In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Ricardo Ainslie of The University of Texas at Austin explores the social and economic factors behind recent violence in a Mexican border town.
Ricardo Ainslie is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin where his research interests include such topics as the psychological experience of immigration, ethnic conflicts within communities, and the relationship between individual and collective identity. He recently published The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War, and is now working on a documentary film about how soldiers experience combat. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Ricardo Ainslie – The Drug War and Border Town Violence
In 2008, a clash between two powerful Mexican drug cartels turned the city of Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, into one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Since January, 2008, more than 11,000 people have been killed in Juárez, a figure that exceeds the combined American losses over the course of ten years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bulk of the violence has centered on turf battles between cartel-affiliated street gangs. These gangs are the worker bees of the cartels, but much of their focus is on the local retail drug markets rather than the transnational drug trade.
Poverty and an absence of educational opportunities are the incubators for the Juárez violence. Most of the victims are young men between the ages of 15 and 24 from poor neighborhoods where there are few services and few schools.
In the spring of 2010, the Mexican government launched “We Are All Juárez,” an unprecedented 240-million dollar effort to repair the city’s long-neglected social fabric. Education was one of the program’s key elements; it included building new schools, implementing “safe schools” programs, teacher training, and after school programs – all targeting the neighborhoods and the demographic most implicated in the violence.
In 2012 violence in Juárez dropped to the lowest point since the start of the drug war. The explanations for this drop are varied. My research involves mapping out the impact of the education-related social fabric interventions in order to understand how they may have played a part in reducing violence in Juárez.