SCENES FROM A SINGLE COMMUNITY …
Above: Ricardo Mora, standing above Interstate 10 on the
campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. Ciudad Juárez,
Mexico, is visible in the distance, past the border wall.
Below: Daytime traffc awaiting entry from Mexico into El
Paso. If the El Paso–Juárez area were a single metropolitan
area, its population of 2. 5 million people would make it larger
than the metro areas of Charlotte, Orlando, or Austin.
I was born in El Paso and grew up in
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. My dad worked in
the maquiladora industry—the large factories just south of the border—in Juárez, and
my mom had a salsa bottling company in
El Paso. Every day, I would cross the border
to go to school in El Paso. Today, I live in
El Paso, work mostly in Juárez, and have
businesses on both sides of the border.
I got into the mobile-phone business 27
years ago, when I was going to college
in El Paso. We were introducing cellphones
to people we knew in Mexico—it was a
good time to get into the business. Two
years later, I dropped out of college and
opened a cellphone store in Juárez. We
grew that business to 32 stores in Mexico
and six in the U.S., and I ended up selling
the U.S. business. Eventually, I got involved
in restaurants and opened a couple of U.S.
franchises of El Taco Tote, a chain that
started in Juárez.
Here’s the reality: It’s a long drive from
El Paso to the next large U.S. city, Albuquerque. From Juárez, it’s a long drive to
the next large Mexican city, Chihuahua
City. But El Paso and Juárez are right next
to each other; they just happen to sit on
opposite sides of a border. You can stand
on one side and see the cars on the highway on the other side. You see the houses,
you see the people. It’s one binational
community, and it’s huge—more than
2. 5 million people.
For the past 50 years, the economy in
Juárez has been defned by the maquiladora industry. There are 340 factories.
Seventy of the Fortune 500 companies are
Ricardo Mora is an El Paso,
Texas–based telecom entrepreneur, restaurateur, tech investor, and startup evangelist. His
various ventures straddle the
U.S. and Mexican markets, and
give him a uniquely informed
perspective on border politics.
Business is beter for everyone, he’s found over the
years, when companies—
and people—on both sides
of the border work together.
AS TOLD TO TOM FOSTER