JUAREZ, Mexico- The people who come from places with bad raps know their international reputation. When you visit these places it is common to be met with a a touch of insecurity from the local population who often assume that you only know their home as the crime ridden cesspools that the international media broadcasts them to be. This is never more true than in Juarez, Mexico, a border town inauspiciously positioned just to south of the Rio Bravo.
Often called the murder capital of the world, Juarez is best known to the world as a war zone, as a place where drug traffickers shoot it out with their rivals, a place where a stroll down the street possesses a very real risk of catching a stray bullet. Last year, over 3,000 people were murdered in Juarez alone, a whopping homicide rate of 230 per 100,000. For comparison, the overall murder rate in Mexico is 18 per 100,000; in the USA it is 4.8.
But this year Juarez is looking to turn their reputation around. The crime rate has been down 50% over the past six months, and the city’s residents are looking forward to better days. Touting a city as an international manufacturing epi-center home to 200,000 jobs a literal stones throw from El Paso, Texas, Juarez is throwing a massive party. For 16 days starting this Thursday, Juarez will have a festival to celebrate what city residences hope is a turning of the tides. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev are scheduled to attend, and events, ballets, concerts will fill the city.
“We want to show the world it’s not true what people say, that this is a hamlet of terror … that this is a ‘Mad Max’ place,” said spokesman Sergio Armendariz, spokesman for the event known as Juarez Competitiva — “Competitive Juarez.”
But as the city busies itself with preparations the the celebration the violence continues unperturbed. Last Wednesday, 14 people were murdered, including four police officers, which brings the yearly murder count to over 2,000.
Would you travel to Juarez for this festival? Let us know why or why not?