Posted by Abe Sauer on May 23, 2011 07:00 PM
Of all the places in the world that need a geographic rebrand, a good argument can be made for Mexico's Ciudad Juarez being at the top of the list. Actually, about 10,000 arguments — the number of deaths attributed to drug gang warfare in the city in the last few years.
Some of the top, first-page results for a simple Google search of "Ciudad Juarez" include: "Female homicides in Ciudad Juárez"; "All about the brutal murders of Ciudad Juarez"; "Ciudad Juarez sees 40 killed in violent weekend"; "Ciudad Juarez residents flee Mexico's 'dying city'"; and, "Drug War in Mexico - A Ciudad Juarez Neighborhood on the Brink."
No surprise, much like a man trying to escape a sordid past, the blood-soaked city is changing its name. Almost.
The Chihuahua state Congress has announced that the city heretofore known as Ciudad Juarez will now be known as Heroica Ciudad Juarez — meaning "Heroic City of Juarez."
The name tweak, the official thinking goes, pays tribute to the city's historic contribution to the Mexican Revolution 100 years ago — and will somehow wipe out (er, modify) any other bloody associations with "Cuidad Juarez.
So, copy editors, make note. From now on, instead of "Murders Continue in Juarez," the headline will read "Murders Continue in Heroic Juarez."
Joking aside, nobody is under the misapprehension that a name change (or a name addition, more accurately) is going to change the city's reputation. That will take a fundamental change in, literally, city life. And that's happening.
"Heroic Juarez" has seen its murder rate fall to just four people per day, nearly a two-thirds drop from October of last year, and half of the 2010 average of eight murders per day. While Heroic Juarez isn't going to pop up on a Travelocity Weekend Getaway list any time soon, it certainly is headed in the right direction (in crime stats, if not perception).
Since President Felipe Calderon began his war on the drug cartels five years ago, Juarez has become a kind of modern day Battle of Stalingrad, where civilian casualties are high and the outcome has the potential to define the direction of the war between the cartels and the government.
Ironically enough, Stalingrad (today known as Volvograd Volgograd) was awarded the honorary title "Hero City" (город-герой) in 1945 for its historic contribution to fighting the Nazis.