Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua - Increasing violence in recent years in this city and the nearby Valley of Juarez has driven hundreds of people into neighboring Texas.
While the mayhem in Juarez, where more than 5,000 people have been murdered since 2008, has captured headlines on both sides of the border, the plight of Valley towns such as Guadalupe and Praxedis G. Guerrero is less well known, despite 80 gangland killings so far this year.
In Guadalupe, a town of 4,700 some 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Juarez, hitmen working for organized crime burned down 30 homes in less than a month.
Drug cartels want residents out of the way to facilitate their smuggling operations.
On the outskirts of both towns on the Juarez-Porvenir highway, several people were seen this weekend waiting for buses in order to escape this scene of constant violence.
Some of the people, who asked to remain anonymous, told Efe that they were leaving their homes and carrying only what was absolutely necessary with them, since the important thing at a time like this was to save their lives.
“Look, my home was there, the one my husband and I built 30 years ago,” the woman said as she gazed upon her house in ruins that criminals had burned to the ground.
Many choose as their destination Hudspeth County, Texas, with close to 3,500 inhabitants.
They are not only fleeing from gunmen, but also from the action of federal forces, which since 2008 have arrived by the thousands to battle the drug cartels.
One case uncovered by Efe was that of the Aquino Lozano family, now living in the town of Fabens, Texas, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Juarez.
Concepcion Lozano, 75, said she left her home in the Valley of Juarez town of Tres Jacales in November 2009 after soldiers broke into her home and marched one of her sons off to jail for his alleged involvement with organized crime.
In the towns of Guadalupe and Praxedis, a significant number of municipal police have resigned, leaving the former with only one officer and the latter with four.
The parish priest of Guadalupe’s Catholic church, the Rev. Eliseo Ramirez, told Efe that residents are disenchanted because the authorities have all but abandoned them.
That’s why so many have left the area, according to the priest, whose church on Good Friday was attended by scarcely more than 200 of the faithful in this town of almost 5,000 inhabitants, “because few dare to walk down the street,” even in daylight hours.
Not all go to “the other side” (Texas). Many return to their places of origin, such as the “Juarochos,” people who were born in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz and moved decades ago to Juarez to work in the assembly plants known as maquiladoras.
Last Wednesday a group of 162 people returned from Juarez to Veracruz, fleeing from the violence in the city on the U.S. border.
This group of Juarochos was the second to leave Ciudad Juarez, following another 150 people, including children, adults and the elderly, who left 15 days before on their return trip to Veracruz with the aid of that state’s governor.
Some 2,000 Juarochos living in Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, have asked the Veracruz state government for assistance in returning home.
Juarez, a metropolis of 1.5 million people just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, is said now to be the most dangerous city in the world.