Will Peace ever come to Juarez?

I have a favorite city in Northern Mexico that I have loved visiting for as long as I can remember. I loved going to the theatre, the bullfights, its many dance venues and my all time favorite a two story downtown market place. There you can buy some of the most delicious tacos and horchata beverage in all of Mexico!

Ciudad Juárez was at one time the fastest growing city in the world, that in spite of the fact that it is "the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones.

Locals call it Juárez and it was once known as Paso del Norte or Pass of the North. I love visiting the city and have several relatives, as well as life long friends trying to live and survive each day. They tell me that no one goes out at night - even if one has an emergency, it has to wait till day break. My cousins rush to their jobs each morning and run any errands during their lunch hours, before rushing back home after work, praying they will not get caught in an unexpected cross fire.

Juarez is an international port of entry with four major bridges that connect it and El Paso, Texas. The combined total of legal crossings for 2008 was a total of  22,958,472 people. This makes Ciudad Juarez a major point of entry and transportation thoroughfare for all of central northern Mexico.

The city is also known for its industrial centers which include more than 300 maquiladoras (assembly plants) located in and around the city.

According to a 2007 The New York Times article, Ciudad Juárez "is now absorbing more new industrial real estate space than any other North American city."  In 2008, FDi Magazine designated Ciudad Juárez "The City of the Future". 

Sadly however, the city is also the site of widespread poverty and violence, including an infamous series of unsolved murders of female factory workers. The violence generated by the narco-insurgency translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. There were 2700 in 2009 and over 1600 so far in 2010.

Juárez, had one hundred and eight times more murders than the most murderous city in the United States of Memphis Tennesee with 25 murders in 2009.

The death toll in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas has about 1 and a half million residents, has risen steadily as drug cartels and their associated gangs fight for territory along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The city's deaths in 2009 came close to that year's toll for all of Afghanistan, which is a country of 29 million and where a war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have been waged since 2001.
U.S. officials explain the violence in Ciudad Juarez as the result of turf battles for control of heavy trafficking routes.

But the cartels are not the ones affected by the violence.

Each of the victims had loved ones and family.

Parents, spouses, and children along with friends and neighbors – tragically lost someone these past three years.

The city has become the center for drug traffickers because of what's happening on the Northern side of the border. Our demand for drugs sustains the market and U.S. laws do little to prevent the illicit trade; weapons purchased at swap meets and gun shows go into Mexico, cocaine, meth and marijuana and other drugs come out.  Making a once bustling and peaceful border city more of a war-zone.

For comparison - Juarez had more than 2,700 murders (estimated in 2009).

AFGHANISTAN: 2,932 deaths total since 2003.

Poet and border native Benjamin Saenz increasingly pens poems of border violence. His latest came after a night at the Kentucky Club. A great bar made famous by Kentuck Derby betting and Mariyln Monroe. The bar is located on one of the tourist streets leading into the city, Avenida Juarez. He wrote it on a late night visit there on May 7, 2010. 12:37 a.m.

Young soldiers, rifles slung over their shoulders, pace the dead and empty street.

Seven people laze out of the Kentucky Club, searching their pockets, looking for change to pay the toll.

Charon does not take money from the living -- but the turnstile is hungry for coins.
Sober in their drunkenness, these ragged pilgrims place their quarters in the slots and begin their journey home.

They carry the weight of the evening, carry the weight of this sad and singular thought: Juarez is dead. Jua...rez is dead.

The immigration agent checks the passport of a young woman: What were you doing in Juarez?

Do you have a death wish?

When he asks the next man in line if he has anything to declare, the man laughs: I would like to declare my sadness.

I would like to declare that all my dreams are dead.

A man -- alone -- is making his way over the bridge.

No hurry in his steps.

He remembers another time, the streets full and teeming with commerce and expectation.

He stares out into the lights of El Paso, his back to Juarez.

He listens to the echoes of the empty streets.

The laughter and dancing are gone.

Nostalgia is his only consolation.

A handsome man, well dressed, in his early thirties, rushes across the bridge.
In twenty minutes he will be dancing in the nightclubs of El Paso.

If the killings never stop, then neither does the dancing.  -Benjamin Saenz

Pray that Peace comes to Cuidad Juarez - and soon.

Make it a dia of prayer and reflection.

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