Once the crown jewel of the maquila miracle that was going to be the cornerstone of Mexico's development, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua is being abandoned these days by those who were lured there with promises of decent, well-paid jobs.
The city's fate is now in the hands of rival drug gangs who operate with absolute impunity in their quest for control of transshipment routes to the USA. Ordinary Mexicans, who are targets of extorsion quotas, robberies and drug related violence, no longer stand a chance of living a normal life in Juárez.
Guadalupe Ordinola Peralta, came to Juárez in 2002 from the village of Ejido Guadalupe, Veracruz with an uncle and her newborn son, Luis Manuel. Her common-law husband, Mauricio Campos Hernández arrived two months later. They were willing to follow thousands of other Veracruzanos to the border because after years of official neglect, the Mexican countryside was a wasteland and Ejido Guadalupe held no future for the two 18 year olds.
Mauricio found work in construction for a while and then in August of 2006 was hired at the Río Bravo Eléctricos maquiladora making harnesses for John Deere tractors. His starting salary was 56 pesos a day, equivalent to $25.60 USD for a 40 hour work week. Another son, Edwin Jesús arrived that same year, and the couple's third boy, Angel Mauricio (Junior) was born in 2008.
The year 2006 also marked the first of three assualts and robberies that Mauricio suffered in Juárez. Once he was attacked with a knife, once by a gang of 15 kids, and in January of this year he relinquished, without a fight, money his mother had wired to him.
After arriving at a rest stop near the town of Bermejillo, Chihuahua, Mauricio and Guadalupe try to sleep in the back of the van
In 2010, after four years at Rio Bravo and with reduced work hours due to production cutbacks, he was now making 375 pesos a week-- in real terms, a raise to $30 USD. With the violence they had suffered, with no job security, and with their family's future in Juárez at risk, Mauricio and Lupita decided they had had enough of the maquilas and the barbarous conditions in Juárez.
So on May 5, 2010, at six o'clock in the morning, with their hopes up, and after having previously loaded their furniture on a moving van supplied by the state of Veracruz, they packed three sleeping kids and their remaining belongings into the back seats of a 1988 Dodge Caravan with 172,000 miles on it. They have a promise from the state government of family health insurance, a possible job for Mauricio and school placement for the kids. It's not much to hold on to, but at least they will be back home, together with the extended family and most importantly, they will have escaped Juarez.
Guadalupe and Mauricio talk in the yard of the family home in Ejido Guadalupe, Tres Valles, Veracruz after a journey of 8 days from Ciudad Juarez
Edwin and Angel play with a cousin, Gabriela in a hammock outside the family home in Ejido Guadalupe, Tres Valles, Veracruz
Luis rides his bike by a pig that the family keeps outside the family home in Ejido Guadalupe, Tres Valles, Veracruz
The Campos Ordinola family poses for a portrait on a hammock outside the family home in Ejido Guadalupe, Tres Valles, Veracruz. From camera left: Edwin, Angel, Guadalupe, Luis and Mauricio
The family Bible blows in the wind of a fan at the family home of Guadalupe's parents in Ejido Guadalupe, Tres Valles, Veracruz
"In Juárez they've assaulted, beaten and robbed my husband. We have suffered a lot and that's why we are returning to Veracruz. There are so many things and it's a long story. It makes me sad to remember everything." ----- Guadalupe Ordinola Peralta
Photos and text © Keith Dannemiller