My next door neighbor Claudia and I, along with other neighbors, are working to rebuild community in our once peaceful barrio. We started organizing around a year ago (April, 2012) after some adolescents, once jovial buddies but that night in a drunken and doped rage, hurled bricks at each other.
Results during our first year of organizing:
Cooperation among neighbors: Fiesta de las Iluminaciones, November, 2012.
In 1887 barrios began hosting fiestas to celebrate the Virgin of Guanajuato. We hosted our first in 2012.
The parents of several of the battling boys take better charge of them. Those adolescents no longer hang out drinking or drug taking in public.
One local store voluntarily stopped selling beer.
The preventive police agreed to make regular visits to our barrio.
By organizing ourselves, we attracted support from a local volunteer group (T.A.N. 473) through photographer Katie Clancy. Katie and other volunteers are offering children free art workshops in our barrio. They also invited our children to join children from other barrios painting in the color of a history of Guanajuato mural on the way to The Pípipla, a monument overlooking Guanajuato’s historic center. Within the year, our children will be making a mural in our barrio.
There’s still work to be done. A few alienated adolescents periodically become wacky, whooping and hollering, from inhalants, and a few otherwise amiable men become belligerent from beer. When they’re roaming the narrow callejones*, passers by, including the police, feel insecure.
One eve around seven drug-crazed youth hurled rocks at three police who were, until that point, amicably making their rounds. The police ran into a small store to take cover. Though at least one of the police had a gun and some form of spray, he told us later that if he used them, he would be the one going to jail. Nor are the preventive police allowed to follow a suspect into private property in ‘hot pursuit.’ Thus, though eventually reinforcements swarmed the area, no arrests were made.
A couple of months later three police stuffed their pockets with broken cement tile before approaching the corner where the drugged youth hang out. Around a half a block away, the police hurled the tile toward the youth. The youth picked up the pieces and hurled them back. More police came. The youth scattered. The police left. The youth crowed until dawn.
For more info, see: First El Ejido Meeting.
* Callejones: public walkways and stairways. Often quite narrow. The Callejón del Beso gets its name from young lovers who could kiss, though standing on balconies on opposite sides of the callejón.
Check out Sterling Bennett’s blog (sterlingbennett.com) for vivid descriptions of barrio happenings.