EL PASO – Mexodus is an unprecedented cross-border, bilingual student-reporting project that documents the flight of middle class families, professionals and businesses to the U.S. and safer areas of México because of soaring drug cartel violence and widespread petty crime in cities such as Ciudad Juárez.
Three years ago, Carlos Gallardo Baquier’s 14-year-old son was victim of a kidnapping attempt. Three armed men assaulted the boy just outside the garage of his house, but before they caught him he escaped. The event, however, prompted his family to flee Juárez, leaving behind their already successful catering business in the city.
“It was traumatic for the entire family,” Gallardo Baquier said. “Even though it is more difficult to manage our business here because of the regulations, it is more important to be safe.”
For 20 years, Gallardo-Baquier, owner of Gastronómica de Juárez, ran the successful food service company for maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez. After the kidnapping attempt, he and his family decided to bring their business to El Paso under the name of Super Chef. Gallardo-Baquier and his wife now provide catering services to companies on this side of the border.
“It has been a year and a half that I brought my immediate family over to El Paso. We rarely go back over there and our family in Juárez manages the remaining two locations.”
Gallardo Baquier said that businesses in Juarez are going through tough times. The violence has lead to an economic crisis, which has made many businessmen decide to relocate in El Paso without much success.
“We had good business and stability in Juarez, we were even able to open many branches, which now we regret, but we could not expect what was to come,” he said. “I have seen many (others) that have tried to open their businesses (in El Paso) and they do not even last a year.”
Gallardo Baquier credits the successful relocation of his business to the U.S. side of the border to his long business experience and the ability to adapt it to a different market. Unlike many who have found themselves on the brink of having to close their business, Super Chef’s future seems much brighter with the possibility to expand very likely.
“We are thinking of expanding here in El Paso, but we do not want to rush it,” he said. “It is not the same having over 20 years of experience in México and only two here. The business is still consolidating but we will soon be able to begin initiating the process of expanding.”
Another family that has avoided completely shutting down its businesses in northern México by relocating in El Paso is the Torres family.
Judith Torres is owner of Joyerías Torres, a family business that had been operating for over 40 years in the city of Chihuahua, México. After being hit by the drug violence, Torres and her eight siblings are trying to maintain the success of their business on this side of the border.
Until last year, there were 16 branches of Joyerías Torres operating in the city of Chihuahua. Now, former employees of the Torres family are running a few stores that remain open, and the family has opened a U.S. branch at Sunland Mall in El Paso.
“We kept some (Mexican) branches open so the employees that worked with us could keep a source of income,” Torres said.
It was a tough decision for Torres, the mother of two boys, to flee a city where she had become a successful businesswoman.
“It was difficult to move because we practically had to flee the city; we had experienced assaults, robberies and extortion," she said. "The most difficult thing is to continue despite the fear of being killed or kidnapped, and the thought of what are you supposed to do when you cannot grow businesses-wise.
"It was very sad, but when you get here, you realize that you can start a new life with your family, you find new friends and new opportunities," she added.
She would also like to gain more education and more tools to further enrich her business.
“There are many plans – establish myself, open more businesses, and create more jobs,” she said.
Torres and Gallardo found support in their business transition among the members of La Red, a network of Mexican businessmen and women who have relocated to El Paso and have come together to support each other. Since its creation in 2010, La Red has grown to over 300 affiliated members.
“You find a group of friends that support you in different ways, not only in the business aspect, but also on a personal level. You have the opportunity to have close friends,” Torres said.
José Luis Mauricio, publisher of Ser Empresario, a business magazine distributed in Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, founded La Red with six other Juarenses. Today, the members of La Red meet together every Thursday at a west El Paso restaurant to discuss business and politics and to socialize and network.
Gerardo Garibay, merchant for MeLoTraes.com, an online business that offers shipping services for Mexican businesses, said he joined La Red for networking and to branch out his company in El Paso.
“I’m glad that La Red has been around for this long and that I have witnessed and contributed to its growth by inviting more people,” Garibay said.
Coming together as a Hispanic population can only benefit the various businesses that are part of this network. "We want to give power to the Hispanic community in the United States, especially to those who live in this border,” Garibay said.
This article is reprinted from Borderzine.com.