"You shouldn't stay overnight," said the waitress at El Paso's Camino Real Hotel in January 2009, referring to her hometown of Ciudad Juarez. "Don't you know what is happening there?" She was a petite woman with pale skin and black hair. Her brown eyes projected concern, fear, and surprise when I questioned her about the local hotels on el otro lado, the other side. Starting in November 2008, after two men were murdered at dusk about 50 feet from her front door, she would only commute to work from Juarez in a car and during daylight. Her supervisor had juggled her work schedule so she could stay safe.
I walked around Juarez for the afternoon and was surprised to find the market, or mercado, filled with shoppers. Ordinarily this was siesta time, but not anymore; wives and families completed purchases during the daylight so they could avoid venturing out after dark. Their residences had become fortresses; their yards were barricades.