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Mexico – Eric Ponce, the rapper who escaped violence and cares for youth at risk in Ciudad Juárez

26 November 2019

(ANS - Ciudad Juárez) - "A mistake does not say who you are. Don't let them tag you" is the message of Eric Ponce, a 32 year old from Ciudad Juárez who combines his passion for rap music and writing with his work on behalf of children at risk. His current position as Coordinator of the course in "Second Opportunity, Fundraising and Development of Educational Programs" in a youth promotion association was unimaginable until a few years ago, when he was part of a criminal gang. He handled weapons, saw friends and relatives die next to him, was numb with drugs and had to hide to avoid being killed. Now he is happy and he has become an example, and role model, that it is indeed possible to escape, do more.

As a child he was a good student, but the home environment was far from idyllic. His mother had lived on the street and worked by accompanying illegal immigrants to the United States, while his father had joined the army; Eric thus grew up alone and even as a boy went to parties where alcohol and drugs were widely available.

He dropped out of school, was tagged with labels such as "donkey", "dysfunctional" and "drug addict"; as a teenager, he ran with boys who were six years older than he was, and that did the rest, moreover in the years of Ciudad Juárez's worst violence. Without realizing it, he found himself entangled in a gang, with a gun in hand and marijuana in his pocket, busy having to defend their territory, or turf, in each and every way.

But the worst was yet to come. In just five months in 2009, six of his cousins, a brother-in-law and his best friend, were killed. Eric looked very much like one of his cousins, so much so that on several occasions they mistook one for the other; the last time was when the killers burst into the funeral home to make sure they hit the right person. It was at that moment that Eric decided to escape, hide and get away from violence.

Eric has now been composing rap songs since 2003. Argumentation, social criticism and ethics have become his weapons. He has released three albums, a dozen videos on Youtube and he's about to finish writing a book.

At home they were not religious, and there was only one image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus before which to pray when his parents quarreled. "Our grandmother asked and it worked, because then they stopped." As a child, he attended one of the Salesian oratories in Ciudad Juárez, the Don Bosco, and since 2003 he has dedicated himself to rap, penning songs and performing as "Ponce PX1". Once a Salesian asked him at a Mass to improvise the Our Father in rap form and it was a huge success.

His career is definitely on the rise, but he hasn't forgetten his roots and does not want to give up his work with young people, helping them get a second chance.

Alberto López Herrero

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