Violent Juarez Spends Funds On An Image Makeover
Workers set up exposition booths on the main floor of a children's museum that will host Juarez Competitiva.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
October 13, 2011

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico -- Business leaders in Ciudad Juarez are fighting to restore the city's tattered image. Nearly four years of drug violence has disrupted daily life in this city along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Starting Oct. 13, a massive business, cultural and arts expo called Juarez Competitiva kicks off. Organizers hope that the event will once again attract businesses and tourists to the city.

A big part of the expo will showcase the city's domineering maquiladora industry. Gustavo Gonzalez is a general manager at one of those maquilas, a factory called “TT Technology Mexico.” Among other things, workers at the plant make the plastic framework for flat-screen TVs.

Gonzalez is also president of a binational industrial association called Southwest Maquiladora. He said Juarez Competitiva was inspired by a similar expo in Tijuana a year ago. In both events the main goal is similar.

“To change the perception that Juarez is only violent and nothing else,” Gonzalez said.

To say the past four years have been rough in Juarez, would be an understatement. More than 9,000 people have been murdered in a tempest of drug-related violence. Tens of thousands fled the city and the economic recession resulted in the loss of 33 percent of the area’s jobs in 2008.

Only now is the city beginning to show signs of recovery.

While the homicide rate continues to be among the highest in Mexico, it’s down by nearly half compared to last year. Kidnappings are also down and businesses are working together to fight wide-spread extortion.

A day before the kick off of Juarez Competitiva, workers were busy setting up elaborate booths showcasing everything from electronic gadgets to bottled refreshments to lawn mowers.

The event runs through Oct. 28.

Rocio Rentana works in human resources at a local maquila.

“Here in Juarez, we have many people that work and want to be proud of life in Juarez,” Rentana said. “We need to think positive to make this positive.”

All around Juarez there is a sense that people are tired of hiding and living in fear. Thousands attended a recent arts festival that included numerous outdoor concerts.

Karen Yarza is a longtime Juarenze who directs a social service organization.

“We cannot stay in our houses,” Yarza said. “Restaurants and movies and theaters are almost full again, so that's good.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will speak at a dinner during the event. He was invited to share his efforts in combating violent crime and making New York one of the safest big cities in the U.S.

Also attending is former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Mexican President Felipe Calderon will also stop by and meet with heads of international industrial companies based along the border.