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Confessions of a violent border town

After three years of gangland warfare and more than 5,000 murders, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Jose Reyes Ferriz, talks openly about the struggle to combat drug violence and police corruption in Mexico.

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A capacity crowd filed past security and into the Santa Rita Room of the Texas Union last week to hear Jose Reyes Ferriz, mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, speak about the history and realities of violence, crime and corruption in the border city. The two-hour-long event was hosted by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LILLAS).

Watch a video of Mayor Ferriz’s lecture.

Mayor Ferriz spent the first hour talking about the history of Juarez and the events that led up to the waves of violence that have embroiled his city. He said the mass influx of workers during the 1970s, coupled with inadequate social infrastructure and public education, have led to neglected children and a generation that has become impoverished and disillusioned.

“Mexico is a society that has a very tight family structure,” Ferriz said. “The fact that we didn’t have family structure made the social structure inadequate to take care of the kids…. Those kids [who grew up] in the 80s are now the kids doing crime in the street.”

According to Ferriz, many “Juarenses” see engaging in crime or cooperating with criminals as the easiest option for making a living and surviving through the city’s turmoil.

Ferriz’s address was followed by a question and answer session by a panel of three experts: Ricardo Ainslie, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology; John Burnett, NPR correspondent; and Cecilia Balli, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology.