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Jan-02-2011 20:35printcomments

Two Sisters, Two Planets

A hardy shout away from Ciudad Juarez, El Paso experienced a dramatically different reality in 2010

Santa Fe bridge
The Santa Fe bridge connects Ciudad Juarez and El Paso (courtesy: Texas A&M University)

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - Hugging a common land and embracing a sisterly river, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are linked in a zillion ways. But in 2010, the twin cities might as well have been on different planets.

Depending on the press or law enforcement source, anywhere between 3075 and 3156 people were murdered in the Mexican city and the adjacent Juarez Valley. Of the victims, 304 or 306 were women, again depending on the source.

In the state of Chihuahua, about 5,400 people- including more than 400 women- reportedly fell victim to homicide. Both the female murder toll and the overall homicide rate represent unprecedented numbers for Ciudad Juarez and the wider region south of the border.

Since many murders are not reported or even sometimes deliberately concealed from the public, the actual murder toll could be higher. Last year’s homicide statistics prompted banner coverage in the Ciudad Juarez and Mexican press.

According to the Ciudad Juarez Internet news site “The wave of violence initiated during the month of November 2007, which has led to the characterization of Juarez as the most violent city of the world, has continued its unalterable growth over and above official efforts that have concentrated as many as 12,000 soldiers, federal police and local cops under what was called Joint Operation Chihuahua and then its successors.”

After graphically describing the numerous ways in which ”women, men, children and old people” were slaughtered in 2010, another Ciudad Juarez news site,, commented: “Thousands have fled the violence in Juarez and the state of Chihuahua. Commerce and economic activity stand devastated.”

A hardy shout away from Ciudad Juarez, El Paso experienced a dramatically different reality in 2010. Five people were reported murdered in the US city- the lowest number in 46 years. Unlike Ciudad Juarez where impunity reigned supreme, all the 2010 murders in the Sun Bowl city were solved or saw arrests.

Within the El Paso crime statistics registered through December 25, assaults jumped from 10,801 in 2009 to 11,574 in 2010, while robberies increased from 429 to 473 during the same time period. However, burglary, larceny, auto theft, vehicle burglary and murder were all down in comparison with 2009. Overall, El Paso’s crime rate dipped at least one percent from 2009 to 2010. Although stray bullets said to have originated from Ciudad Juarez struck UTEP and El Paso City Hall on a pair of occasions last year, border “spill-over” violence from Mexico’s so-called drug war was virtually non-existent in El Paso.

It’s important to add that El Paso’s crime rate decreased precisely in a time of significant population growth fueled by the expansion of Fort Bliss as well as the refugee flight from neighboring Ciudad Juarez.

According to Lapolaka, 36 people were murdered in El Paso from 2008 to 2010, the war years in Ciudad Juarez and an era when more than 7,000 people were slain in the Mexican city. Far more people were murdered in Ciudad Juarez in one year, 2010, than in the preceding 50 years in El Paso. The stark differences between the two sister cities provide plenty of grist for journalists, sociologists, criminologists, policymakers, pundits, and others.


  • La Jornada, January 2, 2011. Article by Ruben Villalpando and Gustavo Castillo.
  • January 1 and 2, 2011.
  •, January 1, 2011.
  • El Diario de Juarez, December 31, 2010. Article by Luz del Carmen Sosa.
  • El Paso Times, December 31, 2010. Articles by Adriana Chavez and Maggie Ybarra.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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