JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The City of Juarez has taken the first steps to make its Downtown area more visitor friendly.
It started last week with a ban on roving street vendors in the area near Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral and the Plaza de Armas park. The changes will continue in the coming months with the development of an Indigenous Peoples market a few blocks from the Paso del Norte international bridge. The City Council has already earmarked nearly $1 million for the latter project.
“We plan to give (Indigenous people) a dignified space where they can come in their native dress, sell their arts and crafts, their food from various parts of the country. We want to have all the diversity of Mexico,” Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said on Monday. “Those visitors crossing the (Paso del Norte) bridge from El Paso will have (merchandise) from Mazahuas, Purepechas and Raramuris” within walking distance.
The market will be located next to Juan Gabriel Plaza on Calle Mariscal, beginning behind the Kentucky Club and ending in front of the Neri Santos Gym, city officials said.
Juarez Tourism Director Jacqueline Armendariz said the market has the potential to expand the visitor footprint in Downtown and turn Indigenous vendors into entrepreneurs.
“The idea is that people know where to find them and that (the vendors) establish working relationships,” she said. For instance, a customer may buy a leather belt from them one day and come back the next time to order 10 for friends and relatives or for resale abroad.
Business groups earlier this month expressed concern that highly publicized outbreaks of violence in Juarez may discourage tourism and investment. Perez Cuellar said he met with business leaders earlier on Monday to reassure them overall crime is down and that “80 to 90 percent” of the violence isn’t random, but rather the result of disputes among drug traffickers.
“A very high percentage of murders have to do with drug sales. Drug addiction is affecting us as it is affecting the rest of the world. You cannot make a dent on drug sales if you don’t address addiction first,” he said, adding that the city’s health department is ramping up its drug addiction prevention efforts.
Juarez police have told Border Report the main drugs they run across at homicide scenes are crystal meth, heroin and marijuana.