Tag Archives: development

The Doorman who Died on Duty (Samuel Adam, Reforma, RevistaR)

This article was published on 2 November in RevistaR, Reforma newspaper’s Sunday supplement. The article has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The Doorman who Died on Duty (Photo: Grupo Reforma)

The Doorman who Died on Duty (Photo: Grupo Reforma)

The Doorman who Died on Duty
By Samuel Adam (Reforma, RevistaR)

Mexico City (2 November 2014).- “Don’t mess with me. I’ve been to prison. I’m not afraid of going back.”

The threats from the car keepers [franeleros] on the street had become more and more frequent. Antonio was the doorman for a building in Chihuahua Street in the Colonia Roma. He had questioned them on the more than one occasion when he saw cars parked in the entrance to his building’s garage.

They ignored his requests. On the contrary, they insulted him. They destroyed what he put out to stop them from parking there. They stared him down.

A few months ago the neighbors noticed that he doubled back in the street so as to not bump into the group of thirty-to-forty year old men who “took care” of the cars. The conflict, however, had been going on for almost a year.

On the morning of Monday 13 October, when he left his home headed for work, the threats achieved their objective. The blows they gave him before a police cruiser or ambulance could come to his aid left him in a coma. A week later they ended his life.

With the failure of legislation to regulate car keepers and valet parking, and even with parking meters, the streets and avenues of the Roma-Condesa corridor have been taken over by groups who control the flow of clients to the more than 500 businesses in the area. They are groups who have been called, “the lords of the street” and today, among their number, Mexico City’s prosecutor is looking for Antonio’s murderers.

* * *

For thirteen years Toño was the filter between the outside world and the intimacy of the building’s residents. They only knew his first name.

First, he was employed as a worker for the building’s renovation. When the Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture in the Roma from the end of the Porfiriato [ca. 1910] did not stand up to the passage of time, Antonio contributed to its resurrection from its very foundations.

He built trust when he welcomed the new building’s first occupants. He took care of the building until it was totally occupied. He was a trusted worker until the time of his death.

At the beginning, his task was to open and close the door; from time to time he would help the upstairs neighbor with her groceries; he swept and mopped the stairs, the corridors; he cleaned the railings.

“At four thirty in the morning you would already hear the sound of him sweeping. He liked to work early,” commented a neighbor whom he got along with for more than ten years.

Later, trust in the doorman grew, as did his responsibilities: charging for water, light, gas; buying paint for the walls, looking to buy new pipes for the boiler, changing the broken window glass… even taking care of children while a parent ran chores or went to work.

“Up until the end, he had my key,” said a young man who lives on the top floor. “He was a person whom my wife and I trusted with the kids.”

Instead of an apartment number, his door buzzer still has a word: “doorman.”

His wife also earned the trust of the building’s residents. Every Tuesday and Thursday or Friday when she worked she would clean the apartments of some residents, whether they were in or out, to help Antonio with their family expenses.

They came from Zihuateutla, in the Sierra Norte de Puebla. Antonio and his wife were part of the 244,033 Totonaco residents in the country, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). Like many of the country’s indigenous people, they had to come to Mexico City in search of work.

For the last fourteen years, they lived two blocks from Antonio’s work, in a small apartment in a building where his wife also worked as a concierge for 1,000 pesos per month (US$77).

Toño also had to paint the rooms in each of the unoccupied apartments. He changed the light bulbs, fixed imperfections and took out the trash every morning before he ventured into the streets where, two hours before, bars were open and people made merry.

He drank coffee in the morning before going to take care of his building. At midday, he would return home for breakfast and then return to work. At lunchtime he would go home to be with his wife and at night he ate dinner at home. He returned to the building again to work a little bit more. Close to midnight he returned home to his wife and their two daughters to sleep.

In total, he went to and from these buildings four times a day.

Two years ago his routine changed: he stopped leaving home after dinner to care for a boy whom he and his wife decided to adopt.

A year and a half ago, one of his neighbors advised Antonio to obtain a basic Internet package so his daughters could use it for their education. He did not know anything about technology. In the shop they tricked Toño into buying a computer with Windows 95. He had to replace it so that his family could go online.

A little bit after, Antonio trusted a man who offered to enroll him in a housing program. After taking 16,000 pesos (US$1,230) for the new home, the man vanished.

Antonio characteristic shyness and naïveté also formed part of his wife’s personality. It pained him to speak to officials when he needed things for his family. Outside the circle of his best friend and the residents in the building where he worked, he was alone. Yet he wanted to remain in the city where his daughters were growing up.

After her husband’s murder, the owner of the building she lives in said she could stay and that she would increase her salary to 3,000 pesos (US$230) per month in exchange for also doing Toño’s work.

* * *

With the explosive growth of the Roma-Condesa corridor, the area’s floating population increased exponentially, and with it the valet parking services and car attendants keeping watch over diners’ cars.

Given the disorder of the area’s car park contracts and the car keepers’ wholesale street takeover, the Borough of Cuauhtémoc’s manager, Alejandro Fernández, introduced the parking meter project. It was rejected by a large number of the area’s residents.

Several protests forced a public consultation in which five of the area’s nine districts rejected parking meters. The Roma Norte III district – where Antonio worked and lived – was one of those areas that rejected the meters.

The rejection caused a “cockroach” effect: many car keepers abandoned the four areas where parking meters were installed and took over the areas without meters using boulders, buckets and trash cans. They also began to monopolize the time and take control of spaces in the area where there were parking meters.

Eva Morales and Mario Rodríguez, members of the Roma Norte III Citizens’ Committee have received complaints from residents who have been intimidated by the car keepers. There are those who say that they have had a pistol flashed at them when they don’t pay the high parking costs. The neighbors had wanted to confront them but they dare not since they know where they live.

“They have messed with my building four times in two years. They knew I used to go out one particular day a week for four hours, and on that day they came in. With the other residents, they enter when they go out to eat. They see you. They know who you are, the apartment you are living in, how many live there and the relationships you have,” comments Eva.

The area’s residents accuse police of ignoring drivers or valet attendants who park in the entrances to buildings, calling off the tow trucks when they come to impound a vehicle, of forewarning the car keepers when a police operation is about to begin and of not turning up when the keepers fight between each other.

The group of car keepers who control Chihuahua Street, between Córdova and Jalapa, started to confront Antonio when he asked them not to leave cars in the entryway.

Each car keeper charges between 40 and 60 pesos per vehicle (US$3 to US$5).

At night, the four or five car keepers that control the area drink alcohol with the other groups “taking care” of other streets in the Roma neighborhood.

They used to sleep in three vehicles stationed in the street, according to the neighbors: a brown Ford Explorer truck with San Luis Potosí license plate of UZH-5767, a red Phantom with a plate of 840-XHX and another vehicle, JFA-9609 from Jalisco. All of these vehicles have since been taken away.

* * *

At the beginning of this year, because of the car keepers who insisted on parking cars on the curb, the doorman built some cement planters to block them. In one of them he planted a chayote plant. One day Toño awoke to find it destroyed, just as it was about to bear fruit. It was clearly a message.

On one occasion, Antonio left a paint can outside the building. Minutes later the can had been taken to reserve a parking spot.

Toño asked the car keeper to return the paint can to its place and he was threatened. He told him about his time in prison. He told him he wasn’t alone and that it wouldn’t do to mess with him.

The full group – four or five car keepers – began to harass him, insulting him when he crossed the street. They confronted him and challenged him to a fight. He avoided that. He preferred to go the long way around on the streets, so as to not see them.

He did not file a complaint with any of the authorities or tell people in the building where he worked. Only his wife and his best friend, who had known him since his arrival in the Roma, were aware of the situation.

On Monday 13 October at 4:30 in the morning, Toño left the building where he lived with his family to go to work. A group of men pushed him back inside and began to beat him with a metal rod and a triangular piece of steel.

In the assault, they broke his arm, shattered almost all his teeth, broke his nose and poked the metal rod into his right eye going through his skull.

The extensive description provided by the medical examiner in investigation FCH/CUH-7/T1/03459/14-10R3 noted: “laceration to right eye… wound runs from the temple along the skull and measures 28 centimeters.” That wound resulted in his death a week later on the night of Tuesday 21 October.

“When his wife heard the cries for help, she came down from the building and found Antonio lying on the ground, alone. She spoke to a neighbor and said, “they wounded Antonio.” Minutes later the police arrived. The attackers had already fled.

“It was ‘El Flaco,’ (the Skinny One),” Antonio managed to say to a police officer before falling unconscious and being taken to the Red Cross in Polanco.

A patrol car arriving at the crime scene saw three people fleeing, each one in a different direction. It followed the one who escaped on Álvaro Obregón Avenue but did not catch him.

The police did not collect evidence from the patio where Antonio had been beaten. They did not return for the scrap metal used to beat him until Sunday 19 October. By then, the rain had already washed away the injured man’s blood.

Toño’s wife could not file a complaint at the borough offices because of the serious state in which she had found him.

* * *

The building’s residents pressured the authorities for justice. They threatened blocking Álvaro Obregón Avenue in protest at Antonio’s beating.

On Friday 17 October, Mexico City’s prosecutors stopped El Flaco near the crime scene. When the police identified him as responsible, he blamed Antonio for trying to give him a ride in a car while he was drunk.

However, Antonio did not know how to drive and he never drank.

El Flaco gave a false first name to the authorities and when at last they found out his real name, it offered up his extensive criminal record.

The same day of his arrest, an operation began in the Roma-Condesa corridor where they arrested 35 car keepers. They had to use a traveling Civic Judge since the sector does not have its own Civic Judge.

On Wednesday 22 October, after Antonio died in the Polanco Red Cross, the investigation turned into a murder case, and the residents’ anger increased.

A week later, in a meeting held at the Universidad de Londres in the Roma neighborhood, the neighbors complained to borough officials that those who had been arrested returned a few days later to take control the streets. In the meeting they also commented on those car keepers who control collections in the parking metered areas.

Antonio’s wife had not had a run in with El Flaco, her husband’s alleged murderer. People keep on seeing two of the car keepers who harassed her husband in the street he once avoided. Now she avoids that street, too.

Antonio Ignacio Sánchez was buried on Thursday 23 October in Zihuateutla, his hometown. Hours later, his wife had to travel 200 kilometers to return to the borough so she could give her statement about what had happened.

The neighbors from the building where Toño started as a laborer lent money for the return of his body and its burial. They found a lawyer for his wife who would take charge of the case.

Officials have promised to enroll her in social programs in various institutions. Until now, nothing conclusive has been arranged.

In the building on Chihuahua Street they are looking for a man who can open and close the door, somebody with Antonio’s warmth, somebody who will bid them “good day.”

Journalist Samuel Adam reports for Grupo Reforma. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSamuel01. “El conserje murió cumpliendo su deber,” available at: http://www.reforma.com/aplicacioneslibre/articulo/default.aspx?id=382034&md5=f7d53550ce94df63e31682201bf38097&ta=0dfdbac11765226904c16cb9ad1b2efe#ixzz3I9wwtVNr.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

 

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VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

This article was published in El Norte de Ciudad Juárez on 30 September 2001. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The translation of this article is dedicated to Dr. Alfredo Limas Hernández, professor at the UACJ.

VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

The late Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was assassinated in Ciudad Juárez on 29 May 2009. A sociology professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences (ICSA) at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), Arroyo Galván was also a well-known social activist. His friend and colleague Carlos Murillo G. wrote at the time of his murder that Arroyo Galván was, in the early 1990s, one of the first sociology graduates at the UACJ. He was also a former maquila worker who later obtained a doctorate and entered university teaching, developing a profound commitment to social activism. According to news reports, he was shot in his car when he stopped at a traffic light on Av. Gómez Morin and Manuel Clouthier in Ciudad Juárez at 1700 on a Friday afternoon. The murder of Arroyo Galván has never been explained, and continues in impunity.

The following article published in 2001 – never before translated into English – offers a glimpse of the depth of what Ciudad Juárez lost when Arroyo Galván was murdered. In this article, the reader will observe that Arroyo Galván had already identified what the destruction of Juárez’s social life and alienation meant. In 2001, long before the drug war violence that erupted during Felipe Calderón’s sexenio, Arroyo Galván made a spirited argument in favor of restructuring the city’s “social fabric.” Then, nobody seemed to listen. Today, with many thousands dead, and a city destroyed and him dead because of it, if we choose to ignore his words we do so at our own peril.

Between 2008 and 2010 three UACJ professors were murdered – José Alfonso Martínez Lujan, Gerardo González Guerrero, and Manuel Arroyo Galván – as well as three students at the University: Jaime Alejandro Irigoyen Frías, Juan Gerardo Pérez and Alfredo Portillo Santos. Their murders are included in the 11,451 people murdered in Juárez during the sexenio of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. (The MxJTP gratefully acknowledges that the cumulative murder count for Calderón’s sexenio comes from records provided by Molly Molloy at New Mexico State University.) PT

The Maquiladora Model
By Manuel Arroyo Galván (El Norte de Ciudad Juárez)

People who reside in this region complain about the accelerated pace of the shifts suffered by the local maquiladora industry – changes that stem from events in the world system. We are quick to reflect on the significance of how the maquila has affected the trajectory of this region. But the speed of changes overturns the routines of people who have come to live in this city. Our capacity for learning and adjustment can be overwhelmed and this weakens our ability to build responses relevant for the new times that are coming.

Sometimes we think that the maquila has rooted itself in this region. And with that thought we wish to dispel the experiences of the “easy-to-flee businesses” of the 1970s. But the local effects of the North American recession and China’s full integration into the world market prove the contrary. The easy exit of the region’s maquila factories and the consequent reduction in employment don’t obey the evil wiles of the factories’ directors, but are a characteristic intrinsic to them: “The businesses belong to people who have invested in them: not to their workers, their suppliers, nor even to the region where they are located.”

During the period of the maquila’s presence in our city, the global dynamics that govern production processes have marked the rhythms of the region’s life. We have not only experienced a sustained migration from different parts of the country but subsequently the factories have developed a process of differentiation for employees: as winners or losers they are assessed and positioned in front of their futures and their own trajectories.

Throughout this time, the life of the city has been divided in two: industrial, business and financial areas that share space with high-income neighborhoods. At the same time there has been a growth of low-income neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts, with large segments without running water and a huge low-income population earning much less than even two minimum wages.

Everything indicates that working does not guarantee a better quality of life. Even though we have the world’s largest concentration of factories, ours is a city that not only appears in national statistics with a high level of well-being but also in international news reports about murders of women and drug trafficking.

The rhythm imposed by the maquila export system has unleashed processes of change and modernity that have overtaken the region’s abilities. These processes have demanded quick self-learning by employees, changed how family members relate to each other, and required forms of social integration which did not exist before the arrival of these changes in the city.

In a short-time period, there has been a deep restructuring in the local system that quickly makes practical experiences and the mental outlook of a great part of the population obsolete. This restructuring amplifies generational fissures. It makes it difficult to build communication between these different points and to shift towards new realities.

THE REAL CITY AGAINST THE VIRTUAL CITY

The urbanization process results from pressure exerted by the pattern of situating the industrial export factory, and land speculation by real estate moguls. This has shaped an urban landscape that privileges the use of the city by productive export processes and business dynamics that revolve around those processes. But it’s forgotten that a city must also be a place where people live.

A resident in this city must travel enormous distances to undertake life’s necessary activities. The absence of public spaces weakens social ties and undercuts feelings of social belonging and social identity. All of these issues produce empty feelings in the activities that are only developed for the “economy” but they don’t construct people, human beings. This situation needs to be contrasted with the experience of what it is like to be inside the maquila, what it is like to be a part of its managerial team. Inside is where one feels the sense of belonging to an elite, belonging to a vanguard that allows people to participate in the world’s most dynamic of production processes, of being in touch with the conditions that shape progress. This contrast of situations accentuates the physical and social polarization lived in the city, provoking an experience of the sense of living in two cities that sometimes correspond to each other but that more often than not and for most people, are actually opposed to each other and compete between themselves: the real city anchored in local, daily dynamics – that of the majority of the population; and the virtual city, globalized, frenetic and changeable, inserted into the world’s productive processes.

Added to these dynamics, the fundamental issue is that people make the local reality – they are not only the base for processes of production but are linked to the desires that brought them here in the first place: the great majority of the city’s residents left the communities we originally came from.

Those desires breathe life into our dreams and allow us to resist the ravages of the individual’s experiences of living here. But at the same time these desires also raise individualism to its extreme.

The result weakens our social support networks and loses sight of shared objectives, straying away from community projects that attempt to recover the social power of being from another place. These projects should be able to channel individual desires in defense of our collectivities, permanently reconstructing our immediate communities.

Along with the advantages that the industrial export maquilas bring to the city – such as the obvious sign of its modernity – there are situations of weakness that foster processes of social marginalization. These reinforce the sense of weakness that stems from an uncertain future. We are okay, but we feel bad. Something is going on.

Everything seems to suggest that we have taken care of how the local economic system works, for interests where its basic functions are enough to create wellbeing for its population. But we are still waiting for the expected spillover effects. The local economy is deficient because it does not cover the whole population and fails to ensure equitable access to services.

THE THREAT OF EXCLUSION

When the market fails to satisfy certain recognizable signs of integration – once covered by the state – exclusion is lived daily, as a threat.

The fear of the criminal – which far outstrips actual rates of criminality – is a symptom of other fears. It reflects “our” weakness. Collective identities have lost their material and symbolic anchors, and their place is occupied by a withdrawal to the home and a “negative individualism.” But individual and familial strategies are no substitute for sociability. Thus, internalizing competition and precariousness as vital experiences sharpens the sense of solitude and absence of contact.

Groundless fear produced by daily experiences — stress, pollution, drug addiction, aggressiveness — reflects the chaos of social life. That experience is sharpened by fear of the future. The lack of a long-term horizon complicates cultivating a sense of order. As customary reference points — family, school, business, nation — lose their strength of meaning, individuals find it difficult to elaborate a “meaning for their lives.”

People perceive that they do not belong to a modernization that seems to support them, nor do they benefit from new opportunities. In this way, a weakened subjectivity endangers the social base of the modernization process.

The challenge, then, is to ensure that functionality converges with economic growth in the sense that it fosters the sociability necessary, and inherent in, human beings. The reconstruction of a “collective” capable of influencing the forward march of various working systems and developed alongside their collective hopes and social capital.

In sum, what’s required is a rebuilding of the region’s social fabric. For this city, having an identity looking out towards the world is a strategic task. It’s an urgent response to the emptying out of the local that has provoked a functional economy turned towards the outside with globalizing agents as its only interlocutors. To live in this city it is necessary to give the local a sense of its own existence.

Promoting the value of social capital proves indispensable to achieve the goals of overcoming poverty, becoming internationally competitive, or retaining the position we have already achieved.

Promoting development cannot continue by forgetting the urgent need of reconciling duality and growing polarization produced by the accelerated development of the maquiladora in this locality. We must make the real  city – rather than the virtual, globalized, and functional – visible. The challenge is to redefine the relationship between the local and its transnational partners. We must optimize what the city has to offer. And what this city has to offer is its people.

Sociologist Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “El modelo maquilador,” and is not available publicly on the web.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ's CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ’s CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 11 October 2011. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web accessible version of this article.

Translator’s Note: The translation of this article is dedicated to the memory of Regina Martínez Pérez, fearless Proceso reporter based in Xalapa, Veracruz, and documenter of public malfeasance, murdered on 28 April 2012. Her murder continues unpunished and is an ongoing source of embarrassment for authorities in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. PT

Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests
By Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Even though his classes begin at 0800, David Valles, 19, and a resident of Colonia Monumental, has to get up before 0600 so that he can take the Indiobús at 0640 from the Zona Centro. From there it takes him more than an hour to arrive at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez’s (UACJ) new southeast campus, 16kms from the southern limits of the border city.

Cristina Durón, 18, lives in Colonia Toribio Ortega, in the city’s southwest, and she also has to wake up around 0500 so that she can take a bus to the Centro Histórico. From there, she takes a bus that takes her to Avenida Tecnólogico and from there she jumps on another bus that takes an hour to get to the new buildings, located in what’s also known as “the City of Knowledge.”

According to UACJ administrators, the distance these students have to travel to the Ciudad Universitaria is a cost. But it’s also the only way the institution has to increase participation, minimize its educational shortfall, and increase enrolment rates from 28 to 55 percent of applicants.

For urban development experts, however, the UACJ’s location in that zone, bordering on private lands, is more a product of obeying the expansionist whims of politicians and realtors bent on Ciudad Juárez’s urban growth.

“The logic of expansionism and growth towards that zone explain its location in that zone. Its construction fails to consider costs related to infrastructure, equipment, commuting and security. The city cannot satisfy those needs,” said Pedro Cital, architect, private consultant in urban development and former deputy director of the city’s research and planning institution (IMIP).

According to Cital, one example of Knowledge City’s real-estate value is the stretch of highway to the new campus. Instead of building a 5km link to the existing Panamerican Highway, they built a new highway to the southeast, right beside land owned by private real estate developers.

“To build in this area, yes I think other interests were taken into consideration. The closest freeway connection for the University would be the Panamerican Highway, and the most logical route would be to open a street from there to the UACJ’s land. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they built a road from the southeast towards the university. So, it was built to power growth, bringing services and infrastructure that would make that area more viable for development,” Cital explains. For years he has questioned the expansionist model epitomized by Juárez’s development.

The new campus houses 2,500 UACJ students and 550 students from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Juárez (ITCJ).

According to José Antonio Lozoya, general coordinator of the UACJ’s new campus, the students must commute a total of sixteen kilometers to reach the campus.

Desert dominates that region’s landscape, where the opening of the Electrolux plant in 2005 accelerated urbanization. It’s interspersed by industrial parks, separated by deserted lots that, in the majority, remain empty and vandalized.

Around Fundadores Boulevard, almost total desolation exists, save for a few almost entirely vacant housing complexes.

The UACJ and the ITCJ provide free transport to students from various parts of the city. But Abigail García, IMIP’s planning coordinator, said that commuting times must be avoided, and should have been taken into consideration in the urban planning process.

“The students are the ones paying the price – because of the distance. We are trying to generate less commuting, so the people don’t spend so much time traveling. Look, they are young people, so they have to bear it. But it’s a high price to pay, and they have to be there all the day, in a place where there’s only the university,” García said.

Manuel Loera de la Rosa, director of Planning and Institutional Development at the UACJ said that the three hundred hectares owned by the University is just the first phase of the Ciudad Universitaria (CU) and that it was the only option to house an ambitious project to boost the enrollment numbers that Juárez requires.

He added that no other place turned out to be as cheap as that area, donated to the UACJ in 2001 by Chihuahua’s state government.

“Universities always have costs to bear. At the CU the great benefit is being able to offer education spaces in a timely fashion, opportunities that would not have emerged any other way,” Loera insisted in an interview.

‘Pressure, Juárez’s History’

UACJ’s location — as well as that of the ITCJ and other educational institutions in Knowledge City – is part of the San Isidro-Zaragoza development plan, totaling about 4,367 hectares. Promoted by the state government, the plan was approved by the Ciudad Juárez Council in 2007, during the first period in office of Mayor Héctor Murguía.

That year, 2007, also saw approval of the Eastern Development Plan (PPO XXI-II), broadening the city’s population distribution. The PPO XXI-II permitted urbanization and construction of residential areas seventeen kilometers from what were then the city’s limits.

These two development plans added to another three plans that had been approved since 2004: El Barreal and San Jerónimo in Juárez’s northwest, bordering New Mexico; and, the first stage of East XXI, in the southeast.

In total, and in just two years, the five plans added more than 14,600 hectares for possible urbanization, 66 percent more than the 22,123 hectares available in 2003. In every case the local government argued the need to provide housing for an estimated population rise of 100,000 people per year destined to work in the maquiladoras.

With the passing of the years, however, and just as the town planner’s had prophesied, a 2001 recession in the maquiladora lowered the population. The IMIP warned at the time of no evidence for so many homes, many of which now stand vacant.

The politics of Juárez’s expansion has been questioned by officials since 2003, when the Urban Development Master Plan established the need for greater density. The Master Plan says that the spread of the city has made it expensive and unsafe, and based on unsustainable resources for its infrastructure and equipment. This has generated problems for its identity and decayed its social structure.

“The logic behind investment behaviour in our region sees urban space as disposable. When investment moves to new, more prosperous, lucrative business districts, urban areas are left totally abandoned. In this context, the capital that’s left is underutilized or just abandoned. And with its desertion, the city’s image loses vitality and deteriorates,” the Master Plan says.

In terms of security, the same document states, “the accelerated growth of the city impacts the capacity to prevent crime.”

From the period between 2005 and 2007 when the majority of the development plans were approved, various sectors of the population warned that such expansion obeyed the interests of landowners with property ripe for, or close to, urbanization projects. As in San Jerónimo’s case, where the state and municipal governments have granted millions for investment in services, overwhelmingly in road construction.

Since 2007, an El Diario investigation has documented that along with land from state government and from the UACJ, there are more than 1,000 hectares owned by families of two former mayors: Manuel Quevedo and Jaime Bermúdez. In 1977 Quevedo was mayor and Bermúdez the city’s treasurer and they acquired thousands of hectares in the city’s southeast. In the last thirty years, Juárez’s urbanization has been directed towards that region.

According to César Mario Fuentes, a PhD in regional development and director of the Colegio de la Frontera (COLEF), the model used by the government to pay for public services like water, drainage, light and roads on far removed roads that result in “big business” for those types of landowners.

“I am unaware if there’s that intention, but unfortunately it has always been this way. It’s obvious that it has been a strategy traditionally employed by Ciudad Juárez’s large landowners who take advantage of public authority,” Fuentes said in 2007. The COLEF director is also the author of numerous academic studies about the region’s land market.

According to Loera, the first stage of the new UACJ campus required an inversion of 498 million pesos for the “basic infranstructure work” – drainage, light, water, roads – in addition to the construction and equipping of three buildings.

The director of the city’s land registry, Antonio Artalejo, estimated this week that the investment would spark a real estate “boom” and the construction of housing, services, and industries.

“If the 2008 economic crash had not happened, housing construction would be at its apogee about now,” Artalejo said.

In spite of the economic downturn, about five residential communities have been constructed in the area – all completely distant from each other – and in the public property registry land transfers have already occurred.

That is what entry 15 of book 5363 registers. In July 2011, the families of Quevedo and Bermúdez sold 37 hectares, located in the environs of Knowledge City – to a real estate company called HOH.

“Opening different areas of the city has definitely had much to do with pressure from landowners,” Cital said.

“It’s an obvious fact about the history of the city’s growth: one can identify the pressures that lead to growth,” the expert added.

Yesterday, the former mayors mentioned in this article could not be reached for comment.

‘Human Cost’

The Ciudad Universitaria coordinator said that 70 percent of the students come from southeastern neighborhoods, and that only 750 students come from father afield, like the west of the city.

But the distance is of such importance, Lozoya said, that upon it depends almost all the planning decisions, like class timetables and possible extra-curricular activities.

To support the students, the UACJ has contracted three transport companies that will carry 90 percent of the students in 27 old vehicles from nine points around the city. The most distant point is the one located by the Juárez Monument.

The ITCJ, on its behalf, will transfer the majority of students in four vehicles (of a more recent vintage). This service will only leave from Campus Uno, located on Avenida Tecnológico.

Even though they are free services, the UACJ students who live in the west of the city must occasionally wait for more than an hour because the only bus that goes to the city center quickly fills. If they have to leave campus early they have to wait for hours because the buses from the CU leave at two times: at 1400 and 2000.

The jokes arising from the distance have motivated a campaign by the CU coordinators who have taken phrases they can print on posters as a way of “fostering identity.”

So, students write: “When my mother told me I would go far, I didn’t know that she was referring to the CU.” Or, among other witticisms, “Typical: you are new in CU and when they ask you where you are from, you say: from Ciudad Juárez.” But the time spent in commuting, Abigail García says, is a human problem that, rather than being funny, diminishes the quality of personal and collective life.

“Principally, it undermines rest, the time you need to recuperate and that as far as we know, it damages health. The other thing that gets shunted aside is family life. Commuting takes up much of the day… We complain to ourselves that there’s a need for social cohesion, that there’s no neighborly integration, and that certain factors rupture this spirit of living together, and commuting is one part of that subject,” García said.

The need to find a place in Juárez at an institution of higher education is so great that not one of the students, even the most critical, expressed a desire to withdraw because of the distance.

Daniel Valles, for example, said that he hopes to change campus since his degree program is offered in the Institute of Social Sciences and Administration, about ten minutes from his home.

Cristina Durón added that one day she hopes to own a car. But Armando Salas, 19, also a Psychology student and a resident from the Avenida Las Torres neighborhood – near to CU – warned against owning a car: “I spend fifty pesos a day on gas, and because of the economic crisis that sucks.”

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. This article was first published under the title, “Ciudad del Conocimiento: Entre el interés escolar y el privado.”

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

 

 

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