I awoke one morning in a hotel in El Paso, Texas and decided to cross the border that day to take a look at Juarez. I was without a car, but the border itself and Juarez beyond it were both within walking distance of my hotel.
|People in line at US Customs Border connecting El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Date taken 1943 LIFE Photographer Charles E. Steinheimer
I stood in line at the border post. Everyone else on foot looked to be Mexican and I do not look Mexican. This was probably why a US border guard walked up to me and said to me in English "Have you heard that the President has been shot?" I assumed that he was referring to the President of Mexico and I had no idea whether any attempted assassination had proved fatal. People were still passing through the border checkpoint, so I kept walking with them over a bridge which crossed a very dried up Rio Grande. Eventually I found myself in the center of the city of Juarez. It was very picturesque with no shortage of good restaurants. There was plenty of sightseeing to do and many pretty churches to admire. Quite frankly, I had entirely forgotten about the possible assassination attempt on the President of Mexico. Yet when I attempted to return to El Paso, I found that the border had been closed. I could see El Paso in the distance topped by its forest of US flags. In every case, the stars and stripes were flying at half staff. I then realized my mistake.
|JFK motorcade just before he was shot
The date, of course, was November 22nd 1963. Everyone remembers where they were at the time that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. The border guard, who had spoken to me earlier, has been referring to JFK rather than to the Mexican president. Now Dallas is 650 miles away from El Paso at the other end of Texas, but that did not matter. The whole Texas/Mexico border had been sealed in both directions and I was unable to return to the USA that day. My stay in Juarez therefore became longer than planned. With some difficulty, I found a hotel room in Juarez where I remained glued to the television. Although Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested in Dallas within a few hours of the assassination, it could not at first be determined whether or not Oswald had been acting alone. Therefore the entire Texas/Mexico border had been sealed to prevent the escape of any possible accomplices. The following day the border was re-opened and I returned to my El Paso hotel. When there, I once again remained glued to the television, on which I then witnessed the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby.
|Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald
|Investigators photograph a man stabbed to death in Juarez
While the drug cartel wars are the main reason for what is happening, the breakdown of law and order is also due to extreme poverty and to government corruption. When governments neglect their basic responsibilities and instead interfere in areas where they have no business to be, this is what happens to society on both sides of the border.