The Juarez Otaku Problem? It’s All Shit

I’d been planning this post since November, but had no idea how I was going to deal with the subject. It’s about OTAKU, and my city, CIUDAD JUAREZ. It’s complicated, but I was missing a crucial component, one element that would show how FULL OF SHIT things are here.

I found it in December.

But before dwelling in how a little trip gave me the tools needed to make this evil, mean and decidedly poignant post, it’s

STORY TIME!

Ciudad Juarez has a long history of Anime “Conventions”. The one that set everything in motion, CONFRONT, started in 2004. In a couple of years, countless copycats emerged, some more “successful” than the others. One that has been able to keep going uninterrupted for 5 years already is Mangacom (Poster pictured on right).

The interesting thing about the Juarez Otaku is that they’re the biggest consumers of (counterfeit) Otaku goods I’ve ever seen. They HUNGER for it, and are willing to accept all kinds of trash in exchange of it. They even like (LOVE, even!) the fact that these events are essentially all the same shit over and over again. And when you have one of these events per month, the shit not only becomes apparent: It begins to stink, badly.

Let me tell you how these events are structured:

  • Get a bunch of merchants, who mostly trade on counterfeit goods, charging them US $50 per table.
  • Get a bunch of Anime clubs, charge them US $50 per table, but convince them they can sell food and make videogame tournaments.
  • Get a distinguishing factor. A special tournament, if you don’t have the budget, or a special guest, if you do have some budget. Most of the time, you will only be able to get one (1) Mexican Voice Actor, if you’re lucky.
  • Get some local bands, especially if these bands can play Anime theme song covers. This is the easies step, there’s just like 2 or 3 of those and they play in almost every event.
  • Make posters, like the one on the right, and distribute them amongst everyone you know.
  • On the day of the event, place the stage right next to the merchants right next to the food-selling clubs. Make sure that you use the same space all the other events have used! A library’s multi-purpose big-ass room that has poor ventilation and no AC.
  • Relegate artists to the back, but make sure they don’t stand out in comparison with the other people.
  • After the event is over, post on the net on how successful your event, regardless of how successful it really might have been.
  • ?????
  • PROFIT!! (NOT REALLY!!)

That’s the way it goes.

Always.

One of the most important factors is the location.  Most of these events take place at the Biblioteca Publica Central, located within the Parque Central Hermanos Escobar.

View Larger Map

It’s a beautiful place… Outside.

Inside? Well…

Seriously, there's not much besides this...
Does it look crowded here?
This place is less crowded, but otherwise the same.
There was no music in this place, only videogames.
QUICK! Spot the Happy Person in this picture and get a prize!
Why do they come to this place? I do not know.

Not so much.

Why was I there, then?

Well, for starters, my friends were there because they wanted to play Super Street Fighter IV with some people from the area.

Aaaand there was also something related to an abuguet.net activity related to a baby shower (That is Grade-A Professional Trolling, right there).

But setting aside all fun things that might or might not have happened in the event, I was, once again, surprised at the HUGE amount of this:

I WISH I WAS KIDDING ABOUT THIS!!
Yup. This is EXACTLY what it looks like.

OMFG!! PREPOSTEROUS!!

Okay, not really. It’s a common issue with these events in a country that is so used to unlawfulness it’s no longer funny.

Still, this is what you will find most at these events, and possibly the Number 2 Reason Juarez Otaku Go To Cons (Number 1 is, hypothetically, Cosplay).

I mostly ignore this stuff, nowadays. Nothing you can do about it except NOT contribute to it, which means I ignore it.

But there are things you CAN’T ignore.

Things like… Well…

SO MUCH GARBAGE!!
IT'S... GARBAGE!!

HORRIBLE UNSANITARY CONDITIONS.

You see, apparently the Food Court is essentially the Shopping Area and also the Concert Area and the Gaming area, which means that everyone who had bought ANYTHING to eat had to dump it in the former-paint-bucket garbage can. That, and no one in the staff bothered to…

  1. Get bigger garbage cans.
  2. Get garbage bags.
  3. PICK UP THE FUCKING TRASH.
The entire photo set contains some 20+ pics of HOT GARBAGE ON GARBAGE INACTION!

I was there, staring at this shit, when it dawned on me:

This garbage bucket, this mess, is… The Juarez Otaku culture.

It’s us.

It’s the conventions, the events, the people.

One event a month, almost always in the same place, with the same programs, the same ideas.

It’s like dumping all garbage in a single bin, a single way-too-small bin.

It overflowed.

But nobody bothered to look at it and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

When it was closing time, the Garbage was Still There.

Now this is the perfect chance for you to ask, “But, Anatole, why didn’t YOU pick up the trash? What have YOU DONE ABOUT IT?”

Well, first of all, I came to that event as an ATTENDANT, not STAFF. I was provided a venue of observation, a service. My contribution was to NOT dump my garbage in that pile of shit and put it somewhere else.

And I have done A LOT about it, just not in this event. Also, everything I’ve done has been a failure:

  • One year I made all the floor planning for CONFRONT, as well as writing letters for sponsorships. The original venue was kind enough to turn their back on us late into the game, which meant I had to improvise a new floor plan for the new venue, which was promptly ignored by everyone else. FAIL.
  • One year I had drafted a set of rules, and even an expositor sign-up form which was used ONCE, never to be talked off again. FAIL.
  • For various years, I proposed that the CONFRONT be held at someplace other than shopping malls or similar venues. My proposals were certainly ambitious (Hotels, Convention Centers, et all), and were met with almost immediate dismissal. FAIL.
  • Last year I decided I was NOT gonna be staff anymore, and decided to sell drawings and prints at an event called Jutsu-Me, organized by a local college. Only a couple of people bought sketches, only a couple of friends bought prints, and I spent the most part of two days re-learning the hard way how different I am from the local Otaku Culture.

So, YES, I have been part of the solution…

Except, there is no solution.

No one wants to change.

It’s a vicious cycle.

And it makes me real sad, and real angry!

Because Juarez is full of GREAT people that COULD do and get more!

There’s a long list of events in this city, the largest city in the state and the first in the region to organize events aimed at Otaku, and yet none have the quality, passion or even organization that makes you take them seriously.

Then you have cities like Chihuahua, the capital of the state, with a smaller population and whose first Otaku-centric events were inspired by Juarez’s, making events that look like this:

Which one do you like better? The MangaCom one, or this?

Yes, it was this past December. I went there with my friends, because I had gone to the 2008 Winterfest and it had been quite an experience.

Now, you may be thinking, has it improved?

Why YES!

The best thing about this Con is that I can buy INDIE COMICS from ARTISTS I DON’T HANG AROUND WITH OFTEN! Even ARTISTS I DON’T KNOW! Some are even COSPLAYING AS TOUHOU CHARACTERS! It was awesome.

So I can’t buy all comics, but I can and did take a look at all the local arts stuff that gets made here, and it’s AMAZING. Pretty much all the area in the back of the second picture is all tables for ARTISTS and CRAFTSPEOPLE. The first pic, left side, is all the commercial stuff, with essentially/almost no counterfeit chinese shit.

First huge difference: Lots of artists and craftsmen, and they DO sell stuff relatively well.

Second huge difference: No food was allowed in this huge hall. If you wanted food, you had to buy it and eat it here:

THE MOTHERFUCKING FOOD COURT!

Yes. The Food Court. At peak hour, you could find anything here. Maybe even food! And not bad food, either, but a variety of food.

But that’s not all… It also housed the ONE element, the ONE thing that made all the difference, and the ONE SINGLE OBJECT that reflected how good things are at Winterfest:

A Container, Suitable for the Containment and Disposal of Garbage.

Yes. A big garbage can, with a garbage bag on it. Not pictured: All the full, closed and set-apart bags from all the garbage the Chihuahua Otaku dumped IN THIS CAN before going into the Convention Main Hall.

Can you see it?

Can you FEEL it?

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHIT AND NICE?

I almost cried. As I was taking a picture of THIS GARBAGE CAN at a Chihuahua Anime Con, my eyes teared up. It wasn’t the smell, it wasn’t the OCD in me wanting to get away as far as possible from the garbage.

It was the me who remembered the MangaCom, and realized that the Otaku in Juarez were like their MangaCom garbage bin, all spread out, without preparation, without order, and without anything good about them, while the Otaku in Chihuahua at least had the decency to DEPARTMENTALIZE and USE GARBAGE CANS AND BAGS in order to avoid polluting the CONVENTION FLOOR.

So, to all of you FILTHY JUAREZ OTAKU who are HAPPY with your SHIT CONVENTIONS: Do you want to improve? Do you want to get out of the FUCKING DUMP and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE? Look at what Chihuahua is doing, and DO IT BETTER.

And you, Otaku from Chihuahua: Congrats! You have a great con. I had a lot of fun, except for that one time some guy was being a total dick to Eidan, and Eidan had to contain himself so he wouldn’t rip that jackass’s head off with his teeth. That was kinda scary, because I wanted to kill the guy too. Such a dick.

If you want to say anything to the organizers of MangaCom, please do! Their organizer doesn’t have a HP for himself or his con, but you can contact him through his deviantArt here or email him here.

And if you want to know more about the WinterFest, visit their website, right here!

Next time, I’ll review ALL THE COMICS I bought at MangaCom. There’s good, there’s bad, there’s ugly, but, fortunately, there’s always ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT! So I will talk about that kind of thing, too.

Because this blog doesn’t have to be BITTER all the time, right?

… RIGHT?!

17 thoughts on “The Juarez Otaku Problem? It’s All Shit”

  1. And then when you try to do some good shit for them, like some in-convention v-game tournament which not only awarded a couple coins but also some handmade game related trophy, free play in 3 different games before the tournament and lower prize, you see all the motherfuckers getting to the same crappy expensive tournament of always, I also tried to do some active part but i ended up losing some cash and well the motherfucking hope for this a-holes to at least desire something better.

    Also: most otaku in juarez react violently at any sight of dissapointment or critic against their cons, they defend their piracy market, and they greedy organizers with all their might, to me, its motherfucking lost battle, and hell im not even a damn otaku.

    1. >> Also: most otaku in juarez react violently at any sight of dissapointment or critic against their cons, they defend their piracy market, and they greedy organizers with all their might, to me, its motherfucking lost battle, and hell im not even a damn otaku.

      Oh yes, this too.

      I remember one time I mentioned at some other site how a certain Con had done some badly planned shit, and how the rampant counterfeit and piracy was just no good, and half of the people who commented started attacking me out of the blue. Of course, I totally deserved it, because I was arguing with logical arguments, backed up with evidence and experience, and they just wanted a screaming match.
      It’s a losing battle, for the most part.

  2. Really interesting post! I was born and raised in El Paso and attended UTEP, so reading this was a breath of nostalgia for me…trash and all.

    Unfortunately, I wonder if the culture in Juarez is such that the otaku just won’t ever be motivated to do something more. This certainly reminds me of friends with families there, who just repeated the same old things weekend after weekend, barely aspiring to go out of their way for something bigger and better.

    I hope that you’ll continue to try to change the con culture there, though. I think you’re needed. Despite the failures, your vision might be able to change things if you can get some assistance. Are there anime clubs at the local universities? How about UTEP students that live in Juarez?

    1. I think there’s an underlying cultural problem at work here, yes, but even then I find it hard to believe that people don’t even try. Some of us have tried to be an agent of change from various roles, to no avail. The Negative power of the collective is just too strong.

      Personally, I’m not gonna get deeply involved anymore. Not as organizer, not as an artist, maybe just as a participant every now and then. Of course, every time I do go, I will bring my camera and my words, just to see if anyone can and is willing to listen and maybe, just maybe, try and do what I couldn’t.

      Who knows? Maybe these words will reach someone who has or can have more power than me. Maybe then things will change. I certainly know they can: The potential is there, dormant, waiting to be tapped. But who will dare?

      I was part of the first generation of Anime Clubs in the Juarez Universities. Heck, I was even president of one for a year! And we did A LOT of things. Unfortunately, most of the things we did ended up being replicated ad nauseam by every other club that came afterwards, with little innovation (And nothing truly long-lasting).

      I don’t think UTEP students who live in Juarez can be much help, either. The Otaku culture in El Paso and the US in general is very different, and UTEP students who live in Juarez either adapt to it, or just reject it in favor of the good ol’ Juarez Otaku culture. More often than not, there is no compromise.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. :( no sabia sobre lo de chihuahua
    espero y esta entrada les llegue a mucha gente (con-goers) de juarez
    que pena…
    pero que entretenido!

    1. Ojala, pero no creo. Una parte de mi siente que ni siquiera saben leer ingles, y mucho menos entender el proposito final de un articulo como este… :-/

      1. sin tomar en cuenta que el 80% de los con-goers dejarian de leer en el primer insulto o critica que vean y comentarian cosas tan clasicas como “si no te gusta no vayas” “que querias por 10 pesos” y “AiiiZ Ag3gu3nm3 pArA pLaTiCaR niiÑazz pathethicmofo@hotmail.com

  4. Wow! The conditions at the two conventions are so different. You wouldn’t even get this kind of thing at a con in the U.S., which makes the fact that Chihuahua can pull it off easily even more shocking.

    You should start a con like Chihuahua’s yourself. If you are in control, I imagine you could make a great convention. Obviously, you’d need help, but perhaps you can find like-minded friends.

  5. its all about time to improve, but we (juarez) cant if people like you is making shit of other conventions instead of help you are just saying crap dont be mad and make something to improve the conventions in juarez and all of us can have a nice time enjoying anime n,n or HOW DO YOU THINK the biggest conventions began

    byebye :]

    1. Dear DR.SHAVA:

      Does it look like I’m “saying crap”? Maybe, but somebody HAS to say it.

      And if it has to be someone who has been involved with the Juarez conventions from the start, all the way back in 2001, both as attendee, staff and organizer, who has been to cons outside of Juarez AND Mexico, who can see how everything can improve, then all the better.

      That’s me, guy.

      I’ve been involved for ten years in this world, either by getting my hands dirty or by providing suggestions and advice to whoever wants to listen to it.

      Just earlier today I returned from Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in America (The continent!). Me and my friends always comment on the one thing that Juarez conventions lack: SUBSTANCE. Content. Something beyond a motherfucking sale point. Something that promotes culture, entertainment, creation, FUN! But most conventions can’t look past “Salesmen”, “Cosplay Contest” and “Karaoke Contest”. Those are the things that get promoted to hell and back, instead of panels, conferences, workshops, and all sorts of creative and informative things that give VARIETY and SPICE to the event.

      Juarez conventions aren’t making people happy enough. They aren’t properly promoting cultural, creativity and entertainment diversity. It’s just the same old tired shit.
      But I wrote this article back in January, when I had just returned from Chihuahua and a Con that had a bit more category than most Juarez cons.
      I am waiting, expecting, even, to be proven wrong someday, and I certainly hope it is sooner than later.
      Nothing would make me happier than someone LISTENING and FIGHTING FOR CHANGE.

  6. Good article. For this to change in Juárez, these people need to unite, do something big with a budget to actually make a profit. But before that, they need to grow up and get over their differences like adults and business men/women. So yeah, things will never change…

    1. “But before that, they need to grow up and get over their differences like adults and business men/women.”

      We’ve tried… Oh, have we tried…

      But the problematic elements are fueled mostly by ambition, not by the kind of passion that drives people to do greater things.

      Hence, they tend to isolate themselves.

      Trust me, we’ve seen it happen. Repeatedly. :)

      I see changes happening… Slowly, but surely. I hope those changes are significant and permanent, though.

  7. We are a small group trying to promote the otaku/gamer culture in the city with our web page, we usually plan to attend to the local cons and later publish a review about it. Hopefuly when people (including organizers) read some of our reviews, and compare different local cons, they start compeeting in a healthy way.

    There’s a lot of truth in your post, the garbage on the floor, the lack of artist’s tables, the fact that they all look similar in substance (even people started commenting that in our last review about the YuuZakura con).

    We hope we can at least contribute by promoting and praising the good points of the cons and also noting the bad ones.

    Cheers.

    1. Your job is both necessary, and very, VERY appreciated.

      Added it to my bookmarks, and you can count on me visiting and commenting as often as time allows. Cheers!

  8. everybody does the best that they can.
    and it’s sad that you go on about bitching about it and not contributing to make it any better
    the Juarez conventions wont get any less “preposterous” if you just talk trash about them and wont focus in it’s good poins.
    we still are a community where we can share our common hobbies and if you don’t want any part of that then boohoo you, go to the USA where a lot of us can’t go get even near that kind of quality.
    the targeted audience won’t even have that kind of money anyways.

    1. Well, in case you have NOT noticed, and I am pretty darn sure you haven’t, I wrote this in January, 2011.

      That is: Two years ago.

      TWO. FUCKING. YEARS. AGO.

      In two years, things can change a lot. In fact, let’s look back at this last year!

      In 2012, there were less Conventions, but new and better attempts at making things right for a change:

      • Yuuzakura’s new location was… different. But their content at least matched 2011’s, which is super good. They got the stuff, now they need to aim a liiiiiiiiiiitle higher!
      • Neo-Expo was good, a different location that provided some interesting new spaces. It did many things right, like the Cosplay contest. In terms of organization, it was almost flawless, for all it’s worth!
      • The most interesting newcomer was Youkai Fest, with its two iterations, trying to give an atmosphere more like a festival and less like a convention. They did not quite manage, but the attempt was honest, good, and fun in its own crazy little way. I believe next year it will get better, so I’m really looking forward to what they have to show!

      Everything outside of that has been so-so.

      If I were to give a balance for 2012, I would say it was very positive: Less events, but more quality, overall. People are getting the hang of it, trying new things even if the general population does not quite “get it”. I appreciate all their efforts, and I’m looking forward to what they can bring to the table. I expect to be surprised!

      To me, the sorest spot in the panorama would be Bazaar Otaku. It is the kind of shit that I am completely against: Cheap, made with the wrong structure in mind, by people who do not have their heart in this. All the other events are obviously labors of actual love for the hobby and its community, with respect and admiration for a foreign culture that we all love. This one, though, well… I can’t feel the love. At all.

      Now, the only thing missing is the other part that is very important: A space for creators to sell their creations.

      The Juarez Otaku are too much into the mass-consumer culture, with no appreciation for the creative culture. The Otaku in Juarez need to know the artists, need to tell us what they want us to make for them to buy. Have you been to Winterfest? The amount of Otaku-made stuff is stunning and totally awesome. That’s what missing from Juarez right now: Love for local artistry and creativity.

      That is my next objective: To find a way to not just open the spaces, but give local artists a chance to make stuff that the local Otaku can love and acquire for their own.

      We’ll see how that goes.

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