Modesto the Juárez giraffe who became a towering symbol of the border city’s resiliency died Wednesday morning.
The 22-year-old male giraffe was the popular star of a one-animal “zoo” at Parque Central since his arrival in the Borderland in 2001.
The more than 15-foot-tall animal was believed to have died of heart trouble, though a necropsy will determine the cause of death.
The Juárez city government and the FC Juárez Bravos soccer team both tweeted condolences and thanks to a giraffe who was a local icon.
“You were and will always will be in the hearts of Juarenses,” the city tweeted.
A generation of Juárez children grew up visiting Modesto, hand-feeding him alfalfa-soy pellets from a gumball machine through a chain-link fence. Uniformed students from a nearby prep school would bring him apples, oranges and bananas at lunch time.
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Modesto was purchased in Florida and brought to Juárez as part of a plan for the creation of a zoo that never materialized, according to El Paso Times archives. He became a solo attraction.
When a drug cartel was ravaged by Juárez a decade ago, Modesto remained standing tall as a wholesome oasis for families.
In 2011, Modesto was featured in a New York Times article titled “A Long-Necked Sign of Hope for a Frightened City.”
Modesto the giraffe was “more than just another oddity in this bizarre borderopolis of malls and murders. He has become a magnet for people trying to escape fear and the cooped-up life caused by violence,” the New York Times stated.
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The African savannah animal was rugged enough to withstand the border’s desert climate but it was his loving attitude with visitors that ended him to fans.
A Facebook page dedicated to “Modesto, Jirafa de Juárez” chronicled his adventures. The page on Wednesday featured a photo of the Modesto with a halo and angel wings.
The fan page stated: “Adiós Juarenses!! I’m going to miss you so much, it’s my time to leave but always remember me with so much love. Thank you for all your love, I will never forget you. I love you !”
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 915-546-6102; [email protected]; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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