New Mexico has always seemed the least borderlandish of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands states. Unlike Texas, Arizona, and California, we don’t really have a large twin city spanning the border (think Laredo-Nuevo Laredo, El Paso-Juárez, the Nogales’s, San Diego-Tijuana). My former Albuquerque Journal colleague Lauren Villagran in a poignant column this morning on the scars left by Juárez drug violence bids us not forget:
If it’s easy in Albuquerque to forget New Mexico is a border state, but it’s not so simple down south, where families often have connections on both sides and many people, their friends or family were in some way touched by the violence.
She tells the story of a young Juárez-El Paso rapper named Luis Barron:
Barron, 35, was born in Juárez, grew up there, went to school in El Paso and, like many other people in the region, crisscrossed the border daily. A U.S. legal resident who works as a driver for an El Paso health clinic, he was raising three daughters on the El Paso side when his wife was deported in 2008 and given five years before she could apply to return. The family went with her to Juárez.
This is the life that’s hard to understand when you’re farther away from the mysterious line we’ve drawn on the map – a community that spans the border, moving back and forth, with connections often tighter across the border than to the distant national centers of power and influence – borderland as third nation.
The drug violence that so devastated Juárez during those awful years was not a thing just in “Mexico”, but in that shared third nation of the borderlands.
Juárez, at peace, wants to move beyond its violent past, but there are scars that no slogan can erase.