By Tony Fitzpatrick
The great Charles Bowden passed away last year. He wrote a great many articles and books about the border, the one we share with Mexico. In the years since NAFTA passed there have been hundred upon hundreds of women murdered in and around Juarez–a great many of them maquiladora workers. A maquiladora is an assembly plant, or factory, that hires thousands of women and pays them stoop labor, shit wages to do piecework–sewing, circuit boards, and other close work that require small, deft hands.
A great many women from as far away as Central America flocked to the border for jobs. So NAFTA managed to impoverish two cultures. The women of the maquiladora plants and the American union worker, and some big American companies outsourced jobs here to avoid paying a living wage to union workers: Levi’s, Motorola, IBM, Black & Decker, GM, Cooper Tire, among others.
Did I list them with the intention of shaming them?
Fucking-Ay right I did. Were it only possible for these assholes to be shamed.
The murders started after the flood of new workers settled in and around Juarez. The powerful and ruthless Juarez cartel was blamed, as well as gangs like Los Rebeldes and La Linea Juarez. Bowden’s books “Blood Orchid” and “Murder City” are visceral, heartbreaking testaments to a world where sanity has unraveled at a frightening pace. Still the murders are unsolved. One wonders what would happen if hundreds of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Suzy Cream Cheese types were slaughtered and left for carrion birds in the desert. Perhaps then, authorities on BOTH sides of the border would consider this a priority.
Life has always been cheap on the border—human and animal. In “Blood Orchid,” Bowden draws parallels between the insatiable appetites of nature and humans and it seems that, always, something or someone has to die.
Coyotes—two-legged and four-legged—comb both sides of the Rio Grande to scavenge sustenance. The traffic in humans and dope has never been more profitable; the outgrowth of human trafficking has been an insane rise in kidnapping and drug-muling. A sane, sentient society could make a very good case for legalizing drugs, thus erasing the profit in the black market.
I’m not just talking about pot. I mean ALL of it: smack, coke, LSD, the whole nine yards. People freak out at this idea but at the risk of sounding like a libertarian, there is nothing in the Constitution that says the government should be your fucking mom.
Will people die?
Yes, sadly, and the only thing keeping them alive is the prohibitive cost. Most addicts commit suicide on the installment plan and, in the meantime, we criminalize more and more poor people. Believe this: the War on Drugs is the War on the Poor. If prisons were not profitable, there wouldn’t be so many companies running them. The traffic of drugs and people is at the very heart of the epidemic of murder in Juarez and other communities on or near the border.
If this happened, we could treat addicts for their illness rather than convicting them of a felony for it.
The border is also beset with a collection of dildos who believe they are “helping” law enforcement with the illegal immigration issue. With the new concealed-carry laws, an army of trigger-happy dolts and “Minutemen” line the border with an army of bigoted simpletons protecting us.
Wow, I feel safe.
I wish this was an issue that was more visible. Because the victims are poor, it just doesn’t register enough for our media.
The cable series “The Bridge” did a brilliant job underlining the insanity of the drug war and the culture of death endemic to both sides of the border, where traffic in drugs, humans and cheap labor have created a culture of nihilism and despair.
It almost certainly had to be based on some of Bowden’s writings, which were poetic, and hard to read, as they were blanched of hope. The way it is in this part of the world: The border that we share and the trust we do not.