Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Juarez Wednesday Morning on a Bloody Day

I was in Juarez yesterday morning, visiting with an acquaintance. I hadn't been there in over a month, and I could see signs of more deterioration in the city. Traffic, in places normally heavy, was light. Restaurants that used to flourish are now boarded up. Juarez Street, the quintessential built environment Mexican businessmen imagine U.S. tourists want to see as they cross over to the Mexican side of a border town--souvenir shops, mustachioed salesmen with thick accents pitching stuff ("luke-ing for sommting?"), bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, pharmacy shops, and the seemingly chaotic but relaxed and festive lifestyle of the natives--one of my favorite spots in Juarez, is just not the same. Nightclubs, especially, but also many stores are boarded up. There are no tourists--at all! You can jaywalk just about anywhere because there is no traffic. The Kentucky Club was empty. The street is dirty, dusty, no longer in deliberate imitation of a charmingly crumbling avenue, but now more like a shopping center about to close, with broken windows and graffiti. Driving around town the only difference in visible security measures was heavily armed guards at bank entrances--there has been a rash of bank robberies in the past two weeks--and the little security pickups you run into occasionally are no longer manned by army troops but by federal police. To get back to El Paso I crossed the bridge downtown instead of Santa Teresa because traffic seemed so light, and there were only 3 cars in front of me for inspection, normally an hour's wait or more. I saw no hint of the 21 homicides I learned this morning had taken place there yesterday. In a city of 1.3 million your chances of coinciding with an incident are very small.

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