By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Apr 27 (EFE).- A former bar in this northern Mexican border city that catered to German soldiers stationed across the Rio Grande in the US now serves as a shelter that welcomes both deported migrants and people suffering from addiction.
“I was deported because of addiction problems and was living out on the street. I was sleeping on cardboard,” Fidencio Ramos, one of the residents of the Esperanza (Hope) shelter, a building that for decades housed the Deutscher Club Rainer Palast, told Efe on Wednesday.
Although Ramos said he is putting his addiction problems behind him, he laments being apart from his wife and two children who are still living just across the border in El Paso, Texas.
His reality is similar to that of Jose Hortensio Gudiño, who was deported from the United States because of his drug problems and alleged document-forging.
“Being here has changed my life. I’ve gone out to work and am (no longer) on the wrong path,” Gudiño, who lost his home and his marriage due to his addictions, told Efe.
The shelter is a two-story building in downtown Ciudad Juarez – a city in the northern state of Chihuahua – that has a kitchen, dining area and rooms with 40 beds in all.
“LA MAMA” AND HER HAVEN FOR GERMAN SOLDIERS
The tavern that once operated at that location and was adorned with German symbols and that country’s flag was owned by Amparo Kluber Le Roy, affectionately known as La Mama by the bar’s patrons.
It opened in 1951 near the start of the Cold War and was in operation for more than 30 years.
Historian David Perez Lopez says Kluber was likely of German and French descent, and indeed the woman reportedly said once that her grandparents left Berlin during World War I and that her father – a native of Monterrey, Mexico – was the son of a French mother.
Newspaper clippings from that era show that her respect for the German community was such that she sometimes even dressed in a German soldier’s uniform while serving her customers.
Jose Luis Hernandez Caudillo, who worked for La Mama for several years, says German soldiers were longtime customers of the establishment and that people of other nationalities were not permitted inside.
“Amparo would prepare her customers the Mama Special, a beverage that was a mix of grenadine, eggnog and beer. She was a nice person who would pay for soldiers’ taxis when they would go shopping and even would ask them what they wanted to buy so they wouldn’t carry more money than necessary and avoid being targeted by robbers,” the man said.
The tavern also had small rooms that served as a sort of inn for German soldiers, the majority of whom had been sent from US-occupied West Germany to Fort Bliss – a US Army post based in El Paso – and would go looking for nighttime entertainment in that border city.
As legend has it, La Mama would hand German soldiers a card with a warning and an instruction: “All Mexican police are criminals. If you have problems, call me.”
Her life ended somewhat tragically, with municipal police finding her body in 1997 on the premises of the establishment. She was 74 at the time of her death and living in poverty.
FROM VICE TO HOPE
According to some local associations, that establishment not only offered drinks and a party atmosphere but also was an occasional venue for prostitution.
“There was a basement where girls were kept locked up and prostituted,” Victor Hugo Sanchez, representative of the civil association La Esperanza that manages the shelter, told Efe.