Frontera List is not the most merry of mailing lists. It is administered by New Mexico State University reference librarian Molly Molloy, and aims to facilitate discussion around the violence in Ciudad Juarez that goes beyond the usual daily death count.

Still, the weekly tide of homicides are too many to track, too much to make sense of. A few days ago Christine Eber, an anthropologist and colleague of Molly’s at New Mexico State University, sent out a poem that describes her own struggle to digest a single week’s worth of headlines from the mailing list. It touched me and I asked her for permission to re-post it here.

Work for all in Cyberland

In cyberland
we are all connected
in the swallowing sea.

Clutching life-lines in the dark waters
we wait for the latest tally,
how many were lost,
how many survived.

Carlos went down yesterday,
with his school mate, Juan Carlos.
When the waters took them
they were looking for tire rims.

Karin Ibeth was only sixteen,
holding to life the way the young do.
But the waters wanted her.
With her passing the lines went slack.

María del Refugio defended
the people of Santa Isabel,
until a savage wave took her.
That day the lines tore through our fingers.

In cyberland
the job of counting lost souls
fell to a librarian.

Five today,
ten yesterday,
twenty-five one day not long ago,
3,111 last year.

It hurts the librarian to count,
but someone has to do it.

Other jobs in cyberland
seek workers to fill them.
To love truth
is all they require.

Who will take the job of putting names on the numbers?
of standing in the square in the lost souls stead?
of painting the streets with signs that they were here?

by Christine Eber


Carlos Mario González Bermúdez, sixteen, César Yalín Miramontes Jiménez, seventeen, and Juan Carlos Echeverry Júnior, fifteen, were gunned down in a tire store in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico on February 5, 2011.

Sixteen year old Karin Ibeth Ibarr Soria was attacked by uniformed members of the federal police in Villas de Salvacar in Juárez on January 30, 2011. A few hours later she died.

Maria del Refugio Nevárez Villalobos, the only police officer in the town of Santa Isabel, was threatened and then later run over her and dragged 75 meters to her death by a drunk man on January 30th, 2011.

I too read these articles. Every morning. Then I walk to the kitchen in my comfortable apartment and make my coffee. Or I give my girlfriend a kiss on the forehead. Or I make a Skype call with some NGO in some country and offer advice on how to improve their Facebook page or podcast.

Though it has never occurred to me to write a poem, I have thought about writing a blog post. To do something. Others write books. Some write novels. Some form NGO’s. Still others plan technology projects that never launch. The violent headlines, the gory pictures, the death counts – they keep coming.

Last year President Calderon announced a new program, Todos Somos Juarez, with 160 concrete “pledges,” most related to security; others include mental health training programs and new soccer fields.

I do believe that community investment – rather than more militarization – is the right strategy in Juarez, but recent protests reveal the importance of increased accountability and of putting an end to the impunity afforded to the powerful and corrupt.

Next month I will be speaking on a panel at SXSW about social media, journalism, and violence in Mexico. Also speaking are Judith Torrea, an incredible independent Spanish journalist in Juarez; Gabriela Warkentin, professor of communication at Ibero and director of my favorite Mexico City radio station; Amy Schmitz Weiss of San Diego State University; and Javier Garza, director of El Siglo de Torreón.

My own contribution will merely be an updated version of the talk I gave last year about “Citizen Journalism and Drug Trafficking in Mexico,” but I’m extremely interested to hear what my co-panelists have to say, and hopefully we can generate some good discussion. If you’re going to be at SXSW please do drop by and say hello.