Cross-border ties remain strong after El Paso mass shooting

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — After a young Texan went on a shooting rampage that appeared to target Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 22 people, including eight Mexican citizens, there were no protests on the other side of the Rio Grande in neighboring Ciudad Juarez, only a small vigil honoring all the dead.

Community leaders didn’t talk of boycotting El Paso, a city that depends heavily on Mexican shoppers. On the contrary, in the following days Mexicans have packed the international bridges going to jobs, stores and schools like always.

What fear some express about the attack is mixed with a practical concern that somehow the massacre may lead to longer wait times for entering El Paso.

Many like Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada pointed out that the attacker was from north Texas, not from the border community, and somehow that made the pain inflicted less personal.

“They see him like an external agent who looked for a place where the deadly effect of his act could have the greatest repercussions,” said Rodolfo Rubio Salas, a professor and researcher at Colegio de Chihuahua.

But even such a horrendous crime will not have a lasting impact on the relationship between the two cities, Rubio said.

A recent survey found that 75% to 80% of Juarez residents have a relative or friend in El Paso they keep in touch with, he said. His own research has identified 15,000 to 20,000 Juarez residents who cross to work in El Paso every day and an additional 15,000 students who go over the border to study.

Some of those who cross to shop and are scared now may stop for a time, Rubio said. “But for those who have to cross every day to work, to study, to visit family, I don’t think it is going to have a long-term impact.”

On Tuesday, wait times for vehicles entering El Paso from Juarez were still around the usual two hours plus. A steady stream of pedestrians flowed across the Paso del Norte bridge in the morning and a similar flow came in the reverse direction in the afternoon.

Carlos Carrillo was one of those walking back to Juarez, accompanied by friends and carrying his lunch cooler.

The construction worker has dual citizenship and homes in El Paso and Juarez, but since the weekend shooting he has stayed with his mother in Juarez even though it means a much longer daily commute. His home in El Paso is near the Walmart.

“Right now I don’t want to go there,” he said.

But crossing for work is necessary.

“Here it’s normal,” he said of his binational life. “All of us cross every day. We go to work and we come back.”

Graciela Pérez walked across to El Paso early Tuesday morning to shop as she does once a week. She had tried to go Monday, but the line was so long she put her journey off a day.

Pérez said she was at that Walmart two weeks earlier shopping for her kids. She admitted being a little worried crossing Tuesday for the first time since the shooting, but added, “We have to go.”

At a small market of stalls selling used clothing in downtown Juarez, Monica Díaz said she wasn’t afraid to cross, but would likely steer clear for now of crowded places like the shopping center where the Walmart is. It’s the most popular one for Juarez residents because after crossing the bridge it’s a quick five-minute drive along the highway.

Díaz crosses every week to buy used clothing in bulk at a warehouse and then resells the clothes in Juarez.

“We depend on El Paso to survive, for our businesses, be they groceries or restaurants,” she said. “It’s practically buy some here, buy some there. It’s everyday life.”

That was the case for many of the Mexican victims of Saturday’s shooting.

One of them, Iván Filiberto Manzano, went over Saturday morning to shop with a friend, a relative said. The father of two young children used to go to El Paso regularly to shop, added the relative, who agreed to speak with a journalist only if not quoted by name.

It was “normal like any other day,” the relative said.

Jésus Rodríguez sells used washing machines, dryers and refrigerators that wrap around a street corner in downtown Juarez. All of the appliances come from the U.S., are refurbished in Juarez and resold in shops like his.

Nearly everyone has family on both sides of the border here, he said.

Rodríguez said he doesn’t think the shooting will affect his business, but he lamented the shooter’s alleged motivations and criticized negative rhetoric about Mexicans from President Donald Trump, who planned to visit El Paso on Wednesday.

“It was sad because Mexicans don’t want to hurt anyone,” Rodíiguez said of the shooting. “We just want to work.”