By Juan Pablo Becerra-Acosta
MÉXICO, D.F.- The kids from El Porvenir, Chihuahua, displaced due to the war against organized crime in Mexico, are safe and sound on the other side of the border in the United States along with their parents in Fort Hancock, Texas. They write and draw pictures having to do with their trauma caused by the conflict. On pieces of paper that they give to their teacher, Dolores Torres, seven or eight year old kids in the second grade bring to life in their drawings themes such as these:
* Drawing: a picture of a shoot-out Text: (with mistakes corrected): "I am very afraid to go to Mexico because the sicarios are killing a lot. The sicarios killed my uncle who was the best person in my life.”
* Drawing: A man covered in red splotches. Text: "They killed my grandpa.”
* Drawing: Police and killers going at it; bullets flying out of the guns. Text: “I am afraid to go to Mexico. There are many massacres there. I am never going to Mexico.”
* Drawing: Men alongside a car handing over a letter at the front door of a house. Text: "I am afraid because of all of the killings. I am afraid of the sicarios because they took my uncle away and also because they sent us that letter. The letter says that if we talk they will kill us.”
*Drawing: four buckets with red spots at the foot of which reads: “head, feet, fingers, body.” Text: "I am afraid of those who killed my cousin. They cut his head off, his hands, his fingers, his feet, and everything".
*Drawing: sad face. Text: "I am afraid that they will kill others in my family. We found my brother tied up and dead.”
* Drawing: Soldiers. "The soldiers kill people and put drugs in their cars.”
* Text without a drawing: "My father disappeared so we came to live in Fort Hancock".
*Drawing: A refrigerator full of red splotches inside of a house. Text: "I am afraid because when I opened the refrigerator there was a note inside that said that they were going to rip our eyes out and that we would never finish them off.”
* Drawing: house, a sad sun and clouds. Text: "I hope that when the sicarios no longer want our house they will let us sell it.”
* Drawing: soldiers in a tank, shooting their guns. Text. "One day the soldiers shot my aunts on the patio with a big gun and they made a big old hole in their bodies.”
* Text without a drawing: "One day we went to El Porvenir for a kid’s party with a piñata and there were some sicarios and they were shooting and they killed a little kid. I don’t understand why they kill people who have done nothing [wrong].”
* Text without a drawing: "When I heard the news that they had killed my father I felt very sad. I still feel very sad.”
* Drawing: people and a house on fire, all in red. Text: "They robbed my uncle’s store and they burned a lot of houses and I am afraid.”
* Text without a drawing: "On Turkey Day, El Porvenir was very calm until the sicarios showed up and burned the houses.”
* Text without a drawing: "The sicarios went inside my aunt’s house and burned it and stole the TV, the food and toys. They also killed my grandpa.”
* Text without a drawing: “I am afraid because they are looking for my father and I think they are going to kill him.”
And they did kill him days later, says the teacher, Ms. Torres who claims that of the 32 children in her class from El Porvenir, 30 are suffering from trauma related to the violence they have witnessed in Mexico.
The Children of War from El Porvenir
The adults from El Porvenir have sought refuge on the other side of the border in Fort Hancock. They don’t want to speak. Much less in front of television cameras. They are afraid:
“No, no, the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to risk it.... No, no, it’s hard...,” we manage to capture the voice of one of them, a forty year old, who pleads with us not to insist. The cameramen, Juan Carlos Martínez and Omar Limón, and the reporter transit the city trying to interview displaced Mexicans, but it is impossible. “We knock on the doors of dozens of houses that in reality are dilapidated trailers where the Mexicans have installed themselves, but no one wants to talk. After a few seconds of a reporter’s insistence, they say goodbye, pleading [to be left alone], with looks of fear.”
“ Sure, yeah, it’s very ugly over there, but I can’t say much else,” one woman trails off.
The Adults from El Porvenir and their War of Silence in Fort Hancock
The Chihuahuan municipality de Praxedis G. Guerrero, located about 60 km southeast of Ciudad Juárez, along the border with Texas, had 8,514 residents in 2005, according to INEGI statistics.
Now, according to census data from 2010, the area only has 4,799 residents. In five years 44 percent of the population has been lost. One of the localities within the municipality, El Porvenir, which in 2005 had 2,740 residents, has turned into a ghost town. There are now only 200, 300, maybe five hundred residents left, says Sheriff Alvin West from Hudspeth County, on the other side of the border.
The cameraman Omar Limón and the reporter decide to take a quick trip to El Porvenir. We cross over. The streets are deserted. The businesses and a hotel are abandoned. There are dozens upon dozens of destroyed houses and dilapidated cars. Various houses and business are torched, while others are boarded up.
Bullet ridden walls abound. Some trucks with darkened windows slowly cruise the main streets. They cruise around while Omar records the images and the reporter writes things down and takes photos as quickly as possible. A half hour later, we are on our way to the border.
At the town’s exit a group of entrenched soldiers takes aim with their weapons as our vehicle approaches. Such is the fear in the devastated war zone of El Porvenir...