Monday, July 11, 2005


Lambert wanted stories from my trip to Ciudad de Juarez. So... I remember being about halfway across the bridge at Juarez, the big one with the commercial traffic. Usual jam-packed, bumper-to-bumper with sidewalks likewise. It’s gotta be 110 degrees. Anyway, at this halfway point, there’s a Native woman probably arrived from the interior recently—dressed that way, anyhow—and she’s hunkered down in a rare shady spot suckling a baby under her long head scarf. Three other kids of hers are hustling the slow moving traffic. They’re dressed in rags. The little girl has a toy horse. No rider, just a saddle and the horse. Like what you could buy at the dollar store for a buck, or a yard sale for 25 cents. As I was giving the lady a dollar ("por el nino), a man rolled down his window and asked the little girl how much for the horse. She held up three fingers. He gave her three bucks and she ran back to her mom with it like it was a million. The guy looked at me and said, “I just couldn’t stand it, watching her. Besides, my granddaughter will love it.” A guy I was talking to at the Mercado said that the average wage in the factories is anywhere from 3-7 dollars a DAY. The pants, boots, whatever are partially assembled in Juarez for slave wages and then shipped to El Paso where they’re “Made in the USA.” Average wage there: 7-10 dollars an HOUR. Advice, cowpokes: buy your boots in Mexico. As long as they’re under $400, no duty. And $400 will buy you custom fit boots in Mexico, where craftsmanship lives on.

I hope AMLO and his “Poor people first!” campaign takes off like wildfire and that he avoids rides in small planes. And I dream of open borders.

There are other stories—the mariachis who play beautiful sad songs for you as you sit and drink beer in the plaza. I asked one how it was making a living that way. He said, as near as I can tell with my horrible Spanish, that it’s good. He sharpens his chops, and on a good day plays from 10-8, making anywhere from $2 to $5 a song (tips). And sharp chops these guys have! Their instruments may be held together with duct tape and baling wire, but by god, well, there was one 12-string player I ended up paying twice just to hear “Para donde vas?” and “Red Rose of San Antonio.” Flying fingers and then soulful chords, and a rich mellow voice.

One day I may just sell the farm and move down south. Maybe. It ain’t paradise, but there’s a lot to learn, and a lot to be done. If nothing else, helping these poor women avoid becoming whores or corpses.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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