"El Paso has been witnessing a boom," says Cesar Fuentes, a researcher at Colegio de la Frontera Norte. He says the Juárez exodus has led to economic growth in El Paso. "People used to go to Juárez on a Saturday night because there were better restaurants and bars. Now those are opening up in their own town, and so you don't cross anymore."

Remarkably, too, El Paso has remained almost immune from its cross-canal city's violence. The Texas town is considered one of the safest cities in the States. Yet in an eerie forewarning one day in July, a bullet fired in Juárez hit El Paso City Hall. This summer, both Mexican and U.S. governments reiterated their belief that border security is high priority. But Mexico's outlandish crime rate — 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence in the past six years — continues to make a mockery of any talk of solutions, especially because the appetite for drugs in the United States feeds the cartels.

U.S. drug revenues are estimated to be as high as $80 billion a year, and the majority of the cartels' weapons supply comes from the north. "There are 7,600 gun shops within 50 miles of the Mexican border, and they're selling primarily to drug lords," former U.S. National Security Advisor Robert Pastor told CNN in 2009. "We are part of this problem, and we haven't been significantly supportive."

The campaign Hazlo por Juárez is based on the idea that caring for the youngest residents could help the city escape its fate as a murderous no man's land.
The campaign Hazlo por Juárez is based on the idea that caring for the youngest residents could help the city escape its fate as a murderous no man's land.

Vows of tightening these controls have, indeed, fallen short, as any visit to the bridge connecting the two cities makes clear. It takes the average Mexican citizen two hours to pass the tight security checkpoints heading into El Paso. But folks traveling in the other direction can cross the border in minutes, often strolling across the bridge without anyone taking so much as a glance at what they are carrying.


Teresa Montero, who for the past 30 years has studied the plight of Juárez's children, often recounts an anecdote from her early years of field work: "One day, I found a 2-year-old child chained to a crib [and] left with a bottle of milk for the day," says the academic director at the Autonomous University of Juárez. "Now enlarge that image to thousands of children, and you have the history of Juárez."

As it becomes painfully obvious that more policing is not the answer, many parents and leaders are calling for better care for the young — such as Spider-Man and his friends.

"In just a few more years, these kids are going to be sucked into the narco world," says Leonardo Yánez, an early-childhood development expert with the Holland-based Bernard van Leer Foundation, which funds child-advocacy programs worldwide, including some in Juárez. "Early childhood is the point where a rupture can be made."

But there are few places for kids to go when their parents head to work, which is often. Juárez has more mothers working outside the home than any other city in Mexico — 80,000 formally employed by maquilas alone. Men work ,too, or have gone north, or are slowly dying off (90 percent of the post-2008 murders are of men). Yet only six of every 100 kids in Juárez have access to a daycare facility. As a result, according to Red por la Infancia, 44 percent of working mothers leave their youngsters alone at some point during the day.

Leaving small children alone in any city can potentially damage them, but in Juárez, the consequences can be grave. "You have kids exposed to inhuman levels of violence," Jusidman says, "and then [they are] left without care and support to deal with those experiences."

Through a campaign named Hazlo por Juárez (Do It for Juárez), Red por la Infancia activists are pushing newly elected leaders to fund and expand centers such as the OPI daycare facilities and to double the number of spaces available because, they say, these centers can make a difference in children's lives.

"In 2008, when the violence got out of hand, we saw it immediately in the kids," OPI's Castillo says. The children became aggressive and talked of extreme violence as a normal occurrence, she says.

Teachers can make a difference by asking key questions, Castillo says. When a child talks about wanting to murder his peers, Castillo says, staff can ask, "But that would make your friend cry, right?" or "How do you think his little brother would feel if he could no longer play with his sibling?

"Now the kids who were with us then are calm again," Castillo says. But, she notes, "Every time a new kid comes in, we start all over again, giving them special attention until they are able to shed that edge."


Six-year-old Guillermo's next-door neighbor is a ghost, "un niño" who inhabits the abandoned two-story brick house across the driveway from the boy's small three-bedroom home. "I can hear him sometimes," says the slight first-grader with a buzzcut. "The ghost makes noises but doesn't speak." Down the street, there are more spirit neighbors.

Guillermo's block in the middle-class neighborhood is filled with skeletons of Juárez's recent population flight: abandoned homes and storefronts with peeling paint and blown-out windows. "Those up there are really mean," the boy says, pointing toward the second floor of a vacant building on the corner. His gaze lingers momentarily on the darkness beyond one glassless window before he turns away.

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12 comments
Talk2sk1951
Talk2sk1951

So because Mexico does not give one flying crap about its people...we should bring everyone here and take care of them? The world is a sick and sad place for people. This is not Americas fault. But we have a duty to protect what we do have. Let God take care of the other countries.

Rjr261
Rjr261

This is not America"s fault? Are you kidding? Have you not heard of the rule of supply and demand? If America did not have such a huge appetite for crack, coke, marijuana, steroids, etc. Mexico woul' nt be having drug cartels fighting for "transportation routes" Wake up. This has alot to do with America!

Daria Marjanovic
Daria Marjanovic

Reading this article, I can hear in my head the voice of Joan Baez singing: "Show me the alley where the bombs had to fall..." Because I myself grew up in a very quiet alley with the friendliest neighbors you can imagine, gardens with flowers and birds singing in the trees. And all of a sudden the bombs started falling on people's heads. Unfortunately, the name of the town may sound familiar to you, as it has become the symbol of war - Sarajevo. In Juares it is not called the war, but in my opinion naming the degree of violence is more or less the matter of terminology. But why I am bothering you, good people of Phoenix, with these things? It is only a political question, far away from your children. And it really happens for most of you mostly on TV and newspapers, although the border is only miles away. Like it was happening in Beyrouth or Dublin for the children of Bosnia before the bomb situation. Or for the children in Juares many years ago when Mexico was just a romantic place for vacations. We think too often that things happening on TV to other people can't really happen to us. And only when they come to our doorstep, most people start thinking that maybe it could have been solved before it was too late - with talks, negotiations, fair international agreements, law and justice, police doing their job, judges prosecuting bad cops here and politicians spotting bad guys not only over there. And what can possibly do a simple person who is totally out of horrors of illegal trafficking of any kind? Probably just what La Otras Hermanas are doing - helping to the affected individuals the best way they can. Being simple human beings who really care about other human beings.Being a patriot doesn't necessarily mean being stupid enough to think that we can never ever be wrong about anything. I would like the fellow readers to think about it. The bullets flying over your head change the processes going on in the head. And it can happen to everybody just like it happened to me.Lost European

Stevemallman
Stevemallman

2 weeks on the internet and only 8 comments including mine.Maybe it's about time to shut down and go somewhere else like the northeast where they don't think they have an illegal immigration problem.

Charis
Charis

Hello All,

The good thing is that here in Phoenix there is Las Otras Hermanas. We work with women and their families in Juárez, Mexico providing them with more than sustainable economic opportunities. We are helping a community organization to build a community center for children with a library and childcare. We are working on building a new culture of safe educated children and economically independent women. The women we work with have been part of our programs and have been able to acquire sewing skills and resources as well as business trainings. We support their efforts to conduct workshops on gender equality and we have started a library for children out of the existing center where the women construct a fair trade organic clothing line.

We have a store in Phoenix where you can purchase the items. We are currently relocating to 1524 East McDowell inside of Hair Pollution Salon and will have our grand opening on October 3rd. We are 100% volunteer run organization and ALL of the profits from the store go towards our Income Generation Program.

To learn more email me at charis@lasotrashermanas.org or simply visit our website:

www.lasotrashermanas.org

So despite this awful situation in Juárez, there is something you can do, now, to change lives of women, children, and families in Juárez.

Charis ElliottFounder, Executive DirectorLas Otras Hermanas

Dreamer441984
Dreamer441984

This is very sad circumstances. I truely believe that stopping all illegal traffic on our borders, be it human smuggling or drug trade, and aiding Mexico's government in effectively stopping these cartels, is the best solution for all. If the factories were required to take better care of their employees then honest work could become more appealing again. If Cartel's couldn't move their product to the U.S. then dishonest work would become much harder and less appealing.

Guess
Guess

The truth is many young people consume drugs here in the United States. I say to families here in the USA to start educating their kids about not using drugs, maybe these kids when they grow up are anot the future consumers of drug dealers. Mexican cartels are active because there is too much demand for drugs here in the United States. The key is, if you want to have kids you need to be educated to know how to educate. American Families need to stop the drug use by putting attention to their young adolecents and give the the info about why not to use drugs. If there is no demand here in the USA there will be no supply. No border, military soldiers or laws will stop the cartels. The consumers will stop them by making the choice of not consuming because they know better.

jDub
jDub

Guess, we have been "educating" youth against using drugs for over 40 years. It is the illegality of drugs that keeps the cartels in business. We need to legalize drugs, seal the border, and simplify our immigration policies. Problem solved

Johnny
Johnny

I am from Ciudad Juarez, and everything they say here it's true, what i can say to all our American Friends, is that please for your own safety don't go to mexico, it's really a bad place to visit now.

Anyone can be a victim, not even mayors are safe

Ambeckman
Ambeckman

I have a friend who just moved to Poza Rica on the east side of Mexico to be with her husband who is only a legal citizen of Mexico. Her two children born in the US went with her, they are 3 and 1. I am scared to death for her - she speaks little Spanish and does not know anyone except for a couple of his family members. She has no job and has the kids with her all the time and her husband works 2 jobs to pay debt to his family for going into business with them. I pray everyday for her that she stays safe as well as her children. I have been to Mexico many times...beautiful country but it is being overtaken by drugs in which our country is responsible for supplying. Drugs are horrible, but if we legalized them I don't think our plight would be as bad. It's so messed up and we're now paying the price for not doing something sooner.

CC
CC

That is just scary. . . I can't imagine living a life so full of fear and injustice. It makes me shudder to think about it. . .Now I know to not take my own lifestyle for granted.

 
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