Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Staring at ASARCO"

Recently, I came across a photo essay request at Newspaper Tree titled "Asarco Smoke Stack" click here. I thought I had a picture of the giant cigarette and wanted to submit it. About three years ago I visited my grandmother's grave in Juárez. At the time I had a Logitech Pocket Digital 130 camera with me, my first digital camera. In (2006) it had been several years since I'd visited Juárez. Most of my life up until the late 90's, every Sunday my mother, father, younger brother and I would visit my grandmother and have dinner with members of my mother's family. I believe the street my grandmother lived on was called Arroyo de las Viboras. Especially during the late 80s early 90s and especially on cold nights, the sky above us would be low and thick with smoke. When my grandmother passed away, they said her lungs were like rocks. She never smoked. No one knew my grandmother's true age and for the last few years of her life her breathing was assissted with treatments.

When I was in middle school, our basketball team was headed out towards the West Side of El Paso in a school bus for a game. It was around the time that the Arrested Development song, "Revolution" was making a lot of noise. I recall a teammate and I redoing the song when we passed by ASARCO, replacing the word "Revolution" with "Pollution". As we sang the revised lyrics out loud we laughed at our impression of the song. When I think about it now it plays back like a strange gray memory with no sound.

One of the last times I saw my grandmother, I sat at the end of her hospital bed. The room was dark and like most visits of grave circumstance in a hospital, the machines supporting my grandmother silenced the life around her. At that moment, I recall wanting to talk to my grandmother and to remember as much as I could about her. However, she was deep in her sleep with her eyes cracked open staring past the realization that anyone was there.

I'm glad ASARCO is never going to open again. I guess no one can prove if the copper smelter had any health implications on people that have lived around it, but sometimes I wonder.

The picture above was taken when I visited my grandmother's grave in 2006. My camera didn't have any zoom. The intention was to capture the smelter pipe that seems to hover above everything else that surrounds it.

Whenever I pass by the ASARCO or am at a location where I can see it, these thoughts cross my mind.