63. Son De La Frontera
Written & performed by Fuga!
From the film Tierra Prometida
Directed by Angel Estrada (Mexico 2003)



One: About Tierra Prometida


Here is a synopsis from Voces Contra El Silencio (Against All Quiet Voices) Video Independente A.C documentary film & video festival, held by the Autonomous Metropolitan University: ‘The Promised Land documentary chronicles the aspirations and hopes of a family of migrants from Anapra, a marginal territory located on the Mexican side of the border between Mexico and the United States, in Ciudad Juarez. By circumstances beyond their control, these three brothers are suddenly in a social context unknown and full of obstacles and opportunities, a land promised to them by the hard task to do it again. Given this, everyone looks at the short history of their lives, their present and their future. Promised Land lovingly explores a territory plagued by stereotypes.’ [1]


Two: On Fuga!

And this is how the El Paso Times described Fuga: ‘Fuga was formed on la frontera of the El Paso/Juarez border. Their original music is influenced by a broad spectrum of musical styles. Their sound is a mixture of vallenato, cumbia, reggae, rock, ska, blues, jazz, Caribbean beats and rhythms. Fuga’s music transcends musical borders as they create vibrant, soulful and uplifting sounds.

Fuga’s music reflects the harsh reality of living life on the U.S. – Mexico border. Nurtured by the Mexican (American) culture and community, Fuga creates socially conscious music in order to convey a message of resistance and struggle. Their music speaks of reality, freedom and above all of hope. The music they make invites you to sing, dance, embrace life and believe that another world is possible.’ [2]


Three: On the city of the future

Congratulations, courtesy of Global Direct Investment Solutions – Corporate Development for a Networked World, to Juarez, in Chihuahua, Mexico as ‘the Winner of the Overall and Most Cost Effective rankings plus a Top Five ranking for Best Infrastructure in the 2007/2008 North American Cities of the Future competition by Foreign Direct magazine for the Large Cities category (500,000 to 2 million population). This unique global benchmarking research project compared business investment climates and urban development across North America. Note that El Paso was also recognized separately as a winner, so the greater El Paso/Ciudad Juarez metro region captured six of the top awards in this North American competition.’ [3]


Four: On Juárez-El Paso

The U.S.-Mexico border covers 2,000 miles, encompassing four U.S. and six Mexican states. El Paso, in Texas, and Juárez in Mexico, situated on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), across the U.S. border from El Paso, are one of six twin cities located along this border.

Separated by the Rio Grande River and the US-Mexico border, the two cities are linked by one of six bridges that provide transit from the US to Mexico. Juárez-El Paso was originally established as one city (El Paso Del Norte) in 1669, but divided by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Following the creation of the maquiladora (twin plant) industry in 1965 and the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, El Paso’s economic ties to Mexico grew. In 2000, 24 percent of border trade to Mexico, representing over $17 billion, passed through El Paso.

Over 60,000 people cross the Juárez-El Paso border every day, making it a major port of entry and transportation for all of central northern Mexico. There are around 400 assembly plants located in and around the city.

By 2001 Juárez-El Paso had a joint population of 2 million, making it one of the largest border communities and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. But while the economy was growing, conditions for workers were dire: the average hourly wage, in 2001, was $1.25. Juárez lacked decent housing, roads, and a public transport system. Disease – especially tuberculosis and hepatitis – were rife, and drug related violence had become a feature of Juârez: so had the systematic murder of female students and workers, numbering over three hundred unsolved cases between 1993 and the end of the century.


Five: On femicide in Juárez

Amnesty International recognise that female homicide in Juárez is a human rights issue of paramount importance. Here is an excerpt from AI’s American branch, posted on 28 February 2005: ‘The Governor of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico said recently that international attention on the situation in Ciudad Juárez is damaging the city’s public image. The purpose of Reyes Baeza’s comments is unclear, but such statements in the past have had the effect of undermining families and local NGOs seeking justice.

To say that it is international concern, and not the situation in the region, that is damaging the city’s image is very clearly wrong-headed. Ciudad Juárez has a reputation for violence and brutality against women – not because of international concern – but because of the reality and the institutional failures to deal effectively with this reality.

The reality is that since 1993 more than 370 young women and girls have been murdered in the cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua – at least a third suffering sexual violence – without the authorities taking proper measures to investigate and address the problem.

Thanks to the efforts of the families of the victims and local women’s organizations, coupled with international campaigning by the likes of Amnesty International and V-Day, things have begun to change. In 2003-4, in the face of this intense pressure, the federal government finally agreed to get involved, with a range of measures to combat violence against women in Ciudad Juárez – but sadly not the city of Chihuahua.

A widely respected human rights activist, Guadalupe Morfin, was appointed to lead a Special Commission to oversee federal intervention in Ciudad Juárez. The Special Commissioner’s office has played an important role in fostering contact with the families of victims and human rights organisations, developing projects to address underlying social problems and highlighting the systemic failure of state authorities in allowing the murders and abductions to take place and related abuses. However, her powers are very limited – she has been denied access to the case files of the murder enquiries.

Another key mechanism was the creation of a Special Federal Prosecutor’s Office to work with local prosecutors and conduct federal investigations into a very limited number of cases. The Prosecutor, Maria Lopez Urbina, also sought to systematise information on all cases and locate women reported missing. In 2004, the Prosecutor reviewed the case files of 150 previous murder investigations handled by the State Prosecutor’s Office. She concluded that there was probable cause for criminal and administrative investigations into more than 100 Chihuahua state public officials for negligence, omission and other related offences.’ [4]

According to Amnesty International, as of February 2005 more than 370 bodies had been found, and over 400 women were still missing.


Six: Beneath Juárez-El Paso

Three years after Amnesty International’s report femicide is still Juárez’s most disturbing human rights problem. The city’s biggest infrastructural problem is its lack water.

Time magazine journalists Tim Padgett & Cathy Booth Thomas, reporting from Juárez in 2001, announced that drinkable water will run out in 2025. The journalists reported that the two cities ‘recently teamed up – behind the backs of their governments – to increase the amount of treated wastewater that Juárez can channel to agriculture. That will eventually free upriver water for colonias like Anapra – and lessen the chances of El Paso’s drying up with Juárez. And there’s an $833 million, 20 year plan to tap new aquifers for both cities.

El Paso, meanwhile, is concerned enough about the water problem to be planning what will be the largest inland desalination plant in the U.S., costing $52 million, that will clean 20 million gallons of brackish water each day.’ [5]

By 2005, Juárez was rated as the second most dangerous city in Mexico, while El Paso has been rated the second safest city in the U.S. In 2006, Socialist Action newspaper journalists Nico Solon and Alejandro Giron reported that ‘El Paso seems to be the prime example of what a capitalist would call ‘target marketing,’ most ads being either bilingual or monolingual in Spanish. However, the only place the Latino community of El Paso has been taken into account is in the advertising. This community is unrepresented in schools or in politics aside from a handful of officials.

The Democratic Party has successfully defused most social movements—using the electoral process to put a few token Latino leaders in key positions. The small core of activists has been trying to break through this veil of submission.

Juárez, just across the border, is plagued by U.S. multinational capitalism; local businesses are few and far between and the many workers unions are riddled with cronyism. The rapid rise in the city’s population due to maquiladoras (large production plants) cannot keep up with city planning, development, and public works.

Many neighbourhoods and development areas are not connected to public facilities, leaving many without water, electricity, and sewage plumbing. This has motivated many from the inner city to risk everything to migrate to the U.S. to find better living conditions and wages.

Recently, the local government called in bulldozers to remove the vendors’ stands in the public open-air market. This move has been seen by local residents as a way to insure that their business goes to multinational companies such as Wal Mart.

Plutocracy is evident in local schools, businesses, and unions as employees and members are threatened with termination or expulsion if they do not adhere to the political ideals or candidate recommendations of those in positions of power.’ [6]

In spite of the travails of El Paso-Juárez working classes witnessed by Solon and Giron, journalist Lisa Chamberlain, in an article for the Real Estate section of the March 28 2007 edition of The New York Times, reported that Juárez was in rude health, and was ‘absorbing more new industrial real estate space than any other North American city, according to the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation. Approximately five million new square feet a year are being added by existing or newly located corporations engaged in assembling products like computers, mobile phones, appliances, auto parts and medical devices.’ [7]

But light assembly goods aren’t the only source of wealth to be made in the region, as we discovered in a report we came across on the La Nueva Raza website dated January 6 2008, titled ‘The Theft of our Water’, in article called ‘Top Ten El Paso – Juárez Censored Stories of 2007’:

A group of five billionaires intend to drain our water with their mega-development projects then corner the water market once our aquifers dry up. The secretive Verde Realty Company—owned by the ubiquitous William Sanders—obtained the water rights to millions of gallons of water to supply his new ‘company town’ in Santa Teresa yet, thanks to governor Bill Richardson’s intervention, there was never any kind of public process. As Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Eileen Welsome writes, ‘In 2003, Sanders formed the Verde Group and purchased more than 20,000 acres of land in Santa Teresa. At the same time that Verde acquired the Santa Teresa land, the real estate firm also obtained a permit from New Mexico to pump millions of gallons of water from the ground, a feat that is virtually unheard of in the lower Rio Grande basin, where all the water is already spoken for. The public was not notified — a legal requirement that often leads to protests and years of litigation.’

Furthermore, Denver multi-billionaire Philip Anschutz and his El Paso-based partner Woody Hunt are currently developing a plan to tap the water under the West Texan Dell City to sell it at a profit to El Paso and Juárez. Eloy Vallina, board member of the Verde Realty Company, owns the plot of land known as San Jerónimo (opposite Santa Teresa, New Mexico) about the size of the entire city of Juárez where the invaluable Conejos Medanos aquifer is located.

The underground water source will serve as a reserve basin when the current Hueco Bolson that supplies Ciudad Juárez and El Paso dries up within the next two decades. According to the Paso Del Norte Task Force study it will dry up by the year 2020. And now the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, is in on the act to monopolize what in our desert is known as ‘liquid gold.’ His project—which will be the main source to meet the water needs for the future San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa projects—will affect the water supply on both sides of the border. Not a single mainstream press report came out this year about the negative effects the mega-development projects known as ‘master planned binational cities’ is going to have on the water supply for the rest of us.’ [8]

It’s enough to make you wonder whether perhaps this possibility of unpoliced and unreported appropriation of Juárez’s natural resources, the disempowerment of the twin cities’ working class, and the brutally diminished value of women’s lives is what the Financial Times journal Foreign Direct Investment were alluding to in their April/May 2007 edition when they designated Juárez ‘The City of the Future’….


[1] http://www.contraelsilencio.org/Videoteca/Cat3/concursoFron.htm

[2] Fuga! http://content.elpasotimes.com/openmic/fuga.shtml

[3] http://www.gdi-solutions.com/fdi/2007awards/Mexico/ciudad_juarez.htm

[4] ‘Mexico: Justice fails in Ciudad Juárez and the city of Chihuahua’, Amnesty International USA

[5] ‘Two Countries, One City – El Paso & Juârez only seem separate. They share air, same water and the same destiny’, by Tim Padgett & Cathy Booth Thomas, Time.Com 2001. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010611/fcities2.html

[6] ‘YSA Trip to El Paso and Juarez’, by Nico Solon and Alejandro Giron, Socialist Action newspaper, July 2006

[7] ‘Two Cities and Four Bridges Where Commerce Flows’, by Lisa Chamberlain, The New York Times, 28 March 2007

[8] ‘Top Ten El Paso – Juárez Censored Stories of 2007’, from La Nueva Raza, Movimiento News & Events from Around Aztlan in Print & Online, Sunday, 6 January 2008 www.larazaunida.com



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