Poets from Mexico’s Northern Border: Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ciudad Juarez


To Rebeca, poetry’s spur
After Entre la necesidad y el scenario
–by Roberto Rosique

Death has now been born in this no man’s land,
place of isolate rocks, of silences in which one’s voice cracks, and thought splinters.
It has been born, painted in a hue of steel, its skin tattooed with loss.
Death is a vile laugh emitted among stirred dust, a deaf face, an old cough choking on each nostalgia.
Death as long as the desert’s horizon, sacred lightning bolt, blinding sword beneath
a copper sun.

It has come like the returning of ominous graves that make us regard the shadow:
here, the same, reoccurring story of our Fall, the old specter which condemns us to
diving from the cliffs of nothingness like a fistful of souls already taken for lost
and lodged within that body,
that body of bodies dragged from the main plaza century after century, system after
system, credo after credo.

Flesh of lamentation.
Flesh of sacrifice.

Here, the wall which appears, the gates that dash
our hopes, the confusion of roads.
Here, the procession of silence in the yard where
hunger chews an ear of corn picked
clean of its kernels, and dreams
of gathering together the scattered remains of the mother,
of shaking off plague and shame from blankets,
of starting history anew, elsewhere:

Wherefore have we come here, to the place of grief
we have come,
we have left behind the ancient refuge where the
days, lasting longer each moment,
witnessed the immolation of the sowing fields,
we seek refuge, such is our motive for coming here.
Nothing held us back in the land from whence we
Our heart weeps, and we suffer, inconsolable,
Because here, we should not live, nor have we received consolation.
Where have we truly come?

Here, our semblance,
the scene of our downfall.

Wind and exhausted limbs, visages rising in final protest against the dark gust of wind.
You seek the land you lost, and your feet and your eyes, your tongue, your throat, all
proclaim to you its proximity,

because the land envelopes you, it has risen and it envelopes you with its dogs and golden
downfall after downfall, it assails your breath, bit by
bit, robbing you of your sense,
motives, it blots out your body,
the image which you are, and disfigures your visage with the blow of a simple,
huge insult.
Vicinity of death, and its myriad faces: beyond that threshold you are but a ghost, a mere
bulk moving off yonder, a shadow.
You have trod the land left formless by an army of steamrollers, an empire of dreams and
haughty arsenals.
Your incursion is the closing episode of a contradictory gesture and in your flight we
behold, as in a categorical mirror, the collapse of utopias;
we are the sapped tree of the hanged-man, and the wind which rocks it, we are
a barren steppe that breeds hunger and theft,
we are the mask’s scab on an imagined Mexico,
and the buried mirror, we are a prayer,
deserted and insistent.

Eduardo Arellano (Zacatecas, 1959-Mexicali, 2004) was the author of such collections as Esas plazas insomnes, Fondo Editorial de Baja California, Foeca / CONACULTA, B.C., and a leading voice in the poetry scene of Baja California.


On 2nd Street, they have built a McDonald’s,
urbanism in search of the universal language.
From the pavement of language, we harvest
this border Spanish from street vendors:
hot grills teeming with words roasted or
seasoned with lemon and hot pepper accents.

Or in Styrofoam ice-cream cups, we carry words
Porta-tactile ones, prayers, and curses.


to the Cuban maestro

At times the city is measured
by inhabitants per squared kiss
At times the city is multiplied
discontinuous insatiable
At times the city weaves together
ages / gender / basic occupation

At times the city greatly…
although when you least expect it

Teresa Avedoy (Sinaloa, 1979) lives in Tijuana. Her numerous collections of poetry include Dicen que en esta ciudad solo se deberían escribir novelas negras (Forca-Instituto Sudcaliforniano de Cultura, 2010) and Antidewey (notas de campo), (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León).


Beneath this intolerable heat
urban thoughts
travel slowly, impertinently
with the intention of being tossed
onto the empty asphalt

I open the door
yellow eyes confront me
black fur, streaked with gray
threaten to caress my feet
and I look away
yet it scolds me with its yowling
and I look at it again
hoping that it may say something
nothing to do with me

The neighbors sleep noisily
or make love in silence
my rest is
claustrophobic and scarce
sweat meanders through the paths
in the creases of my asphyxiated chest
thunder rattles my soul
I savor the rain that distracts me
and finds me brimming over with hope
and fleeting.

Karina V. Balderrábano (Tijuana, 1969) is an educator and poet from Baja California, as well as the author of several collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in diverse journals and anthologies.


The Juárez sun un-holstered its 45,
took aim at the heads of city inhabitants.
45 degrees Celsius in the shade,
salt rubbed into split skulls.
Rusted air conditioning units
squealed from rooftops,
and vapor steamed from a sleeping dragon.

I fall before the sun’s slumber.
Even the shadows wither.
Some of the scraggly trees
begging mercy.

At three o’clock in the afternoon I hear
the creaking of a noose tightened around neck,
the afternoon’s taut rope
when the sun’s engine stalls,
but everything carbonizes.


Thérèse Dreaming, 1938

Girl with legs spread open
before the evening fire,
with humid panties
and flushed cheeks.
Her sex on display,
her shoes red,
and mouth frowning
because of a dream that
fills her with shivers.
She listens to the cat’s tongue
slurping the warm milk.
She senses the odor of wood
and the sweat in her white blouse.
She bites her lips and knows
someone is gazing at her,
and wants something from her,
though she can’t picture it entirely.

Martín Camps (Tijuana, 1972) Although Camps was born in Tijuana, and studied in Mexico City, his family is from Chihuahua, and he spent formative years in Ciudad Juárez. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, such as La extinction de los atardeceres (Solar, 2010), as well as book-length studies on the literature of the border. He is a professor of Spanish Language Literature and Latin American Studies at the University of the Pacific.


From the night
there emerge liquid tigers
seeking moist dreams.
They have been sent
to shred the words uttered in bed.
with deep bites they hunt down the love stories
that have survived.
They will not leave any passion unscathed,
they will rob
memory itself.
Not a trace of dreams,
nor tears will remain,
and all the sexual fluid of women
will be dried
by the wild
breath of the water tigers
sent to banish
the sole sacred
thing on earth:
the saxophones dancing beneath your


When it rains
one listens to the putrid moisture,
drops shattering the stillness
of the departed.
Then they awaken
and commence weeping.

The only thing the deceased
can listen to
comes from the rain
and lost saxophones.

Miguel Ángel Chávez Díaz de León (Ciudad Juárez, 1962) is the author of a half dozen collections of poetry, including his collected work, under the title of Obra reunida (1984-2009), published by the Universidad Veracruzana in 2011. In 1998, he won the Pellicer-Frost competition for poets from both sides of border region states. He is also widely known as a journalist and author of fiction.


Let the masked men mask their eyes so that they
abuse themselves
Let the masked men mask their greed so that they
can’t distinguish the bribe’s amount
Let the masked men unmask the condition of their
anonymity so that they can’t commit their abuses
with impunity and from behind masks
Let the masked men unmask their sinister motives and reveal the black grimaces of their abuses
beneath the official spectrum
Let the masked men unmask their callousness when
insult me
strike me
kidnap me and
make me disappear
Let the masked men not mask their shame
when I reveal my own
upon finding out what they truly are
upon finding out what I am
and what we are as a society
Let the masked men mask their bullets
so that they can be recognized when they’re
dug out from the cadavers of the innocent.

Jhonnatan Curiel (Tijuana, 1986) is the author of seven collections of poetry, many of them documenting the violence and corruption in his native metropolis. He finished a BA at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, prior to finishing a PhD in Social Sciences in Manizales, Colombia. He resides, teaches, and writes in Tijuana.



What you have never
wanted to say
is scribbled
on public bathroom walls.


Stinking of piss
and litter
the urban nomad
sings from his corner, there,
where his dreams of being an emperor
take on flesh tonight
and the stray dogs
admire the sparkle
of his glass crown.


The ancient man
drags his feet
across dirt and glass shards.

He’s forgotten his name,
age, family…
the only thing he has left:
pride in being alive
and small bottle of liquor.


These very hands you see
making this tequila bottle
seem so tiny
defended me from Death itself
one moonless night.

these enormous hands
were in 33 fights
and lost everyone.


Each weekend
she changes her name, her corner.
Since the age of fifteen
she has grown old
and you don’t recognize her now on the street;
she’s that woman in the blue dress
whom, one winter night,
you forgot to pay.


Between beers
the woman dances;
the men sweat and pant
their rancid breath.

(The norteño ballad
drags itself under the tables
and scatters through the curtain
which struggles to be a door.)

A midget, holding a great grudge,
approaches the woman,
shatters a bottle against her.


To ask for another beer,
or listen to the blind man playing the piano,
as well as his fifty-something singer
belting out a nameless bolero.

The map of their lives,
umbrage of sobbing and glass shards,
clouds braided to the legs of a piano with
yellow and black keys
out of tune,
while on the dance floor
an elderly couple dances and
relives something I can’t see.


As always,
when the last bottle falls
so too
will all of the masks.

Roberto Castillo Udiarte (Tecate, 1951) has been called the “Godfather of Tijuana’s counterculture” by La Prensa of San Diego. Castillo Udiarte has written over a half dozen collections of poetry, as well as novels, and numerous translations of contemporary North American poetry.


Moon looming above the Tijuana night,
rotund, sassy, and foul-mouthed.

Conceited city:
if you gaze at the moon as she descends seeking my front gate;
if she curls—
ever so deftly—
under the eaves of my house;
if she descends to the shore or
if she mounts herself into my bed, or tiptoes the water,
city, don’t you worry, and
don’t you dare shine your lights on her,
don’t deprive me of this blade slitting the night in two,
that rotund, sassy, and foul-mouthed, perhaps-to-bleed
moon looming above Tijuana.


The city smells of you, of your body
and the fleeting moistness you leave in my hands.

Let’s say your odor accompanies my footsteps;
let’s say it guides them.
Let’s say that enmeshed among so many odors
the city retains, I distinguish yours.

And I trail your odor until I discover you
in dark corners
where death lurks, spying on us, and neighbors
watch us from afar.

The city smells of you, of your body.
There’s a kiss of blood on every corner.

Alfonso García-Cortez (Tijuana, 1963) García-Cortez is the recipient of two municipal prizes for poetry for the years of 1983 and 1988, and he is the author of several collections of poetry, including Llanterío (UIA Tijuana / Ediciones lobos de mar, 2001). He has published in such journals as Blanco Móvil and CulturaNorte.


Alone at home
someone knocks on my door
(if I forget the physical hardness
the color of bones belonging to that someone
the presence will vanish)

a voice made from stubborn finger-bones and
comes pounding on my door
he could be the vendor of some unfortunate story who dropped off
an imploration sealing his eyes
or the mail carrier repeating
the deep chasm of time
the deep chasm of time
green coins strewn across the bottom of the pond
dreams diluted there, miserable and drowned,
perhaps that woman who always brings me a flower in her sex
corolla opened to the embrace of my flesh
(how I hope to hear her anxious rapping
at my door once
again yet
there is no trace of her heavy breathing in this silence)

I open the door
and recognize the shoulders of a man in the distance
it is I,
nothing to worry about,
who is a man walking away

Agustín García Delgado (Ciudad Juárez, 1958) received a grant for literature from the state of Chihuahua in 1992. The piece included here is the title poem from a collection published in 1994 by Joan Boldó I Climent. Since then, he has published several collections of poetry, short fiction as well, and he won the state prize of Chihuahua for literature in recognition of his collection entitled Album (2017). He works as an editor for the press of the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez.



In this city of immigrants
there’s no such thing as local time.
Whenever I ask for the time
they give me one from another city.
No one is from around the block.
Clocks belonging to the inhabitants
reveal the current hour in their native cities.
I, who live without a watch,
have no authority over time,

for time no longer belongs to us.


Couples saunter by,
on the corner,
of the 3rd Street night.
Children await them and then
stalk them down in order to
sell a flower.

Laura Jáuregui Murueta (Tijuana, 1976) is the author of numerous collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in national and local anthologies.


a howl, I die in the copper moon that witnessed my
I cut the sand and only silence remains
like the sea after death

I leave behind the old names
that burst in the air during stormy days

deaf among the statues
I open my incomplete heart

I see how life grows distant

childhood is the first razor to tear dreams apart

Rubén Macías (Ciudad Juárez, 1982) is a member of the José Revueltas collective in Juárez, and his work has been included in such anthologies as Anuario de poesía (FCE, 2006), and journals including Alforja, and the UNAM’s Periódico de poesía. In 2014, Otra Editorial published his collection En algún muelle. Some of his poetry has been translated into French.


Unawares, we cross the threshold,
until reaching the center.

What did we know about borders?

We enter the desert
like entering water,
like leaving water
and entering dryness once again.

“Excuse the mess,”
thought one of the two.

And you smiled before the vacancy spreading
like a vast parenthesis,
before the awkward
of our trusting step.

We have yet to discern
if being within the circle
is to be inside the center,
or if the center
the circle.

The breeze galloping across your brow
frees us from inquiries.


Stone and orange,
their adjacency.

Rock and pistil.

Between both
the lattice of a stained glass:
a cluster of contrasts,

The Forever and the Now overlapping
in longevity
the expired,

immune hardness,
or rind’s

The eternal and the perishable
demarcate their dominions,
the stone field from the green field,
the peel from the gravel,
childbirth and convalescence
on the same floor of the hospital.

Between remaining and yielding,
between arriving and leaving,
but one wall
and two rooms,

the countdown begins.

Jorge Ortega (Mexicali, 1972) has published over a dozen collections of poetry and essays in Mexico, Argentina, Spain, and the United States. The poem included here is culled from his collection Devoción por la piedra, which was published in 2010, after having won the Jaime Sabines Prize for poetry, from the fine arts council of Chiapas. Currently, he is a professor at CETYS University in his native city, where he also edits the university press, as well as its journal, the vibrant Arquetipos.


(After Cavafy)

The girl aboard a train headed north
imagines the sinuous city with her finger tracing
the dust on wagons

a deep wish to learn the art of crossing borders
leap walls and sink bridges
grasp that gold in the twilight of her gods

during the ailing journey
and the dust inside eyes some other condemned woman announces
another successful way of ridding oneself of…

as soon her steps trace the desert sand
my burial will take place here

before dying the young woman gasps
about a new house
frail parents
complex forms of a dream

I dream

The one who was nothing knew no homeland
in the vast Latin American world

better that way stretched out beneath
stones and sand while during the immense night
her parents await her homecoming

Antonio Rubio (Ciudad Juárez, 1994) is the author of Blu (Anverso, 2019). Along with Amalia Rodríguez and Urani Montiel, he won the Guillermo Rousset Banda prize for literary research in recognition of the study Cartografía literaria de Ciudad Juárez (Eón, 2019).


Last Saturday morning of each month,
it advances, an iceberg among the shoppers,
inviolate, nestled in a white basket,
down the supermarket aisles

five pounds of meat
kosher salt and beer

he bought unwrapped and grilled everything in April
straight to the flames in his garden
far from the traffic-jams
and the appointments hanging from telephone cables

he’s got ribs and tenderloins and he dreams
of coals perfectly white-hot

his mind drifts far from the daily grind

now he pictures the thin juice, the ribs, the bone’s
the thin grease glistening on the tenderloins

it’s the end of the month and hunger touches us
the salt slowly saturates the ribs
now we listen to the meat’s sizzle and the fluttering
flags of fire

hand clutches beer
and the meat smells like centuries of bloodshed &


I like not uttering your name, keeping it within
maintaining it in that continuous fall toward my

the drawn bow of your name
the arrow’s tip of each letter in silence

, first the sign
, to first write the sign and never utter it

to assemble the resurrection of the world’s silences
in the voyage of your name

César Silva Márquez (Ciudad Juárez, 1974) is a novelist and poet who grew up in Mexico’s Northern Border region. He is the author of several collections of poetry, and he is widely celebrated as the author of numerous noir fiction novels and short stories.


I write about days
I write on its leopard’s back
accidents that don’t take place
names of objects like
eyes of blind women gazing at the afternoon
nights that trace the empty ring in our souls
bland days
ash between fingers
as fragile as
the glass-pane of a voice
immense holes in the pages and in what is said:
days drawn by the absence where we sleep


Edgar Rincón Luna (Ciudad Juárez, 1974) most recent collection of poetry is the brutal Puño de whiskey, an unflinching gaze at the violence and heartache in his native city. It was recently reprinted by the University of Ciudad Juarez. His work has been included in the leading anthologies of contemporary Mexican poetry.


From death to death
I have taken the risk of the tightrope walker
hanging from the trapeze
I have answered the word What

But … hush
don’t ask me the other questions just yet

We plan to fall
parachuting onto a soft roof

ostrich feathers
orthoflex mattress

But we fall on hard ground
from unexpected precipices

Cheek slaps against concrete
sudden seizures
seize the lips

Elizabeth Villa (Tijuana, 1974) is a professor of literature, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her most recent collection of poetry is Memorias de una molécula (Pinos Alados, 2018). Her work has appeared in such journals as Tierra Adentro and Yubai, as well as in the anthology Nuestra cama es de flores. Antología de poesía erótica femenina (CECUT, 2007).



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