EL PASO — With an increasing number of drug-war killings in Ciudad Juárez, shootouts in broad daylight and random acts of violence such as the burning down of a nightclub, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) administration has warned students and faculty to be extra careful when travelling in Mexico.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “incidents that have occurred are of great concern to the border town of El Paso because a large percentage of residents are international students and/or have family that lives in Ciudad Juárez.”
“It is a very dangerous city. It’s horrible, sometimes it’s very, very horrible,” said Francisco Pallares, an international student at UTEP.
Although Pallares said the situation is horrible he also said, “It’s just how life is. It’s normal to see those kinds of things over there; you get to appreciate life actually.”
Pallares has lived in Ciudad Juárez all his life and now resides in his family’s home alone. Pallares says that he does not expect anything to happen to him.
“I think in some sense I have a moral obligation to stay with those who cannot get out of there and are still fighting in the peaceful sense,” Pallares said.
Although there have been some 3,000 killings in the past two years, many believe that the victims are not killed at random.
“I think that people who travel to Ciudad Juárez should exercise caution and a common sense, but when I look at the numbers I also realize that the violence is not entirely random. It continues to have very strong patterns,” said Tony Payan, UTEP Political Science professor and frequent traveler to Juárez.
Payan said that whoever goes to Ciudad Juárez should learn those patterns because they will help with decision making when visiting family, circulating around the city, or paying a visit to dentists, doctors, or shopping.
The Department of State advises that the situation in northern Mexico remains fluid, especially because the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted. U.S. citizens visiting Mexico are urged to take extreme safety precautions. Assailants have been known to dress like military personnel and police officers and also use similar vehicles.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs said that the U.S. Mission in Mexico currently restricts non-essential travel within the state of Durango, which is located southeast of Ciudad Juárez. The alert specifically warned individuals traveling to and from Mexico to only do the necessary traveling. The alert also said, “Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks.”
Another point the travel alert touched on is that the ordinary every day look is safer for travelers. They warned, “Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.” Wearing high quality items may make travelers a target of violence.
Additional information concerning travel safety and updated travel alerts can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website, http://travel.state.gov.