On Friday I saw someone get shot. I didn’t know him. I was about a block away. He was wearing a red t-shirt. That’s all I really know about him. We weren’t in our neighborhood and neither of us had ever met the man. By his position on the corner in front of Del Rio, catty-corner from a popular church, I knew that he either sold cigarettes, newspapers or rosaries. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: This wasn’t a stray bullet, or a random act of violence. This was a man who failed to pay the quota. Am I an asshole because I understand the mind of a gangster, or am I an idiot because this didn’t scare me? I still feel as optimistic about Juarez and am as in love with this city now as I was on Friday morning. Sometimes I feel as though someone has injected Novocain into my brain. Is this ignorance? Am I in denial? I don’t know. All I know is that I am not the only one that reacts to murder this way.
We were on the way to our friend’s house for a little pre-Easter/Passover celebration, enjoying the radio and the warm Spring winds with the windows rolled down. When we heard the gunshots and saw the man fall to the ground, my husband and I simultaneously rolled up our windows as I reached to turn the stereo down, as though this would protect us from any stray bullets. We arrived at our friend’s house and told them what had happened. Moments later, one of their neighbors walked by with his daughter. She was maybe three or four years old. My friend asked them if they were headed to the corner store, and after the man confirmed that they were, my friend informed him that there had been a shooting and it might not be the best place to go with his daughter right then. This man hesitated for seconds, only seconds, shrugged his shoulders, and continued to walk in the direction of the store with his daughter. Shit, when you need milk, you need milk?! Apparently, a shooting on a corner in Juarez is about as surprising as a lemonade stand in suburbia. This is only the 4th or 5th dead body I have personally seen in the last year and a half, but I imagine it takes more than that to make the people so desensitized.
They flock to the corner when someone gets shot here. It always seems to happen on a corner. Crowds surround the body for what seems like hours before the caution tape gets put up. A lifetime passes before the ambulance arrives. It’s an eternity before the body is taken away. Afterwards, there is nothing left but a blood stain on the sidewalk. People walk over it unknowingly and knowingly. It fades into the concrete and you stand above it as you wait for La Ruta to take you to a maquila where you earn a dollar an hour. Maybe the victim was loved and has a brave family and a cross with plastic flowers pops up after a couple of weeks. The newspapers eventually report the murder but the name is never mentioned. Numb.
At what point in our lives did death become such a callous matter? At what point did I become a part of the “our” that makes up Juarez? I have a feeling that my ability to brush all of this off has more to do with my past than it has to do with my present, but still, how does one become so numb to all of this? Is this ignorance or is this bliss? Is this denial or is this acceptance? Is this realism or is this defeatism?
I have a feeling that I may never know…