René Kladzyk: Pathways and Fences: Gender, Violence, and Mobility in the Paso del Norte Region of the U.S./Mexico Border

“Juárez is alone, abandoned… The borderland is very sad, very ugly; now all is closed, where there were fifty dance clubs now there are none, or restaurants … many shops too, now it’s like the ghost of Juarez (Juarez Fantasma), because all the people have fear to go anywhere.”  These were the remarks of a woman I spoke with in El Paso, Texas this summer, seated in the living room of a house where she did domestic work. She has spent the past 20 years living in Juárez and working in El Paso. Her experience of Juárez as a dying city is one that I heard echoed again and again as I conducted some 31 interviews as part of my master’s thesis inquiry, supported by research awards from the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

My research in the binational metropolis of El Paso, Texas, and Cd. Juárez, Mexico, focuses on the manner in which the mobility of fronteriza women in particular is being shaped and reconfigured as a result of the extreme violence in Juárez. Additionally, I am exploring the manner in which fronteriza (borderlander) identity itself is changing linked to these redrawn daily geographies.

Although it is true that there is much sadness and ugliness in the current picture of Juárez, the story that we so frequently see in major news outlets oftentimes limits their depiction to the tragic, neglecting to reveal the vibrancy and dynamism of the borderlands. I hope to convey, through my research, the resilience and humanity of those who are frequently lumped in as faceless casualties of the “drug war,” paying keen attention to the living, and the myriad ways in which perceptions, experiences, and seemingly mundane choices are being influenced by the complex geopolitics embedded in this international urbanism. In doing so, perhaps I can play a small role in ensuring that Juárez is not abandoned or turned into a ghost—but rather, that it continues to be very much alive.

—René Kladzyk is a second-year master’s student in the UO Department of Geography, concurrently pursuing a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management through Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM).  She received her undergraduate degree in American Political Studies at Northern Arizona University.  She completed her fieldwork from June–August 2010 with the support of CSWS and CLLAS, and has received a SYLFF Graduate Fellowship for International Research for the 2010-2011 academic year, during which she has been composing her thesis.