January 6, 2006

2005: A difficult year on the border

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

As a new year begins, we must look back to 2005, an intense chapter in the history of the Mexico United States border region, and reflect on the hardships that the people in this complex region have gone through.

For many, 2005 will be remembered by the effects of hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that couldn’t have been foreseen by authorities, but if taken every necessary precaution, it could have saved many lives and prevented a great amount of destruction.

But many poor families in Tijuana will remember 2005 as the year their houses and few possessions were destroyed by mudslides caused by last January’s intense rainfalls. These tragedies could also have been prevented if authorities had developed timely contingency plans and regulated the building of houses on high risk areas such as hills and river shores.

Lopez Obrador in Tijuana.

2005 will be remembered by many as an intense war year, in which more than two thousand American soldiers lost their lives, and youth from low income neighborhoods and schools (predominantly Latinos and Afro-Americans) were recruited into the armed forces, enraging thousands of citizens who raised their voices in marches, protests and vigils put together by hundreds of civil organizations around the country, to try to put an end to an unjustified war.

Immigration issues between Mexico and United States went through a very rough time in 2005. Attempts to reach an immigration agreement or a fair and humanitarian temporary work plan were shattered by projects like building a third border fence between both countries, which will cause more deaths of poor immigrants who cross the border in search of better living conditions. Last year that death toll exceeded 400 people.

The racist campaigns put together by hate driven vigilante groups like Minutemen and Friends of the Border Patrol caused a tremendous amount of tension in the California border region, and displayed the xenophobe feelings living in the hearts of many Americans who blame Latin immigrants for the socioeconomic problems in the United States.

But hatred was fought by the reason and unity shown by civil groups who stood up and peacefully faced the heavily armed and equipped vigilantes in the border towns of El Campo and Calexico last summer.

Incidents like the Paris riots made the whole world reflect on the street violence and police harassment, something youth in France have to deal with on a daily basis. However, alarming situations like five fatal shootings of young Latino males by Vista Sheriff Deputies in a year, got very little press coverage, and it would have gone down as another dark chapter in San Diego history, if it hadn’t been for some members of this small community, who organized to follow this case and repudiate what they consider clear acts of hate and discrimination.

2005 revealed to the world the expansion on leftist political ideologies in Latin American countries, with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the presidential success of coca grower’s leader Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the political views of Mexican presidency contender Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who visited Tijuana last year to promote his “50 pledges to regain national pride”.

As we face an uncertain panorama of war, natural disasters, elections and border tension, the only sure thing for 2006 is that it will bring many challenges for the people in this corner of the world.

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