Community Resilience and Grassroots Strength In The Face of Violence: Juẚrez, Mexico
Juẚrez, Mexico has been faced with brutal violence, well documented in the media, and now being deeply examined in separate but intersecting efforts by two former Bellagio residents. Ricardo Ainslie of the University of Texas at Austin and Daniel Esser of American University have been exploring the crisis in Juẚrez from different perspectives. Ainslie is a psychologist by training, but has taken a multimedia and multidisciplinary approach to analyzing and communicating the impact of drug violence on the fabric of Juẚrez’s society. Over the course of years, he has developed a number of projects, including his Bellagio residency to advance a documentary film and a book that brings to life the stories of the people of Juẚrez, from the highest levels to the most vulnerable communities.
One-quarter of the troops that Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, dedicated to the war on drugs were sent to Juẚrez, and nearly twenty percent of the country’s drug related executions took place in that brutalized city.
One-quarter of the troops that Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, dedicated to the war on drugs were sent to Juẚrez, and nearly twenty percent of the country’s drug related executions took place in that brutalized city. He explores the tensions and impact of the wars through four characters: the mayor of the city, the mistress of a drug cartel leader, a photojournalist, and a human rights activist. Professor Esser’s work remains at the community level as well, taking residents in eight different neighborhoods as his unit of analysis. Esser, an interdisciplinary scholar of international development cooperated with a team of local researchers at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juẚrez for this on-the-ground study, has compiled an extensive data set on these neighborhoods. Surprisingly, Esser found neighborhoods resilient in the face of violence, with trust even increasing slightly in some areas as violence rose. His work will be published shortly, and he hopes that his findings will offer insights for strengthening local resilience in the face of intense shocks in other fragile settings.
It is interesting that all of these different approaches to resilience, from big-data to ethnographic and from a sociological perspective, all find the key to understanding resilience in the local, person-to-person trust bonds that develop (or fray) at the community level.