Violence in Ciudad Juárez jumped around 1993, as the Colombian monopoly broke down and the domestic retail market expanded. The city quickly developed a reputation for lawlessness; every time I visited it back in the 1990s or early 2000s, my mood could be charitably described as “edgy.”
Yet, as Diego Valle points out, its reputation was undeserved. He compared homicide rates in three cities: Juárez, Toluca, and the Mexico City borough of Miguel Hidalgo. Toluca is the capital of Mexico State, about an hour to the west of the national capital, and it was a place where it would never have even occurred to me to be worried about violence. Miguel Hidalgo contains some of the nation’s richest neighborhoods, and is pictured above. Carjackings and muggings were a threat, but it was not someplace where fear of crime was particularly vivid, at least not for me personally.
And what do you know? Until the recent explosion, both were more violent than Juárez. The first implication, as Diego argues, is that what is going on now in the northern cities truly is something new, and not simply the extension of an ongoing trend. The second, well, pace this comment, is that perceptions and reality can greatly diverge, particularly in terms of violence. Other thoughts?