I can't remember when I started reading Judith Torrea's blog, Ciudad Juárez: en la sombra del narcotráfico/Juárez: in the shadow of Drug Trafficking. But once I started, I read and Torrea's raw prose left my heart riddled with anger at failed Mexican and American policies around the southward flow of guns, U.S. drug consumption and treatment of addiction, and continuing corruption of Mexican law enforcement and the judiciary.
I read and my blood boils at the thought that some of my party acquaintances recreationally smoke weed and snort coke, oblivious that their indulgence is laced with the blood of thousands of drug violence victims.
I read and am left speechless that most Americans don't know that a city steps away is literally being blown off the face of the earth, their lack of knowledge informed by a mainstream media that chooses not to cover this story. A high-level network news exec asked me: Tell me how to go in and minimize the danger to my staff and I'll do it. I rapid fire responded: You go in lean, switching out unknowns in MMJ fashion, cross the border at dawn, in line to cross back to El Paso before dusk.
I realize he has to answer to families. But news oulets cover Mexico--at great personal risk--every day.
Mami always said, Mijita, remember where there is a will, there is a way. Let me add:
Where there is courage that vanquishes fear, there is a way.
Where there is conviction because it's the right thing to do, there is a way.
Where there are ganas or guts that crumble the wall of indifference, there is a way.
That's the story of Judith Torrea.
After years of covering the border mainly from afar, she quit her job and left the Center of the Universe (New York City) to move to the Heart of Darkness. A native of Spain, she is bearing witness to the violence: refusing to allow mothers, husbands, students, soccer players to remain nameless, faceless victims by telling us who they were before being gunned down. She chronicles: passing by the plaza by the Cathedral where beggars mix with devout churchgoers on the way to the panadería--the bakery--for brunch, mothers who demand that Mexican authorities tell them what happened to their missing children, families who in the morning say adiós, literally [you are entrusted] "to God", before going to work or school, not knowing if they'll see each other again. As life in its unforgiving, harsh, breathtaking complexity goes on, Torrea's blog reveals how Juarenses scratch out their survival, framed by a spiraling brutality.
All that's left of my hour and a half interview with Torrea--winner of the Spanish-speaking world's Pulitzer, the Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism--are these 2 anemic paragraphs. Still, I give credit to More--a magazine more apt to run stories on fashion, sex, and money--for publishing even this. Note: I have a Skype interview in Spanish with Torrea and will update this post with the video.
Publish or perish.
The writers' motto seems indulgent, almost clueless in the face of Juarenses' struggle to stay alive.
The article as it appears in the June 2011 issue of More magazine:
Blogging to Stop Brutality:
Judith Torrea reports from the Mexican drug wars
By Viviana Hurtado
In 2009, New York journalist Judith Torrea left the city that never sleeps for what she calls the “city of hit men”—arriving in Juárez, Mexico, “with no agenda except my love for a city that is being blown off the face of the earth.” Aiming to stand up for the victims of a war between government forces and drug cartels, Torrea, who was born in Spain, started a blog, Ciudad Juárez, en la Sombra del Narcotráfico (“City of Juárez, in the Shadow of Drug Trafficking”)—and last year won Spain’s equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize for digital journalism.
Torrea recently arrived at the scene of a massacre of seven youths to interview nearby residents. “No help from the Mexican government has been offered to pay victims’ medical bills,” she wrote. “Investigators haven’t asked witnesses what they saw.” Torrea does ask. But her questions often aren’t appreciated. “I’ve been pressured by the cartels and by government security forces,” she says. “I can’t change society. But as a journalist, I can tell stories that inspire people to reflect.”