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A Rare Night Out in Juarez

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Ciudad Juarez, Mexico -- When the plane lands in Ciudad Juarez, you step into a clean modern airport out in the sunny desert. You rent a car from Hertz or Avis, and drive the main boulevard. It looks like Phoenix. Kentucky Fried Chickens and Payless Shoes and Wal-Mart Supercenters. Then at an intersection, vendors hawk the tabloids, and a front-page photo tells the story: a ribbon of yellow crime tape, a forensic investigator counting shell casings, and the corpse. There have been 770 murders here in 2009, according to the newspaper El Diario, 43 percent higher than last year.

When President Calderon sent 10,000 Mexican soldiers and federal agents to Ciudad Juarez, the citizens accepted military occupation with resignation and exhaustion. There was a brief and hopeful lull. The army generals boasted that in the hot glare shone by their troops, “the cockroaches” – the dealers, smugglers, assassins and enforcer crews of the battling drug cartels – crawled away. Ordinary people began to go out at night, to risk a movie or dinner. “Maybe it’s over.” That’s what everyone said.

Then the killing began again. On Saturday night, four more died in a gun battle on the streets, including a teenage boy and 12-year-old girl caught in crossfire.

To do something, anything, the city government recently began a public relations campaign called “Amor por Juarez,” which is their version of “I [heart] NY.” They give away stickers with a hand making a peace sign wrapped around a heart. There are very popular. You see them on cars all over town.

Over the weekend, the Amor por Juarez campaign hosted a pair of free Christian hip-hop and reggaeton concerts at Revolution Park in the tough Altavista barrio, featuring some local acts, including the group Artilleria Pesada (Heavy Artillery), composed of reformed drug addicts. More than 10,000 came out, including lots of squealing teenage girls.

“This is our way to reclaim some public space,” said Pastor Jose Luis Aguilar. “To show there is still life here, to show something positive. You know we’re good people in Juarez. We’re not all bad.”

Up in the stands, Hector Lopez Hernandez brought his young daughters for a night out of the house. “I can’t tell you how sick and tired we all are,” Lopez said, “of all this.” The violence. “We just want to be normal people again, you know, please.”

By William Booth and Travis Fox  |  June 16, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

"Vacation in Mexico! Get exercise running for cover and dodging bullets! Excitement! New numbers every day of dead and injured! Pay your money and take your chance!"

Mexico is spending big money to entice tourists. That money would be better spent on fighting the drug cartels and protecting the innocent peoople of Mexico.

Posted by: Utahreb | June 16, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

What a nice and positive story about Juarez, its wonderful to hear about people who truely care and love thier city. This type of exposure should be on the front pages.

Posted by: achavira | June 16, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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