Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Juarez Grito: Quiet, Restrained; Nine Murders Yesterday, One Beheaded

I was at the Mexican Consulate dinner last night, courtesy of an invitation my wife received, in honor of the two hundredth anniversary of the Grito de Hidalgo, equivalent to our own Fourth of July. Among the people from New Mexico who were there were Maria Elena Vargas, from Sunland Park, State Representative Mary Helen Garcia, Judge Fernando Macias and his wife Claudia, Judge Oscar Frietze, Judge Richard Silva and his wife Remy, Public Defender chief Ken Henrie, and Valecia Gavin. The official ceremony was brief, with just a few short remarks from the Mayor of El Paso, the manager of the El Paso Museum of Art, where the event was held, and Consul General Roberto Rodriguez.

Mr. Rodriguez, an up-and-coming diplomat in the Mexican Foreign Service, carries the rank of Ambassador, bestowed on him in 2002, and has served as Consul General in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Nogales, Arizona, prior to his appointment in El Paso. He made it clear in his exceptionally brief remarks that while there is reason to celebrate the bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution, the current moment in Juarez is marred by "violence, corruption, and narco-trafficking." In fact, he went on to say, this is a moment to create a new revolution, to "erradicate" these ills from Mexican society, for the development of Mexico and, for "the future of the society of El Paso and Cd. Juarez." Clearly, the Ambassador had decided not to ignore the obvious poor state of affairs in Cd. Juarez, and to ask Mexicans to rededicate themselves to the tasks at hand.

In Cd. Juarez, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz decided a couple of weeks ago not to have large gatherings of people in celebration of the Grito, for obvious security reasons, and urged citizens to be content with a "virtual" Grito, to be observed on television. He did the honors, however, alone, in city hall last night, accompanied only be a few soldiers and reporters, while a few bystanders who ignored his admonition stood by. (see picture). He allowed a spotlight to be thrown on him for a few seconds while standing on a balcony of city hall, waved a handkerchief and did the traditional "grito" of "Viva Mexico!" A very lonely Grito, particularly on the bicentennial anniversary of the original Grito by Father Hidalgo. Father Hidalgo, it should be remembered, was rewarded for his declaration of independence by being beheaded by Spanish authorities, and his head placed on a pole in front of the main square in Dolores, where the Grito took place. Two hundred years later a man in Cd. Juarez was beheaded for reasons unknown, his body was left wrapped in a red blanket, feet and hands tied, and the head was wrapped in cloth and placed on the trunk of the car. Eight other persons were murdered in Juarez yesterday, the 15th of September, on the eve of the two hundredth anniversary of the first Grito.

But about 5000 juarenses showed up for a Grito parade this morning in the Chamizal area (fairly easy to secure) which was televised to avoid security risks associated with congestion. The parade was accompanied by heavy security, particularly army soldiers, who received warm applauses--apparently the public still has greater respect for the army than for other security agencies.

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