The Periphery: A Composition of Place


Do you go to the bathroom? This was the strangest question. My brother was asked this by a four year old girl named Moni, about 15 years ago. An odd question that has haunted me for years. The Pope’s visit might have to do with her question.

Monica is from an area of Juárez commonly called “La Periferia.” It literally means “The Periphery.” It is at the margins, at the edge of the city.

Its greatest contrast is the neighborhood called “Campestre,” or “the Country,” short for the Country Club, around which this neighborhood is located. While Ciudad Juarez is in the desert, you would not know it in “The Country.” This is where Old money congregates. The most beautiful of Juárez’s fields are here. This is an actual areal view of Campestre:


Our four-year-old Monica lives far away from Campestre. Her house looks more like this:


This is what lots of houses look like in the periphery of Juárez. The whole thing is made of industrial waste. A barren wasteland: La Periferia.

My family is from the very small middle-class in Ciudad Juárez. We’re somewhere between the Periphery and Campestre, where you can get McDonalds and Wendy’s. My brother was visiting “la periferia” on a service trip from the private Marist school alongside with children from Campestre. My brother and kids from campestre don’t look very different, but to this girl the difference between her and these boys was abysmal.

She asked “Do you go to the bathroom?” Her question wasn’t if they had a bathroom, as my brother found out. Her question was her attempt at finding out if these people who came on this beautiful bus, with nice clean clothes could actually produce waste from their bodies.

She didn’t think she and these kids belonged to the same species.

I don’t know exactly what the Pope will say when he comes to Juárez, but something tells me that little Moni’s question should never have to be in a child’s mind.

-Human dignity.

-The cry of the poor.

-I think Francis’ visit has to do with Moni. I really do.

In his new book, God’s Name is Mercy, Pope Francis speaks about the healing and restoring presence of Jesus in the face of pain and sinfulness. He also speaks about how powerful it can be for someone to be treated with dignity.

The fact that the Pope notices the destitution of some of the people in Juárez restores tremendous dignity to people there. It says, “God is with you, the church is with you, we are a family.” I am sure that his visit will also affirm the work of people who share this message already. I think Pope Francis’ visit is all about being an agent of God’s Mercy and compassion toward the destitute, and even to the sinful greedy who have led the city to this point.

PS. I believe that a key to understanding Juárez’s violence, is in this girl’s generation. She would be 19 now. More on that later. Unlike the child in the previous post, she belongs to current Juárez’s youth.

[Para Español Presione aquí]

The Periphery: A Composition of Place

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