EL PASO, Texas – Emily Bonderer Cruz begins her day before dawn in line at the Bridge of the Americas. Her daily commute involves waiting to cross the border.
“Best times to cross and it shows you like averages,” said Bonderer Cruz as she glances at an app on her smartphone.
She works in El Paso but lives in Ciudad Juarez with her husband and blogs about her experience as “The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juarez.”
The couple met when he was an undocumented worker in Arizona.
“You don’t choose who you marry. You don’t walk up to somebody at a bar and say ‘do you have a green card? OK let’s talk.’ That’s not the way it works,” said Bonderer Cruz.
But in Arizona the couple lived in constant fear he’d be deported.
“You go to work to earn money and help relatives in Mexico,” said Cruz. But end up feeling “hunted” said Cruz.
To reduce the risk of deportation, they lived near his job.
When his company moved he took the light rail to downtown Phoenix, and then rode two buses to get to work.
They were afraid to drive and rarely went out in public.
“We wouldn’t go to the movies because it would be too late and it would be too risky,” said Bonderer Cruz.
But after a while the stress of living in the shadows took a toll.
“I almost felt like I was in prison. It was hard for me because I really felt like a criminal,” said Bonderer Cruz.
So she suggested they move to Mexico, to the border where they could both find work. She picked Ciudad Juarez
“I said Emily why do you want to go to Juarez,” the husband recalled. “Are you crazy?”
Three years ago when they loaded their belongings and two small dogs, Meeko, a Pomeranian and Lucy, a Chihuahua, in a truck and drove to the border, Juarez was Mexico’s murder capital.
“When we arrived in Juarez there were as many as 40 killings a day, more than the war in Iraq,” said Cruz.
Violence has declined sharply since then. Bonderer Cruz did not ignore the bloodshed in her blog but she decided she wanted to write not just about death but day to day life in Mexico.
She taught herself Spanish and has learned to cook some traditional Mexican dishes including mole.
Since starting her blog, the real housewife of Juarez has learned she’s not alone. She’s found a community online.
Some of her readers are also wives, husbands and families struggling with immigration issues.
“A lot of people have moved here recently and people find my blog and they get in contact with me and I think that’s so awesome,” said Bonderer Cruz.
“When I moved here I only knew one person.”