Mayor hopes outdoor playground near Paso del Norte International Bridge will attract tourism
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 street vendors around the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Plaza de Armas Park. The changes will continue in the coming months with the development of an indigenous market a few blocks from the Paso del Norte International Bridge. The City Council has already committed almost $1 million to the latest project.
“We plan to provide (indigenous people) with a decent space where they can come in their national clothes, sell their arts and crafts, their food from different parts of the country. We want Mexico to have all the diversity,” Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said on Monday. “Those visitors who cross the bridge (Paso del Norte) from El Paso will have (goods) from Mazahuas, Purepechas and Raramuriz” within walking distance.
The market will be located next to Juan Gabriel Plaza on Calle Mariscal, starting at the Kentucky Club and ending in front of Neri Santos Gym, the city said.
Juarez tourism director Jacqueline Armendariz said the market has the potential to increase visitor presence in the city center and turn local vendors into entrepreneurs.
“The idea is for people to know where to find them and for (suppliers) to establish working relationships,” she said. For example, a customer might buy a leather belt from them one day and come back the next to order 10 for friends and family or to resell overseas.
Business groups earlier this month raised concerns that the highly publicized outbreaks of violence in Juarez could hamper tourism and investment. Pérez Cuellar said he had met with business leaders earlier Monday to reassure them that overall crime had dropped and that “80 to 90 percent” of the violence was not accidental but rather the result of disputes between drug dealers.
“A very high percentage of murders is associated with the sale of drugs. Addiction affects us the same way it affects the rest of the world. You can’t influence drug sales if you don’t address the problem of addiction first,” he said, adding that the city’s health department is ramping up its drug prevention efforts.
Juarez police told Border Report that the main drugs they encounter at the murder scenes are methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.