women, not now of course (I’m already 55, and quite bald), but in those remote days of my youth, nonetheless, there was still something out of place in this whole situation. My ego was being stroked heavily, and I was in my American Nirvana; even though that “little voice” in the back of my head kept, first suggesting (there were important things going on that, of course, created a heavy static noise in between me and the voice of reason), then telling me, and finally shouting at me that something was amiss, and that this beautiful woman was way out of my league! My only defense is: when you’re faced with “Barbie” in skimpy clothes, tasted heaven, and were promised more, you don’t listen to little voices: you just take, so I kept taking. Besides, the Blonde’s voice was louder and clearer, so I wasn’t going to listen to that other vague one way in the back of my head. We went back to Conejo and her Friend, who were inside my car, and already getting to second base: he desperately wanted the switch, so that they could also go to their car and finish their ball game.
But right when he was going to tag me: the Blonde blurted out, “Let’s go to El Paso, I have a two bedroom apartment, and we can really have a great time: for the whole weekend!”
The trip was on. The Blonde came with me, and Conejo went with her friend in their car, she was driving. Oh! I forgot: Conejo didn’t have a car, and, most importantly: he couldn’t drive to save his life (nobody is perfect). Finally, we were on our way to our first-international conquest. I felt like Pancho Villa must have felt when he was on his way to Columbus.
However, on our way to El Paso, a couple of blocks before the international bridge the Blonde got very close to me, started kissing me in the ear, and then told me that she needed to pick up something on the way, like if she just remembered to buy extra cigarettes. The sane part of my brain tried, at least it did, to…suggest something, but the Blonde had her hands all over my body, and a whole torrent of hormones shut it up quickly, once more. So as a good-natured-horny-young male I turned to where she told me to, and off we went. Conejo and her Friend just followed us.
It turned out that the place where we were heading was “La Chaveña.” At that time La Chaveña was the worst neighborhood in Juarez. In those days, not even the police entered it at night. That sinister neighborhood is actually not that far away from the pay International Bridge, due west of the downtown area of Juarez. However, the place where they took us was almost at the end of the neighborhood, and it was very spooky, even for a couple of happening guys like us.
I asked her a couple of times, “Are you sure…it’s…this way?”
And she replied, “Just keep driving.”
I immediately put two and two together (with all the wisdom that all those 19 years on this earth had given me): “They’re buying drugs,” and drugs have been something that I had never approved of, and still don’t to this day (you can call me “old fashioned,” but one thing you can’t call me is drug addict).
So, when we finally arrived at the house that she was looking for, I told the Blonde, “Conejo and I would wait outside for you, and when we go to El Paso, we drive in our car, and you guys drive in yours.”
“Why?” she blurted out.
“We don’t do drugs. I don’t mind if you do, but we don’t.”
“We’re not buying drugs!”
She then placed her hand in between my legs and then kissed me, sort of in a French manner, a very Gallic…so French that I saw the Eiffel tower!
She then straddled her legs around me, first nibbled, and then kissed my ears, and then softly kissed me on the lips and said, “Relax, baby, it’s all good!”
Needless to say, I was already very relaxed, quite convinced, and ready to obey her silently.
“I just need to pick up something, and we’ll be on our way, don’t make a federal case out of this,” she casually said, with her hand always caressing my manly parts.
“Are you sure there are no drugs involved?” I felt my voice going up a couple of octaves, and this made her smile.
“Are you sure that-“
“Scouts honor,” she said making a sign with her hand.
“Alright then,” said I.
The Blonde wanted one of us to go into the house with them, but I wouldn’t do it. Conejo had kissed and felt her friend so much, that he would have stuck a needle in his eye if that was necessary: he so desperately needed that triumphant slide into “home.” I looked at him, and then at them and shook my head in disgust. Lastly, I requested to have a word with him first. Nobody liked it, but I held my ground. There was a brief pause, after which the Two Women went back to their vehicle, and Conejo got back into mine.
“Don’t grab anything. I don’t care what they tell you. But if you do, you cross with them and not in my car, understood?” said I in a cross in between a stern paternal tone and The Godfather speeches.
“Don’t be such a pussy,” he replied.
“I don’t do drugs, and I don’t want to be caught with them, especially at an American-federal bridge!”
Conejo didn’t do drugs either, but had no qualms about them (especially if it was going to get him what his now very-abused body craved). Therefore, he went into the house with them, but less then three second later, he came right back out. He was white, and I already told you he’s very Mexican looking, almost an impossibility.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know, they saw me and immediately kicked me out,” he replied.
“Who’s…they?” I asked.
“These two big Cholos told me to get the fuck out!” he replied with fear in his eyes.
We looked at each other and didn’t know what to make of it at first. It was summer, so I took advantage to turn the car on, so that we could enjoy the air conditioning, but mostly did it so that I could keep the car on, and slowly angle it towards the house’s entrance. This gave us quite a vantage point: we could see when somebody came out immediately, plus at the same time got us the right directional vector, so that we could get away easily. Conejo and I knew exactly what I was doing, but we pretended about the air conditioning bull shit for a while, since we were young and so Mexican tough.
Fifteen minutes later, that felt like three days (we were both sweating profusely, and we had the air conditioning on), the Two Women came out. The Blonde had a small package in her arms that she held close to her chest as she went directly to her car. It was very dark, so I couldn’t really see what it was. We instantly looked at each other, and then around us, as we had been doing for the last fifteen minutes. I put my car in first gear, and my foot was ready to step on the accelerator: we were more than sure that somebody was going to come at them or at us at any moment.
The Blonde’s Friend came over and asked Conejo to go with them, at least until they got out of this very dark neighborhood (La Chaveña), and Conejo jumped at the opportunity, especially, because of the way she asked him: she slid her hand into his pants, and took him all the way to her car like that. We thought we were the pick up artists, but that day…We were really picked-up ourselves, in more ways than one.
We drove out of that neighborhood as fast as we could, and once we were out, and the streets were lit (that part of town had almost no street lights, and the few it had were mostly broken), I moved next to them and signaled with my hand, so that Conejo would come back to my car, but the Blonde’s Friend sped up. I noticed that the Blonde still had the package close to her chest. I honked and motioned for them to stop, but she didn’t stop, like we had agreed before. Instead she tried to drive all the way to the pay bridge, which, like I said before was close by. I stepped on the gas, went ahead of them, cut them right in front, and stopped abruptly stopping their passage with my car.
I forgot to tell you, back then I was driving a 1969 Chevy SS, with a 396 engine, and many extras to make it go faster than it should (it’s indeed a miracle I’m still alive: it really is).
I immediately got out of my car and went to theirs with a decisive and angry stride. As I was walking to their car, I could see the bridge: only three blocks ahead of us.
“As I clearly stated: He comes with me!” I said, while opening Conejo’s door.
The Blonde didn’t get angry, she just started painting a beautiful picture: how sweet it was going to be on the other side, and what a nice apartment they had, the swimming pool, tales about a refrigerator full of brew, and what not, but at that time I finally saw the package up close, and that stopped me right on my tracks. My face must’ve been really something, since she stopped talking. It wasn’t a package: it was a…bundle…it was…a Mexican baby! The “little voice” in the back of my head wasn’t talking to me, or yelling this time, it was howling! I grabbed Conejo by the lapels of his jacket, literally pulled him out of the car, and kicked their car door shut.
“Thank you, but very no thanks ma’am,” I said as I was walking towards my car with my friend in tow.
“Did you…just say…thank you, but-”
“Shut up and move!”
They took off for the bridge as they were throwing fingers at us and telling us what big chickens we were, with varied and colorful vituperations (we recognized fuck a couple of times, but some of the other bad words in English we still didn’t know at the time: ignorance is bliss).
We got in the car, looked at each other, shook our heads, and then continued in silence for a very long time, and that was extremely difficult to do for either of us. The city looked quite different to us at that moment, no radio (a first in our short lives), but moreover: no sound coming out of our mouths for already too long a time (also a first for both Conejo and I: both incessant talkers). Street lights, cars lights, house lights, faces, and noises from the outside passing us, facing us, surrounding us, but no matter what: we stayed in that silent daze for almost twenty minutes, as I drove almost aimlessly, but always, always away from La Chaveña, and the border’s edge. As if by changing geography we could erase the recent past.
Without knowing, we had participated in a legendary part of the border lore: the black market of baby sales. A myth had just turned into a reality right in front of our eyes, as Juarez has always succeeded in doing. We stopped the car at a liquor store, but before we got out, we looked at each other for a couple of seconds, deep into each other’s eyes, and without saying a single word: we both swore to forget that we ever had anything to do…with…that…package!
A famous philosopher described it best: “About that which cannot be spoken, one must be silent.”
Silence, was the only course of action in Juarez on those days, and, sadly, now as well. However, while faced with something so…so horrible (the selling of an innocent infant) one wants to think that there could be an upside to this monstrosity, and that somebody is helping unwanted babies to go to America and have a better life, but that, somehow, sounds far fetched, quite cold, very cruel, and completely unrealistic.
Some of the most obscure things about border towns are true, even though, we always hear about these situations, many times as tales and legends, and we hardly ever see them actually happening, so much that we doubt their existence. But when you have lived in Juarez, for some time…some lucky, unlucky, or fateful day…you can end-up right in the middle of all of them, and that’s because Juarez, Mexico, isn’t just another border town – it is actually “the mythically quintessential border town!”
About the author:
A filmmaker with 21 feature films written and produced, twelve of those Cesar Alejandro also directed, and a Professor of Film at New Mexico State University. Cesar began his career as a theatre actor in New York, where he was a member of Spanish Rep (off-Broadway), and then INTAR (off-Broadway) from 1986 to 1990. In 1998, he produced and directed his first Message Drama, in 35mm, for theatrical release: Down for the Barrio (available at Netflix), and then his second one, this one about the killing of women and men in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: Juarez: Stages of Fear (Chris Penn’s last movie). Cesar has a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso.