Cd Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico,
I had the rare opportunity of a life time , the Leader of the Catholic religion, Papa Francisco was going to be in our sister city Juarez Mexico. As luck would have it, after all the paperwork and credential applications forms filled out we had gotten approved for official press coverage of the event. Not knowing what to expect i tried to do some research and see if there was any tips out there for a up and coming Photog? I must say there wasn’t all that much out there. It just so happen after long hours of searching I ran into an video of USA Today’s chief Photographer Bob Deutsch and his behind the scenes coverage of the Pope’s Visit to the US this past fall. oh boy was that very helpful! I still had some unanswered questions… So I noticed the webpage had a link to his website listed and there was a contact page listed, just my luck! I’m going to send him a message, ( I didn’t think he would actually reply , even though I had to at least give it a shot) . He did respond to my email and gave me some very useful information! One of them was very true “Expect very long arrival lead times for security… we were expected to be there many hours early, thru Mag n Bag, then bused to site 3 hrs early… ” yup 3 hours early , which you still only had 15-20 min (if that) of the actual time he was going to be in the area, so needless to say you better bring your “A” game if you know what I mean!
Tuesday Feb 16 ( Pre-game )
As my fellow colleague Alex and I head in to Mexico crossing through the Ysleta Port of Entry with all our gear , new Cell phones, back up battery chargers, money and most importantly our beloved Official “Prensa” pass… we meet up with our ride that was going to take us to the hotel that we will be staying at. Jessica and Enrique are co-workers of our Editor wife Amanda, in they give us a little crash course on the new phones and set us up with the contacts numbers for emergencies ( Just in Case ). We finally head to the hotel to do our final preparations. I’m checking and cleaning all my photo gear, formatting the memory cards making sure all batteries are fully charged and getting the suit and tie ready (yup i was wearing a suit lol ). 6pm finally comes around and the Diocese of Juarez finally post the credential assignments on to the official site, (crossing fingers we had access to many of the events). We finally find our names on the page it shows that we have been granted access to Airport Arrival. well what do you know, at first I was a little sad , but quickly snapped out from it! I thought to myself, “Wait I can get some of the first images of the plane landing and him taking his first steps into Juarez! ”
So now its time to go out to grab a bite to eat, we meet up with our fellow journalist from the Times, at stop at a very nice little area with about 3 levels of places to eat. we stopped at a very nice place called “La Juarez Marisqueria & Cantina” as we head back to the hotel final preparations continue and i as i look up at the clock i notice , crap its already midnight and we gotta be up at 3:30am
Wednesday Feb 17 ( Pope Day)
4:30am, still half asleep and now dressed in a suit in tie, we hop in a cab to the Cibeles Convention center, what do you know…. doors are locked… lol Luckily there was some benches near by and we took a seat and started to wait, maybe 5 minutes later here comes a heard of commercial buses being escorted by the Motorcycle officers.Bus after bus drove in, by this time we are joined by some other journalist that arrived early.
So we decided to take a walk and started up a quick conversation with one of the security guards in the bus detail, and what do you he said the doors wont be open til about 5:45am, lol ah I could have used some extra minutes of sleep oh well …. 6am rolls around and the staff is finally setting up. people are starting to pile into the building ready to get there pass for the event. You can see that media from all over are in attendance, from Germany , Italy, China and the Associated Press.
As we wait in line for the first Group ( Bienvenida Hangar) it kinda starts to set in… its go time, its official we are going to cover a special event that more than likely will never happen again in our region at least in my lifetime. Let’s go out there and try and capture some magic.
As they ask to see our credentials and they put a check mark next to our name on the list we get our ticket, because without this ticket you can not board the
bus, so it is our Willy Wonka golden ticket lol. By this time I’m getting hungry and you can tell everyone is also looking for the coffee machine but its nowhere to be seen… can this be? no refreshments? Would they do us like that? Of course not! They had it hidden! not really, it was located upstairs, it looks like everyone at the center was running late.. lol
So we go upstairs and get our food and head down to the check in table to get our bus seat number… and here is where the day gets interesting… they say “Sorry sir, you are only listed for the Airport departure”… I’m like , “come again??” How is my name on one check in list yet its different on this check in list, and better yet why do I have a card that say Airport welcome?? Well, at least I wasn’t the only one that this happened too. As we are told to just wait near by and see if any seats open up. (Later on we find out that 80 seats we cut off the list last minute ) So there i am thinking, trying to come up with a plan B. “Ok if we don’t get airport arrival , where do we go shoot at, the departure is not til 7pm, and its barely 7am”…
By this time now the buses start to pull up and the first group starts loading unto the buses , myself and the other journalist who were told to wait near by as well, start to get near the door. The 2nd bus pulls up and by this time we are right next to the door, and security looks at us and sees our “golden ticket” and says go to bus #2, ( you don’t gotta tell me twice! ) zoom! I’m off! We all found a seat on the bus thank goodness!
Now we start to head to the airport which we get a Police escort (which was nice) we get to the airport after about a 30 min ride, as we pass the start of the official route we can
see thousands of people already lined up on the streets waiting for the Pope’s arrival. On the bus is one of the Priest ( I forgot to get his name ) and he began telling us some of the plans that will be happening at the airport arrival, there will be over 5,000 in attendance. 3,000 of those in the stands will be students from the Juarez church schools. As we enter the dirt parking lot near the airport hanger sure enough we see thousands of kids entering the area. Some are dressed in red and white and you could see their smiles for miles and miles. We now wait on the bus for was seems like an eternity…they finally let us off and we head to the security gate. Now here is where they check our bags, cameras and everything… There are guards around you holding their machine guns as you empty out your pockets and all your gear onto one table and one bucket. You then pass through the metal detector hoping that it doesn’t beep, they have you open up your bag as they inspect the contents. The crazy this is, the only thing they confiscate is our water bottles… seriously we can’t bring in water? lol oh well. We gather our gear and rush into a single line formation along side on of the gates , from there you can feel the energy of the crowd… after another 15 min of standing in line we start to proceed to the crowd and our official area. I’m not sure if there was a Emcee on the mic, but they must have told the crowd that the press photographers we walking in, because they let off a huge roar and starting waiving the yellow and white towels in there knowing that we will be snapping pictures. As we walked in the energy level grew and the crowd was pumped…I’ve experienced something like this before at music festivals or concerts and sporting events, but the energy in this arena was far greater than that!
The red carpet was laid out ready for the Pope’s entrance. two video screens were up and
they crowd got even louder when the camera zoomed in on their section. As we waiting for his arrival and the camera zoom in to the sky and you can see his plane on the video board the crowd goes wild!
They start letting of a chant ” aqui me sente, el papa stan presente ” ( excuse my horrible spelling) and they are chanting louder and louder, with the towels waving in the area, and as they Pope’s aircraft make is it final turn towards the runway the crowd gets louder.
The Pope Mobile and staircase are put into place
As the door opens from the Boeing 757 they crowd cheers loud as Papa Francisco makes his way down the stairs ready to be greeted by the Priests and special guests.
Papa Francisco waves to the crowd as he stands in the Pope mobile
As Papa Francisco makes the turn down the pathway, a young boy get passed security and makes a run towards Papa Francisco and the Pope Mobile. He gets so close to the truck as they grab him, Pope Francisco tells the guard to bring him here and then Pope reaches
out as the young boy hands him a letter .
Papa Francisco has the guard bring him next to the truck and gives the young boy a blessing.
the pope continues on his route but then tells his driver to stop. he then proceeds to step down from the truck and give a blessing to a young woman and her father. unfortunately I couldn’t get a shot of it on my camera ( lack of space on the other side ramp for us photogs, but my colleague captured it on video with her camera which you can click on the link below to see the video.
Call it luck, I happen to get an image of the Young lady and father when we were walking into the hangar. Below is the image of them both.
here is the link to her video https://www.youtube.com/embed/oO0FSBZpX1Y” target=”_blank”>Pope Francis
what can i say what a magical thing to see! It was great to see a city that had been in some much trouble with the spread of violence in the community start to over come and see that there is HOPE!
With so much emphasis on security (rightfully so) it was great to see a community come together as one. showing the world that Juarez is Loved!
Below is a Little Slide show of some of the images i shot