I had the great honor of participating in a fundraiser in El Paso last week—organized by the Somos Fund—to support after school programs and scholarships for kids affected by violence in Ciudad Juárez. It has now been almost four years since the Villas de Salvárcar massacre, where gunmen burst into a birthday party and gunned down fifteen young people in what was a case of horrifying mistaken identity. Since then, the families have channeled their grief into improving Ciudad Juárez for the many youths still living there, and the funds raised at the event will go toward supporting their work. (You can also donate here by typing Somos Fund under the project name).
The event began with a discussion between the moderator, Angela Kocherga, a border journalist for Belo Television, Ricardo Ainslie, an educational psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Alfredo Corchado, the Mexico Bureau Chief at the Dallas Morning News, and myself, on how and why we were all drawn to Ciudad Juárez during the process of writing our recent books.
To me, the most moving part of the night were the words (in Spanish) of two people whose worlds changed the day of the massacre. The first is Fernando Gallegos, the coach of the football team on which two of the slain boys played (you can hear him at the 41:30 mark). The second is Maria Guadalupe Dávila Pérez, the mother of Rodrigo Cadena Dávila, one of the boys who was killed that night (at the 49:20 mark).
Their courage and even hope in the face of such a terrible tragedy is truly inspiring. And their sustained focus on the city’s surviving youth is already beginning to change their community, with Gallegos’s football team winning the 2013 championship against the much better funded, larger Monterrey Tec team. As we in the United States begin our holiday season, please remember those that are trying to make a difference against such odds.
Published in conjunction with Latin America’s Moment at the Council on Foreign Relations.