Posted January 21 ’12

I went to Juarez, Mexico.

I went with my tough-guy boots and my outlaw dreams.

I went because it’s called Murder City, because it’s so extreme, a war zone without any rules.  I wanted to see how people live; I was attracted to the lawlessness.  I love Mexico.  It was a test.

A lot of terrible things have happened in Juarez.  One of them was the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy named Sergio Adrian who was killed by a U.S. border patrol agent.  Sergio was in Mexico when the bullet pierced his skull; the agent was in the U.S.  U.S. agents say Sergio was throwing rocks.  The bullet hit him right between the eyes.

He died in a dry tributary of the Rio Grande.  There’s an invisible line down the middle of the concrete waterway, which delineates the border.  Sergio was on one side, the agent on the other.  I stood where Sergio was killed and read the graffiti: Che Guevara’s face surrounded by words of outrage and pledges of revenge.

There aren’t any border walls in Juarez.   We Americans are welcomed.  But in El Paso there are two and sometime three fences, concertina wire, and of course the Rio Grande.  The border is swarming with patrol vehicles.  It’s very difficult for a Mexican to come across illegally, especially in the area where Sergio was killed.

I drove through the streets of Juarez up into the hills where Sergio’s mother lives.  It is a poor neighborhood; pallet shacks with scrap-metal roofs and bootlegged electricity.   Most places don’t have running water.  I listened as a mother told of losing her child and then watched as the U.S. government vilified her precious boy.  They claimed he was running drugs.  They said he was a coyote.  I stood in Sergio’s tiny room and saw the religious icons and the boy-like drawings he made of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Sergio’s family lives in extreme poverty.  They have no authority or influence; their voice is not heard.  Sergio’s death is an inconvenience, a thorn in the side of U.S. policy makers.  The Mexican government seems to have forgotten the incident.  The officer who shot Sergio is still on duty.

There is nothing romantic about life in Juarez.  It is a dangerous city where the poor have few options.  As I walked back across the bridge to El Paso a crippled man held out his beggars cup.  His leg was withered and black with gangrene.  His only hope of survival is to cut off the damaged limb.  I doubt he will get the help he needs.