AUDIO SLIDE SHOW: Let the project load for a couple of seconds and then press the play button on the left side.
On June 10, 2010 I went into Ciudad Juárez with another photographer, Dominic Bracco II to cover the funeral of Sergio Adrían Hernández Güereca at the Jardines del Recuerdo cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The shooting death was an international story, which made the funeral a controlled media circus. It was my first assignment that involved a funeral and it was a bit difficult to shoot, for obvious reasons and strategically because of all the people and the other media and conditions, e.g. dirt. It is important to note that the media just didn’t “show up” and crash the funeral. If the family did not want us there, I assure you, they would have made that very clear and not allowed any of us at the church or cemetery. Even with permission, we had to remember not to move too fast and not get too close, and if we had to, we went “in” and made a few frames and then backed off quickly. One of the more prominent images to me that I made was what I call a “scene frame.” I try to step back with a wide angle lens and shoot the entire scene so I can try to convey a sense of place, not just a tight frame. In this case, I photographed the family and coffin being engulfed by cameras and microphones. I think I was able to communicate exactly what I wanted with that image.
Every time I listen to the audio track to the project it gives me goosebumps.The corrido was written by Gilbert Aguirre (no relation), a twenty-something, short guy with a mustache that matched his cowboy boots and blue cowboy belt and buckle. He directly witnessed the shooting from the bridge. Aguirre plays is guitar daily for passersby as they walk over the border. I was lucky enough to run in to him on my way into Juárez to shoot a small memorial a couple of days after the shooting. I was a bit early when I was about to cross over, and since I was alone and had all my equipment and didn’t see any other journalis below the bridge (where the shooting happened), I decided to wait at the top of the bridge, and that is where I heard him play that corrido. I quickly took out my audio recorder and placed it on the rail of the bridge, stepped back and just listened to his song, a song that he must have written a few hours before. The emotion in his voice gets me every time.
BACKGROUND: On June 7th Güereca, 15, was killed from a bullet wound to the head on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, near the Paso del Norte Bridge in downtown El Paso by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. Mesa fired his weapon across the border as he was trying to detain two men who had illegally crossed into the U.S. The agent has claimed he was surrounded and attacked by a group of rock-throwing illegal immigrants, prompting him to use lethal force. Federal arrest records showed the Ciudad Juárez teen had been arrested at least four times since 2008 and twice in the same week in February 2009 on suspicion of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. He was never charged with a crime.
The family of Güereca has filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government and Mesa. According to the family attorney, Bob Hilliard, “witnesses have denied the reported rock-throwing.” And also added the teen “had no weapon and was no imminent threat to the officer” and that witnesses have told a grand jury the boy was an innocent bystander. Recently a U.S. district judge dismissed the lawsuit but allowed the civil case against the officer to move forward.