“I never imagined that they would kill them this way…” (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, El Diario de Juárez)

First published on 1 August 2009 by Diario de Juárez, Chihuahua, this article was translated by Molly Molloy and published on Frontera-List. It is no longer available in Spanish on the Diario website but the Spanish original follows the English translation.

This article by Sandra Rodriguez from August 2009 is melodramatic, but in some ways it is more real than others because no one asks why or implies any reason for the killings… they just sort of happened one after another and now the lady sees and talks to ghosts, her house is collapsing around her and she has no desire to go on living.  A microcosm of the death in the city. Molly Molloy.

“I never imagined that they would kill them this way…”
by Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (El Diario de Juárez)

Maria de Jesus Bilbao says that each night she talks with her son Israel, assassinated in March 2008 at age 18. She says that when she lies down at night, she feels his presence there at the foot of the bed, dressed in white. She asks him who it was then who hurt him so bad and Israel puts his index finger to his mouth and says he cannot tell her.

It is not the only ghost who walks around her house. She says that she also speaks with her other son, Pedro, dead at 27 after a policeman shot him, and with her grandson Arturo, 17, executed with 11 gunshots.

The woman lost five loved ones in all last year, still considered one of the worst in the history of Ciudad Juarez. Her grandson Ivan, 22 died shortly after the deaths of Pedro and Israel. He had a heart condition that became much worse since the time he had run out of the house to find that his uncle Pedro had been shot to death. He and Pedro had been raised together like brothers.  After that, her daughter-in-law, Marisela Perez Castillo, a policewoman, was also shot to death inside her patrol car while she was on the job.

“I don’t know what to think. Never could I have imagined that all of this would happen, that they would have killed all so many of my children. I ask my God what could I have done that so many terrible things have happened to me,” said Maria, 64.

Maria had 11 children. All of them grew up in Salvarcar, a colonia located in the southeast of Ciudad Juarez and settled on ground that only 20 years ago was an ejido.

Her house was the second one built in the zone and from there she could see the fileds of cotton and chile planted along the banks of the Rio Bravo. To the south, she says there were only hills of sand.

Among her most cherished memories are the summer nights when she would sleep outside on the patio with her children. These were other times she recalls. Today, as soon as it gets late in the afternoon everyone goes inside and locks the doors. In this area there are a lot of shootings. On the night of this interview, last July 21, the woman was waiting for the funeral of a young man of 31, shot to death that afternoon, who had lived only one block from her house.

She says that as soon as she heard the pistol shots, she went over to the victim’s house because she knew that her older son had just been walking over there and that he is still very affected because his son Arturo had been executed.

“Last year everything fell apart,” she said. But she adds that among all of the deaths, the one that hurts the most is Israel, her youngest child. “They left his face all disfigured, he had been beaten so bad. They had tied him around the neck and the blood had caused his head to burst. They tortured him so very much, he was beaten all over,” said Maria, sobbing.

Israel was killed on Good Friday. His mother had seen him for the last time two days before when he left the house with another friend who invited him to drink a few beers. As the hours passed and he didn’t come back, Maria sat by the door each night, waiting. She would hear him calling out to her, screaming. “Perhaps that was when they were torturing him,” she said.

“I could ‘hear’ him, and I was sitting there waiting for him, because I could not sleep until he had come back.”

Two days later she went to look for him in the hospitals and police stations and through the newspaper, she found out that in the Colonia Ampliacion Aeropuerto, they had found  an unidentified body. She went to the Medical Forensic Service (morgue) and found a body with the face completely destroyed. She identified him by the clothes and the tattoo that Israel had just gotten on his arm. As best she could, she managed to bury him in a little town in the Valle de Juarez where it is easier to get to than to any other cemetery in Ciudad Juarez.

Violent death returned only four months later when her oldest son lost his son, an adolescent of 17 who was assassinated while he worked on a vehicle in his father’s auto mechanics shop.

His name was Arturo. Maria remembers that she had found out that someone had called for her grandson to go outside and that is when they began to shoot. First he was hit in the leg and he managed to run out of the shop toward his house when they hit him again in the back and then in the shoulder and then in the head—11 shots in all.

Another son Pedro had been living with his wife and young son in Cananea, Sonora where he ran a rehabilitation center that he had attended when he was a drug addict. He had only returned to Ciudad Juarez for his nephew Arturo’s wake when he had a quarrel with his wife at her parents’ house, also here in the Salvarcar neighborhood. Maria says that the fight happened when Pedro went to look for his wife so that she could feed their baby and his wife decided to report him to the police.

What happened later was well-documented in the media. Because Pedro resisted arrest, the two agents tried to put him into the car by force. One of them grabbed him from behind and the other tried to grab his feet, but Pedro kicked him and the officer in front raised his shotgun and right there, in front of several family members and neighbors, shot him in the stomach.

Pedro died at the scene. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon. Someone ran to Maria’s house to tell her and found Ivan, 22 and sick with a heart condition. Maria said that Ivan was so disturbed that in that moment he began to complain of severe chest pains. During the long process over Pedro’s killing by the municipal police, Maria had to spend several days in the General Hospital, where Ivan was taken until his death, 15 days after the killing of his uncle Pedro.

Then came the killing of her daughter-in-law Marisela Perez, wife of her son Manuel who had died in an auto accident 20 years ago.

Marisela’s body was found inside of the police car in which she was patrolling in Colonia Morelos II in the southern part of the city. The newspaper report only indicated that she and her partner were attacked from a red car whose occupants had shot them with automatic rifle fire. The article added that on this day, October 2, 2008 two other police had been killed and that in counting up all of the dead for that day, the victims for the year now numbered 1,048.

Maria de Jesus has lost her will to live. The pain of so much loss aggravated her diabetes that he has had for 18 years and she now has a wound on her leg that will not heal. Her life and her house are literally crumbling. One of the walls in Israel’s room has a hole forming between some of the adobe bricks. When it rains she says, water comes in there, but she no longer cares. The whole house could wash away and she would not care.

Maria uses the little energy that she has left to burn candles on the altar that she made in Israel’s room, with photographs of all of her dead.

And often, she says, she takes the time to arrange all the clothes of her youngest son. “Just yesterday I took the clothes out to iron them a little and I washed and folded his underwear…I have all of his things in there. His pants had gotten wrinkled so I took them out and ironed them, his shirts, all of his things,” she said through her tears.

“God, what could I have done that these things have happened to me?”

Prize-winning Journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto is currently a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. Her first book, La fábrica del crímen, relates the story of impunity in Ciudad Juárez during the height of the city’s recent violence.

Translator Molly Molloy is the author, with Charles Bowden, of El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. Follow Molloy’s Frontera-List on Twitter @Fronteralist.

‘Nunca imaginé que me los iban a matar así…’
Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (Diario de Juárez)

María de Jesús Bilbao dice que cada noche habla con su hijo Israel, asesinado en marzo de 2008 a los 18 años. Cuenta que cuando ella se acuesta, él se sienta a los pies de su cama, vestido de blanco. Ella le pregunta entonces quién le hizo tanto daño. Israel se lleva el dedo índice a la boca y le responde que no puede decírselo.

No es el único fantasma que deambula por su casa. Dice que también habla con su otro hijo, Pedro, muerto a los 27 años después de que un policía le dio un balazo, y con su nieto Arturo, de 17 años, ejecutado de once tiros.

La mujer perdió en total a cinco seres queridos el año pasado, considerado todavía como el más violento en la historia de Ciudad Juárez. A la muerte de Israel y de Pedro le siguió la de su nieto Iván, de 22 años, enfermo del corazón y agravado desde que tuvo que salir corriendo al saber que le habían disparado a su tío Pedro, con quien había crecido como hermano. Después murió su nuera, Marisela Pérez Castillo, una mujer policía asesinada también a tiros mientras se encontraba en el interior de su patrulla.

“Yo no sé ni qué pensar. Nunca me imaginé que fuera a pasar todo esto, que me fueran a matar a mis hijos. Le pregunto yo a mi Padre Dios qué habría hecho que me han pasado tantas cosas”, comenta María, de 64 años.

María tuvo once hijos. Todos crecieron en Salvárcar, una colonia ubicada al suroriente de Ciudad Juárez y asentada en lo que hace apenas 20 años era un ejido.

Su casa fue la segunda construida en la zona, y desde ahí se observaban las labores de algodón y de chile plantadas en la rivera del Río Bravo, mientras que al sur, dice, todo era loma y montones de arena.

Entre sus recuerdos más preciados están las noches de verano en las que se salía al patio a dormir con todos sus niños. Eran otros tiempos, recuerda. Ahora apenas cae la tarde y todos deben encerrarse. En el sector abundan las balaceras. La noche de la entrevista, el pasado jueves 21 de julio, la mujer esperaba el funeral de un joven de 31 años asesinado a balazos ese mediodía a una cuadra de su vivienda.

Dice que, en cuanto escuchó las detonaciones de un arma corta, se acercó a la casa de la víctima porque sabía que hacia allá acababa de caminar su hijo mayor, que también está muy afectado desde que ejecutaron a su hijo Arturo.

“El año pasado se descompuso todo”, comenta la mujer. Pero de entre todos sus muertos, agrega, el que más le puede es Israel, el más chico. “Me lo dejaron todo desfigurado de la cara; lo picotearon, lo amarraron del cuello y eso mismo lo reventó y le explotó por dentro la cabeza. Me lo martirizaron mucho, lo mataron a puros golpes”, dice la mujer llorando.

Israel fue asesinado un Viernes Santo. Su madre lo vio por última vez dos días antes, cuando el joven salió de su casa con otro amigo que lo invitó a tomar unas cervezas.

Al pasar las horas sin que él regresara, María pasó las dos noches sentada a la puerta de su casa, esperando. En eso, dice, escuchó que la llamaba a gritos. “Era tal vez cuando lo estaban torturando”, exclama.

“Yo lo ‘oyía’; aquí sentada estaba esperándolo, porque no me podía dormir hasta que regresara”.

Dos días después de que lo buscó en hospitales y en las estaciones de Policía, por el periódico supo que en la colonia Ampliación Aeropuerto habían encontrado tirado un cuerpo no identificado.

Fue al Servicio Médico Forense y encontró un cadáver con el rostro completamente destrozado. Lo identificó por la ropa y el tatuaje que Israel acaba de hacerse en un brazo.

Como pudo consiguió para enterrarlo en un poblado del Valle, a donde le es más fácil llegar que a cualquier otro de Ciudad Juárez.

La muerte violenta regresó apenas cuatro meses después, cuando su hijo mayor perdió a su vez un hijo, un adolescente de 17 años que fue asesinado mientras trabajaba en un vehículo en el taller mecánico de su padre.

Se llamaba Arturo. María recuerda haberse enterado de que alguien le habló a su nieto para que saliera y en eso le empezaron a tirar. Le dieron primero en una pierna, con la que el joven alcanzó a correr del taller a su casa hasta que le dieron en la espalda, luego en un hombro, después en la cabeza. Once disparos en total.

Pedro vivía con su esposa y su pequeño hijo en Cananea, Sonora, donde dirigía un centro de rehabilitación al que había llegado como adicto. Volvió a Ciudad Juárez sólo para el al velorio de su sobrino Arturo cuando tuvo un problema con su esposa en la casa de los padres de ésta, también en Salvárcar. María dice que la riña fue porque Pedro fue a buscar a su esposa para que alimentara al bebé de ambos, cuando la mujer decidió hablarle a la Policía.

Lo que ocurrió después fue ampliamente documentado por los medios: debido a que Pedro se resistió al arresto, los dos agentes trataron de subirlo a la unidad por la fuerza. Uno de ellos lo tomó por la espalda y otro trató de sujetarlo por los pies, pero Pedro pataleó y el oficial que tenía enfrente levantó la escopeta y ahí, delante de varios miembros de la familia y otros vecinos, le disparó en el estómago.

Pedro murió ahí mismo. Eran alrededor de las cuatro de la tarde. Alguien corrió a casa de María para avisarle y encontraron a Iván, de 22 años y enfermo del corazón. La impresión fue tanta, dice María, que desde ese momento el joven empezó a quejarse de un fuerte dolor en el pecho.

En medio de los trámites por la ejecución de Pedro a manos de un policía municipal, María tuvo que pasar además varios días en el Hospital General, donde Iván estuvo internado hasta que murió, unos 15 días después que su tío Pedro.

Luego mataron a su nuera Marisela Pérez, esposa de su hijo Manuel –fallecido en un accidente automovilístico hace 20 años.

El cuerpo de la mujer quedó dentro de una unidad en la que patrullaban la colonia Morelos II, al sur de la ciudad. El reporte periodístico sólo indicó que ella y su compañero fueron atacados desde un vehículo color rojo cuyos tripulantes les dispararon con ráfagas de metralleta. La nota agregó que ese día, dos de octubre, habían matado a otros dos policías y que entre todos los muertos cerraban la cuenta con las víctimas de ejecución número mil 48 del año.

A María de Jesús ya no le quedan ganas de vivir. El dolor de tanta pérdida agravó también su diabetes de 18 años. Supura por una herida en la pierna. La vida y literalmente la casa se le están viniendo abajo.

Por una de las paredes de la recámara de Israel empezó a ser visible el hueco formado entre los ladrillos de adobe. Cuando llueve, dice, por ahí entra el agua, pero ya no le importa. Puede ser incluso que le quiten la casa.

Las pocas energías que le quedan las utiliza en colocar veladoras para el altar que hizo en la recámara de Israel con las fotografías de todos sus muertos.

Y muy seguido, dice, se pone a arreglar la ropa de su hijo menor. “Nada menos que ayer la saqué para darle una planchadita, y así, le lavo y le doblo sus garritas, ahí tengo todo lo de él. Sus pantalones, se me hicieron arrugados, los saqué y me puse a plancharlos, sus camisetas, todo lo de él”, dice la mujer entre llanto.

“Dios qué habría hecho que me han pasado estas cosas”


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