|Friday, April 13th|
1:40 PM - 2:00 PM
Ciudad Juarez, a border city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, is home to one of the fastest growing economies in Mexico, with workers flocking to jobs in the maquiladoras - factories along the border where companies take advantage of cheap labor to make things like pants or purses. But the true beating heart of Juarez, one estimated to rake in $50 billion a year, is the drug trade. Fueled by demand in America, Mexican cartels battle for dominance in a city that greed has turned into a war zone. The middle class, around 250,000 of Juarez’s 1.3 million, have fled the city, seeking refuge across the border in one of the safest cities in America - El Paso, abandoning 116,000 homes and taking with them 40% of all local businesses. What remains looks like bullet-ridden ghost town where people don’t leave their houses unless they have to - the risk of getting shot is too high.
The conditions of Juarez today are baffling - more Mexicans have died there than Americans have died in the entire war on Afghanistan and the city of Baghdad combined, making Ciudad Juarez the most dangerous city in the world. So the lingering question is how did things get so bad? In an essay, I will examine the origins of the turf war between two rival cartels, the Juarez Cartel and the aggressively expanding Sinaloa, and how the legitimate maquiladora economy fuels that war by providing armies of the poor and disillusioned, ready for opportunity at any cost. I will also address the way the cartels have been forced to change the way they operate by the Mexican government’s ambitious War on Drugs - a war that, at least for now, is lost in Cuidad Juarez.
Andrew T. Fitzgerald
2:00 PM - 2:20 PM
Albert Camus' “The Myth of Sisyphus” famously begins: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” He sets out to ask, quite plainly, whether life is worth living and whether any meaning can be found. The inevitability of death injects human experience with the taste of absurdity; death forces us to question the meaning and value of life. Through close reading of Camus' philosophical, fictional, and dramatic works, I am exploring his struggle with death and meaning. This struggle resolves through a progression of three concepts: the absurdity of life, the question of suicide, and the potential for redemption or ultimate meaning. I have found that, without appealing to the metaphysical, “unknowable,” or spiritual, Camus does indeed find meaning in human life that can reconcile death. This meaning is manifested in the subjective experience of his protagonists, yet is appropriately multifaceted; the two most important facets are solidarity and location. These characters reveal greater or lesser meaning proportionately to the quality of their interpersonal relationships and of their identification with the natural landscape or sense of place. The paper will explore how these two elements give varying degrees of meaning to the individual lives of Camus' characters, and it will suggest how these elements can and do influence real, living individuals.