Mexicans In Juarez, Baffled By Hatred They See Fueling Shooting, Call On Trump To Act

Aug 6, 2019
Originally published on August 6, 2019 11:09 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Not all of the victims in Saturday's horrific shooting here in El Paso were from El Paso. Police say at least seven of the dead were from Mexico. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been reporting just across the border from where we are in El Paso. She's in the Mexican city of Juarez. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So should it surprise anyone at all that that the numbers of Mexicans killed were so high?

KAHN: No, not at all. For people that don't live here, it might be hard to understand, you know, how interconnected the two countries are, the two cities right here in the border. But here, legal crossings back and forth are very normal. Look. Walmart was having a back-to-school sale last weekend, and Mexican schools are back in session from summer break soon. Some Mexicans were taking advantage of the bargains, and some of the victims were also visiting family in El Paso, too.

GREENE: Well, what have you learned about some of the victims who were Mexican?

KAHN: Sure. Well, first, there are some discrepancies, to say, between U.S. and Mexican officials and their list of victims. Some of the ages, last names are different. But at least seven were from neighboring Mexican states and cities, like 58-year-old Maria Eugenia Legarreta (ph). She was on her way to pick up her daughter at the El Paso Airport. And according to local press reports here, she decided to run into the Walmart first. The same thing for Elsa Mendoza Marquez. She was visiting family in El Paso and dashed into the Walmart. She actually left her husband and son waiting in the car. Mendoza is being remembered in Ciudad Juarez on social media as a dedicated elementary school teacher here. And then there was 77-year-old Juan de Dios Velazquez. He had just moved to El Paso from Mexico six months ago. U.S. officials are listing him as American. A niece told Reuters here that her uncle jumped in front of his wife to shield him from the gunman just as they entered the store. He died yesterday at a local hospital. The shooting has a lot of frequent border crossers, you know, thinking hard about their once-routine trips to El Paso. Here's what some of them I talked to had to say.

Pedestrians crossing from Ciudad Juarez over the bridge to El Paso can choose between two slots to pay their toll, one for U.S. coins, the other for pesos. Most switch easily between the two currencies, like Aurora Trujillo, who shops at least once a week in El Paso.

AURORA TRUJILLO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "It gets you thinking about going over there because of all that happened," she says. She just can't understand why the suspected gunman hated Mexicans so much and why there's so much gun violence in the U.S. It's time for your president to put an end to it, she says.

TRUJILLO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Trump needs to focus more on what's happening over there instead of worrying all the time about walls and borders," she says.

Fernando Arroyo is in the shade, handing out free cups of cold water on behalf of the city as temperatures climb to nearly 100 degrees.

FERNANDO ARROYO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says, "We have violence here, a lot of violence, but it's different." Ciudad Juarez is one of Mexico's most dangerous cities. But Arroyo says, you know why? It's drug traffickers settling scores killing each other. Over there, he says, it's about hate. Arroyo says he lived in California nine years ago and doesn't remember such overt racism toward Mexicans, not like there is now, he says. Many Mexicans blame President Trump and his tough rhetoric especially against them and immigrants. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted for Trump to stop his hate speech. Stop stigmatizing others, he wrote. But Eduardo Esparza, who was heading into El Paso with his family, doesn't blame Trump.

EDUARDO ESPARZA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Trump can say what he wants, and the shooter might even agree with Trump. But in the end, it was the boy who pulled the trigger," he says. Esparza says he doesn't understand why the U.S. lets anyone buy a weapon. Mexico's current president says the shooting might spark a debate in the U.S. over its gun laws. He stayed clear of publicly criticizing Trump, but Mexico's foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, was more candid. He spent yesterday visiting victims in local El Paso hospitals. He says the shooting was an act of terrorism, the worst he's ever seen against Mexicans in the world.

MARCELO EBRARD: It's important to send a message to the people who want to hurt or kill Mexicans in the United States.

KAHN: To that end, Ebrard says Mexico will take legal action and build their own terrorism case if necessary. He said Mexico will possibly seek extradition of the gunman to stand trial in Mexico. Or they might even sue the person who sold the weapon to the shooter.

GREENE: Carrie, did the foreign minister speak at all to the tensions between the U.S. and Mexico? I mean, you have President Trump with the tariff threats, all the pressure to crack down on illegal migration.

KAHN: Yes, definitely. Foreign minister Ebrard, I think, really had that in mind when he was speaking at the Mexican consulate in El Paso yesterday. He said, you know, we are from different cultures, but we need to live and respect each other in Mexico and in the U.S.

GREENE: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Juarez, Mexico. Carrie, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.