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Ciudad Juarez

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For a number of reasons, natural and human, people have recently evacuated or otherwise abandoned a number of places around the world -- large and small, old and new. Gathering images of deserted areas into a single photo essay, one can get a sense of what the world might look like if humans were to vanish from the planet altogether. Collected here are recent scenes from nuclear-exclusion zones, blighted urban neighborhoods, towns where residents left to escape violence, unsold developments built during the real estate boom, ghost towns, and more. [41 photos]

A tree grows from the top of a chimney in an abandoned factory yard in Luque, on the outskirts of Asuncion, Paraguay, on October 2 , 2011. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Scott Dalton

So Close, So Far: Daily Life and Cartel Violence in Ciudad Jurez

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Averaging over 3,000 murders a year, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has become one of the most dangerous cities on earth, a place sometimes called ‘Baghdad on the Border’, or ‘Murder City’.  Located on the US-Mexico border, just across from El Paso, TX, Ciudad Juarez is the epicenter of a struggle between drug cartels that has pushed all of Mexico toward lawlessness. The city has become a bed of tension, its citizens weary and nervous of the gunfire that may erupt at any moment. Yet daily life in Juarez maintains a paradoxical serenity, at once contradictory to and somehow acquiescent in the crisis that is overwhelming the city.

As a photographer I am interested in the often-fragile relationship between people and the places they live, in how individuals, environment, and history combine to create a region with its own culture. In my project ‘So Close, So Far: Daily Life and Cartel Violence in Ciudad Juarez’, I am exploring these ideas through images of daily life in a place where the drug war calls the very concept of “daily life” into question.  Combining environmental portraits and documentary reportage, I hope to document this tragic and historic time in the life of this city, when cartel violence forges an uncertain new reality.

Porfirio Diaz, a former president of Mexico, is famously quoted as saying, ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States’. This proximity has had a profound influence on the history of Ciudad Juarez. Renowned in the past for bandits, smugglers, and revolutionaries, it is now the stage upon which drug cartels are enacting a bloody struggle for control of the lucrative drug routes leading north into the US. With over 30,000 cartel related deaths in all of Mexico since 2006, the country has an uncertain future. In Ciudad Juarez the government has been reduced to picking up bodies and tallying the dead, impunity has spread, life has become cheap, and murder is easy. Yet somehow life goes on.

 

Bio

Scott Dalton is a photographer based in Houston, TX and a graduate of UT Austin in Photojournalism. He was based for 14 yrs in Latin America, mainly in Bogotà, Colombia where he photographed the drug war. He has photographed in conflict zones in Colombia, Nepal, and Gaza; and he has also covered major stories and events throughout Latin America. He spent a year with a paramilitary gang in Medellin directing the award winning film ‘La Sierra’. And he has even been kidnapped by Colombian rebels while on assignment for the LA Times in 2003.

He now works on long-term personal projects shot on medium format film. Currently his focus is the border town of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Before that he spent four years photographing a region in Colombia that influenced the writings of Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez. His photos have appeared in National Geographic, Harper’s, Time, The New Yorker, GEO and many other outlets. In 2009 he was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize and was Top 50 in Critical Mass.

 

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Scott Dalton

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TIGHT SQUEEZE
TIGHT SQUEEZE: A fireman worked to remove a man who was stuck in a space between walls in Liujiang County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Thursday. The man got stuck in the space less than eight inches wide while collecting waste material for recycling. (Zuma Press)

ISLAMIST-LED RALLY
ISLAMIST-LED RALLY: A man stood on his motorbike at a protest in Cairo Friday. Tens of thousands of Egyptians rallied in Tahrir Square with Islamists in the forefront to protest against what they say are attempts by the country’s military rulers to designate themselves as the guardians of a new Egypt. (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)

WELCOME TO BENIN
WELCOME TO BENIN: Women danced at a welcoming ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI at an airport in Cotonou, Benin, Friday. The 84-year-old pope is making his second trip to Africa, the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic Church. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

SHOOTING DRILL
SHOOTING DRILL: Students lay face-down in a classroom during a drill in a high school in a low-income neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Thursday. More than 2,400 high school students and teachers carried out a shooting drill in high-risk areas due to the city’s level of violence, local media reported. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

TSUNAMI DAMAGE
TSUNAMI DAMAGE: A three-story building lay on its side in Onagawa, Japan, Friday. Though much of the debris left by the March 11 tsunami has been removed, there is little sign of rebuilding in communities across northeast Japan. (Greg Baker/Associated Press)

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BY A NOSE
BY A NOSE: Christophe Lemaire, top, rode Dunaden to victory at the Melbourne Cup in Australia Tuesday. Mr. Lemaire beat Michael Rodd on Red Cadeaux. (Racing Victoria/Reuters)

SUN AND SEA
SUN AND SEA: A Hindu woman prayed to the sun god in the Arabian Sea during the Chhath Festival in Mumbai Tuesday. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

BENEFITS BACKLASH
BENEFITS BACKLASH: An elderly woman fought with a police officer during a protest in front of Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev Tuesday. About 1,000 people who assisted with the Chernobyl nuclear cleanup were outraged at planned benefit cuts. (Sergey Polezhaka/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

NO TREAT
NO TREAT: Children dressed in Halloween costumes looked at a crime scene in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Monday. A municipal police officer and his mother were shot dead at her house by hit men, according to local media. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

HELD BACK
HELD BACK: Police detained a Tibetan protester who shouted anti-China slogans in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday. (Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press)

SHIPSHAPE
SHIPSHAPE: A welder stood on the unfinished hull of a ship in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, China, Tuesday. (Jia Ce/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

AT A LOSS
AT A LOSS: Angolan asylum-seeker Mauro Manuel cried during a rally in The Hague Tuesday. The Dutch Parliament denied the asylum seeker’s request. His mother put him on a plane in 2003 for a better future. A Dutch family took him in. (Koen Van Weel/European Pressphoto Agency)

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Migrant shelters along the Mexican border are filled not with newcomers looking for a better life, but with seasoned crossers: older men and women, often deportees, braving ever-greater risks to get back to their families in the United States – the country they consider home. They present an enormous challenge to American policymakers, because they [...]

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Erupting volcanoes, drug wars, famine in Niger, aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, children suffering from Agent Orange disabilities, abortions performed by untrained practitioners in Kenya but also lucha libre for women, traveling cinema in India and couchsurfing in Brooklyn continue

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

EPF 2011 Finalist

Dominic Bracco II

Life and Death in the Nothern Pass

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“There are two ways of thinking about living here; either you go on every day and when it’s your turn to die you die, or you live every day in fear.”
- Daniel Gonzalez, 26, a resident of Ciudad Juarez who later moved to El Paso, Texas.

Sprawled across the tail end of the Rocky Mountains where the starved Rio Bravo pushes mud through a barren desert valley sits Ciudad Juarez, arguably the most violent city in the world — historically known as ‘El Paso del Norte’ or ‘The Northern Pass.’ The last three years the city of 1.5 million has seen over 8,000 murders.

As the drug war rages on violence has become more sporadic and faceless. Random crime has increased. Car jacking, robberies, and assaults are a daily occurrence.In the past five years, over 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez and up to 230,000 people have fled their homes. The economic downturn has exacerbated destabilization.

Drug bosses often offer the equivalent of a factory worker’s weekly wages to perform an execution. The most vulnerable social group is ‘Los Ninis’, young men and women who earned their name from the phrase ‘ni estudian, ni trabajan’ (those who neither work nor study).

According to a recent study by the Colegio de La Frontera Norte, up to 45 percent of all Juarez residents between 14 and 24 fall into this category and make up a quarter of the city’s total homicide victims. Massacres of Juarez’s youth are common – they have been gunned down at parties and targeted at rehab centers. They are killed indiscriminately.

The first mass killing of youths took place in January 2010 when 15 teenagers were gunned down at a party. Another massacre of 14 teenagers took place in October.

Without work or real incentive to work, young people are increasingly turning to the cartels. According to Miguel Parea, a local Juarez journalist, the mentality of many youth is fatalistic: “they say it’s better to die young as a rich man, than to die poor as an old one,” Parea said.

An earlier edit of the project was published on BURN Magazine, sections of the project have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Bio

Dominic Bracco II specializes in documenting the effects of Mexican and North American policies on the border region where he was raised. He has degrees in journalism and Spanish literature from The University of Texas at Arlington. Past clients include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Dominic is also a founding member of the collective Prime. He is based in Mexico City. His project “Life and Death in The Northern Pass” was a 2011 Alexia Foundation Professional Grant Finalist, won 2nd place in spot news in the 2011 POYi competition, and was a finalist for the 2011 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography.

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www.dominicbracco.com

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