I pick up my Z-Coils in El Paso. They feel strange, like my heel is sinking into a soft inch-thick cushion with every step. The pain fades quickly. Encouraged, we decide to trek across the long pedestrian bridge into Juarez.
There are no other Gringos. None. Nada. Zip. We speculate that either drug violence or the swine flu has killed tourism entirely.
We pick a restaurant for margaritas and tacos. They are playing American 60s rock. We suspect its for us, the only customers. As we dine alone, a series of street vendors enter the restaurant trying to sell us music, wallets, belts, compasses, watches and CDs. I buy a wallet.
We see convoys of black jeeps in the streets. The soldiers are dressed in black with automatic weapons at the ready. They wear flak jackets. It looks like New Orleans just after Katrina. Everywhere are the young soldiers guarding intersections. I find this article in the Miami Herald.
Crossing south on the right side of the bridges is lonely, with only a smattering of people, mostly Mexicans living in El Paso. The army base has banned soldiers from crossing, and few if any kids come looking for a good time -- most of the bars have closed anyway.The reason: Juárez is at war. The city is fighting drug cartels, and the cartels are fighting each other.In 2008, more than 1,600 people were killed in Juárez in drug-related violence, often assassinations carried out in daylight.I thought I got a deal on two cartons of cigarettes, but the Texas Department of revenue is waiting as we cross the bridge to get $30 in Texas tax. It's about breakeven after this surprise.
n an effort to stem the violence spinning out of control, the Mexican Army deployed about 2,500 soldiers in Juárez last spring. Another 5,000 soldiers were deployed last month to take charge of the police department.
It's a shame what we've done to this poor country by providing a vast market for illegal drugs and a supermarket for smuggled firearms. We stole Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado from Mexico. Maybe we could give California back?