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Bridge vendors in Juárez struggle with lack of border traffic; only a newspaper vendor still allowed to sell

Juarez bridge vendor
Bridge vendor Manuel Urbina in Juarez takes a drink as he works to sell newspapers.

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico -- Dozens of street vendors who rely on International Bridge traffic between El Paso and Juarez have lost their source of income and been forced to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic and economic freeze.

The lack of international traffic comes after the mayors of both cities issued stay-at-home orders Juarez and El Paso to control the virus' spread and both federal governments limited border crossings.

For bridge vendors, some of the poorest people in Juarez, this has made their customers all but disappear.

“It’s like 70 or 80 percent, the sales we have now are really really little,” said Manuel Urbina, who has been selling newspapers at the base of the Paso Del Norte Bridge in downtown Juarez for more than thirty years.

He’s the only vendor still allowed to be there, and only because his newspapers help inform the public.

“I come and I sell my papers and that’s all the movement I have, really,” Urbina said.

Those American citizens and residents who do cross, Urbina explained, drive straight to their errand and back home without getting distracted. It was those distractions that made money for him and dozens more.

"There used to be 30 or 40 vendors on the bridge itself on normal days, plus the dozen or so more selling food and drinks on the corners and between cars on the street itself when there’s traffic down here,” he said.

One of the most notable stands that had to close was a popular lady who sold candy; Doña Sarita would happily make change for you if you needed coins to cross back into El Paso.

Urbina said the only thing she’s allowed to do now is come out in the mornings to make sure nothing has been stolen. After that, she’s forced to go back home.

“It’s been a huge impact, and it’s come to people who can’t afford it,” he said, highlighting the vulnerability of the Juarez poor.

“The risk is imminent, it’s constant. But one has to go out because no one is going to walk over to your home and give you a single peso,” Urbina said.

Urbina told ABC-7 he looks forward to the day free movement is allowed in both cities and across the border so he and his fellow vendors can go back to full work.

Article Topic Follows: On the Border

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Julio-Cesar Chavez

Julio-Cesar Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter.


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