Walking through downtown Juárez, only steps from the border, Maria Vargas is unable to conceal her frustration and sadness. Where tourists and shoppers once crowded stalls and stores, heavily armed and masked Mexican troops now patrol. Shopkeepers lean in doorways, wariness at the edges of their eyes, their businesses deserted and hushed. The playful bargaining between customers and store owners is missing, along with the laughter and conversation that once spilled from restaurants and cantinas.
Naomi Ruth Estrada, a 27-year-old English major at NMSU, was frustrated with the national media’s sparse reporting on Mexico’s violent drug war. So she put pen to paper last year to write "Speak a Stupid Brave," a poem using clips from articles she received through "Frontera NorteSur" e-mail updates. "Frontera" is an NMSU-based newsletter focusing on border issues.