When the wave of violence that hit Ciudad Juarez intensified in 2008, our city underwent startling changes. We saw some of our neighbors and local businesses leave the city; going just a few miles north to our neighbor El Paso or to other cities in Mexico. We also saw our city’s communal spaces and neighborhoods shut down, dramatically taking a toll on the heart and soul of our city.
However, in the last couple of years, we have witnessed an incredible feat taking place in Ciudad Juarez. We have seen our city fight to reclaim its soul and restore safety and security for its residents.
As an entrepreneur, I was among many that understood the negative economic and social impacts that violence could bring to our city. Ciudad Juarez, after all, has always been a strategic city for people interested in doing business on both sides of the border and for people looking to visit the United States or Mexico.
We didn’t want to lose that advantage because people were too scared to visit, settle or do business in Juarez.
That’s why when the violence escalated; local leaders from various sectors came together to form La Mesa de Seguridad y Justicia, a roundtable that brings residents and business leaders together with government officials to talk about how to collectively address crime and restore public safety.
La Mesa serves as a place where mediation between government, residents, and the business sector takes place. It’s also the platform through which citizens raise concerns about public safety in their own neighborhoods.
The results? In the last five years, we have seen the number of reported homicides drop from 3,057 in 2010 to just 311 in 2015 consistent with most large cities. And this month, Juarez was officially removed from the list of the most dangerous cities in the world.
I wish La Mesa de Seguridad y Justicia—and other sister organizations in Juarez—could take credit for our city’s progress, but the reality is that it has been a collective effort on many fronts.
The business community has brought innovation to Juarez and new training opportunities for our workforce to compete in the global economy.
This year, Technology Hub, a seed accelerator and business incubator in Juarez will be expanding its campus to give Juarenses access to the latest technologies they’ll need to innovate and create new products. If you walk through TechHub you think you’re in Silicon Valley and it gives you hope that the next tech boom could happen in Juarez.
The philanthropic community has found ways to give youth and residents hope to see a future here in Juarez and the ability to congregate in public spaces once again.
La Fundacion Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte has brought philanthropic organizations together to focus on Juarez’s youth, helping them connect with career development opportunities as well as focusing on their well-being. Simultaneously, new public spaces such as a world-class children’s museum in the heart of Juarez as well as old public spaces such as the central markets people shop on the weekends at, have become places where Juarenses interact and build the future of our city.
I could go on forever because the changes that have occurred in the last five years are incredible and worth telling.
However, many of these changes have gone unnoticed by outsiders, even by our neighbors just a few miles to the North. Popular narratives continue to paint Ciudad Juarez as a lawless city running wild with violence and news outlets focus on the once held title as “murder capital” more so than the progress we are making.
With Pope Francis’ visit to our city, there is an opportunity to celebrate the progress our city has made towards rebuilding peace and safety for our citizens.
It’s also an opportunity to tell a different story: Juarez has entered a new era. It’s an era that’s looking at the future of our citizens and the things that make Juarez great.