Friday, August 1, 2008

The endless death of Juarez

On New Year's Eve 2004, I was assigned to cover a bowl game in El Paso. For those who follow football, it was the Sun Bowl, a surprisingly entertaining matchup between Arizona State and Purdue.

While I was in town, I ventured across the Rio Grande into Ciudad Juarez, an industrial Mexican center of about 1.3 million. I had a pretty good time, buying extremely cheap goods from the markets, enjoying a Tecate at a cafe along Avenida Juarez and joking around with the locals.

Sadly enough, I can't see myself returning to Juarez in the near future. GQ tells the story of a city that has plunged into lawlessness and incomprehensible violence. In the first half of 2008, there have been more than 500 murders in Juarez. Five-hundred!

For an imperfect comparison, consider that New York City - the largest city in the U.S. by more than 4 million residents - had only 494 reported murders in all of 2007.
Here's a terrifying passage from Charles Bowden's piece: "I see no new order emerging but a new way of life, one beyond our imagination and beyond the code words we use to protect ourselves from the horror of violence. In this new way of life, no one is really in charge—and no one is safe. The violence has crossed class lines. The violence is everywhere. It has no apparent and simple source. It is like the dust in the air, part of life itself."

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