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Skateboarder in Ciudad Juárez | © Eneas De Troya / Flickr
Skateboarder in Ciudad Juárez | © Eneas De Troya / Flickr
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Juárez: How the Former World Murder Capital Is Making an Impressive Comeback

Picture of Stephen Woodman
Updated: 15 September 2017
Once considered one of the most violent cities in the world, Ciudad Juárez has sought to reinvent itself in recent years. Although the memories of abandoned buildings and drug violence are still fresh for many, the Mexican border city is looking to attract tourists and investment. Several major international firms have moved into the area and new cultural events and restaurants are being promoted all the time.

Juárez at one time reached near-ghost town status. People would avoid leaving their houses except for essential trips and the city became synonymous with drug cartel violence. Between 2008 and 2012, Juárez almost never made the news except for reports focused on massacres or publicly displayed dead bodies.

Pink crosses mark the spot where eight women were found murdered
Pink crosses mark the spot where eight women were found murdered | © WikiCommons

Many blame government strategy for this explosion of violence. Homicides spiked when the army arrived in 2008 and remained high until they were withdrawn in 2012. It is thought that the army contributed to the fragmentation of cartels, creating splinter groups that would use extremely violent tactics.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the city has completely revamped its image, but it has taken important steps in the right direction. Crime is way down compared to the dark days before 2012.

The local economy has made gains as well, with job growth and new investment. Traditionally an industrial city, the aerospace and auto parts industries are booming. In 2015, the airplane manufacturer Boeing opened a plant in the area. The US industrial giant Honeywell also expanded its operation in the city.

Central Ciudad Juárez
Central Ciudad Juárez | © comefilm / Flickr

These economic gains have prompted a regeneration drive. A major project known as the Historic Downtown Urban Development Master Plan aims to restore buildings and streets in the city center.

The “Juarez is Waiting For You” campaign was launched in 2015 for the purpose of encouraging day-trippers to cross over from the United States. Under 21s looking to drink legally (the age limit is 18 in Mexico) and medical tourists are particularly drawn to the city.

The Museo de Arte has also attracted positive press and visitors. With its unique circular structure, the building looks more like a spaceship than a museum, but the facility has achieved iconic status in Juárez. Located in the heart of the city, the complex stages major events and exhibitions by Mexican and foreign artists.

Turisteando en la ciudad #citacultural #ciudadjuarez #inba #museo #domingoturista

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Juárez’s identity makeover was marked by the founding of a new soccer team in 2015. Officially called F. C. Juárez, but known as Los Bravos, the team won the second division title in their inaugural year. The club has also announced that work is underway on a stylish new stadium.

The rebirth of Juárez is best symbolized by the Tierra Savia project, which provides affordable eco-housing for impoverished families and victims of domestic violence. The cone-shaped structures are made from earth and respond to the problems of pollution and violence that have plagued Juárez for years.