Ciudad Juárez: “They killed my daddy”

RNW archive

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The violence in Ciudad Juárez is blighting the lives of the city’s youngest inhabitants. Psychologists fear that many of them could grow up to be hitmen if they don’t receive therapy. The documentary “They killed my daddy” tells the harrowing stories of victims of organised crime in Ciudad Juárez.
by Marta Durán de Huerta
“I used to be a hitman. When I was ten years old, I saw how some men murdered my father and my stepmother. They stabbed my father, burned his body  and blew off part of his head. They also burned my stepmother’s corpse. When I was young, I was full of hatred. I was violent with everyone. I wanted to express my pain.
“When I was 17, I killed for the first time. I was just looking for an opportunity to take revenge. Later bad company led me into the world of hired assassins. I didn’t drink or take drugs because I wanted to be completely aware of what I was doing. I wanted to fully experience the emotions involved in firing a gun, in taking someone’s life. I was desperate for people to fear me, for them to know what I was capable of. I lived to kill. I didn’t do it for the money. I didn’t need to. I had a job.
“The years passed like this until they killed my son. I looked at my pregnant wife and told myself: this can’t continue like this. From one day to the next, I left that world. If I had had therapy as a child, my life would have been very different. In Ciudad Juárez, there’s no law. Everyone does whatever they want.”
“A young man came and shot my father. We were eating, and when he opened the door, he killed him. I saw everything. Then he opened his mouth and shot him again. I saw the murderer with my own eyes. And he saw me.
“I’m always afraid at night. I tell my mum to close the door. The guy could come back and kill me. When I’m older, I’m going to find him and kill him. I’m very courageous. When I’m sad, I cry and I ask my father why he didn’t take me with him, why I didn’t die along with him.”
Trail of pain and misfortune
These are two of the raw testimonies recorded by Spanish journalists Hoan Nyungen Mann and María Verza for the documentary “They killed my daddy”. The powerful film highlights the harshness of the violence in Ciudad Juárez and the trail of pain and misfortune it leaves behind. It also features the efforts being made by families, youth groups and non-governmental organisations which are fighting against the violence and trying to repair the social fabric. 
 The violence never stops. People aren’t demanding justice. They prefer to remain silent and live. They don’t believe that the government will do anything. Casa Amiga (Friendly House) offers therapy to the family members of victims. Containment therapy is becoming more and more well-known and the need for it is growing.
Trying to break the cycle of violence
“Everyone in Ciudad Juárez needs therapy,” say the centre’s psychologists. They explain that therapy can prevent children like Lupita – who saw the murder of her father – from falling into a severe depression for the rest of her life or from developing such a deep hatred and desire for revenge that she might join a gang. If she receives proper treatment, Lupita could overcome the trauma and even become a happy person again. It’s very important, they say, that people, especially children, learn how to control their emotions.
Bryan, a fictitious name for the hitman, now works with the NGO “Sowers of Peace”, which works with young people to get them away from violence and organised crime. He has many stories to tell and is an ideal person to warn young people about the dangers they face.
“Young people are the solution”
The documentary also features the work of the Independent Popular Organisation (OPI), which is made up of teenagers and young people. Its mission is to enable children in Ciudad Juárez to play again, to prevent fear from shutting them in. It wants to make sure that children have a childhood despite the war in their city.

The police constantly attack these young volunteers,  treating them as if they were criminals. Despite this, the OPI continues its work. As one of the volunteers told the documentary-makers: “we young people are not the problem. We’re the solution.”