As I revisit my wonderful visit to Chihuahua state, I though it might be useful to take a little detour and offer a brief word on safety.
Here is an excerpt from the U.S. State Department Travel Warning dated February 8, 2012:
15. Chihuahua: Juarez and Chihuahua are the major cities/travel destinations in Chihuahua –see map (PDF, 286 kb) to identify their exact locations: You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Chihuahua. The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Ciudad Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in Mexico. The Mexican government reports that more than 3,100 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2010 and 1,933 were killed in 2011. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March 2010. The state of Chihuahua is normally entered through Columbus, NM, and the El Paso, Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX, ports-of-entry. There have been incidents of narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
I feel I’ve done a reasonable job of documenting my visit to the state of Chihuahua. I was in Ciudad Juárez a few years ago and it was scary. The only people I saw on the streets were guys in their twenties with gold teeth and multiple cell phones, police, military, and desperate people. It was scary in the daylight and even scarier as we eased into twilight.
My experience during my recent trip (March, 2012) to Casas Grandes, Nuevo Casas Grandes, and Janos was entirely different. I walked around N. Casas Grandes quite a bit — in the daylight and after dark. The city’s main plaza appeared safe and active. The atmosphere of fear I experienced in Ciudad Juárez was absent.
I ran through my inventory of photos in an effort to find something that would communicate the greatest moment of fear I experienced (outside of the customs officer threatening to make us return to the border to get a car permit) during the trip. Here it is: a group of teenagers hanging out in the main square in Casas Grandes. As we passed by they reacted to the rare presence of gringos by shouting something that was unintelligible to me. By the way, none of them were wearing hoodies.
Here’s another shot, which communicates the paralyzing atmosphere at Constantino’s, a big, well-lit place in Nuevo Casas Grandes (and one which I highly recommend).
Would I return? Absolutely. However; when I return I will — as we did with this most recent trip — cross the border anywhere but in one of Ciudad Juárez’s border crossings. (I was promised an invitation to a conference at Paquime this July. I hope it comes through.)