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There is a fence at the end of this street. This fence was not here when I was growing up. Let me explain. On the other side of this fence there is the park where I spent many great days. I remember going there when both of my little brothers were learning how to walk. I remember jumping from the swings, and falling from the monkey bars. I’d like to begin telling you about Juárez here. Like much of Juárez this park holds beautiful memories, but also some painful ones.

Here’s the picture of the park the way I remember it:

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This is the full picture of the park as it stands now:

Park-Bunker

Hopefully you don’t recognize what the structure to the left is, because it is a bunker. Yes, an actual bunker like the one you’d have in a war zone!

The reason the bunker is there is that right in front is the house of the mayor of the city. To protect the mayor, they built this box of concrete—right where children are supposed to play! His house is at the end of the fence that you see in the very first picture above, with the snow. The fence is there also to keep the mayor on the “outside.” The neighbors did this in hopes that if there was ever crossfire, at least it would be easier for people to stay in the other side.

Fences, bunkers, fear. That is not what my city’s true identity is.

Let me direct you to my favorite part of this picture, zooming in past the fences, past the empty bunker and even past the swings.

Park free-kid

Yes! There is a child. The bunker is empty, and there is a child playing. The street you see just past the child is precisely one of the streets where Pope Francis will travel in his popemobile. I’d like to think that this child will be watching, with his back to that hideous bunker.

When the Pope visits Juárez, I think I’ll pray for this child. I don’t know him, but I see him as a symbol of hope for Juárez.

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