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Juarez and El Paso - Trading Places

Mexican officials would like the rest of the world to believe that tourism travel to the country is still safe – as long as you follow the signs. According to a New York Times piece, the foot of a bridge that connects El Paso with Ciudad Juárez is a place of warning from a U.S. Border Patrol officer: pedestrians should not stray once they reach the Mexican city.

This bridge connects one of the safest cities in the United States with one of the most violent in the world. Those who visit are said to be fine as long as they stay on the main road - it is the side streets that hold the most danger.

On the other side of the bridge, boyish Mexican soldiers stand around, weapons in hand. Men tend to linger in front of tire and empty storefronts and beggars pull at the coats of those walking by.

In the last massacre in the city, 16 were dead and most of them were teenagers. This event occurred just two weeks ago. Last month, the city was home to nearly 250 homicides – about one every three hours. In 2007, the city endured 300 homicides in the year; in 2009, homicides jumped to 2,660.

If looking from above, it is easy to assume that the lights of El Paso and Juárez are blending into one single urban environment. The stark differences emerge from the drug-cartel war that broke out in Juárez two years ago. The raging violence has led to the killing of thousands and the beginning of a general air of lawlessness.

Those who seek peace are fleeing to El Paso, when only a few years ago, citizens of El Paso would come to Juárez for an adventure. Now, they will only find violence and lawlessness.

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