When photographer Shaul Schwarz visited Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in 2008 to document CNN Hero Maria Ruiz, he found a dangerous world. Blown away by “the craziness of what’s going on down there,” he returned a week later and started an ongoing documentary project.
A local journalist put him in contact with a photographer, who was murdered that same week. The investigator on the case was killed shortly after, in “true Juarez style,” Schwarz said.
Juarez was widely regarded as the world’s most dangerous city in 2010 and was called the second-most dangerous in 2011. While Schwarz considers Juarez “always scary” and never stays for more than a week at a time, his piqued interest has kept him returning.
The border city’s homicide numbers have decreased – with the daily murder rate dropping from about eight in 2010 to six in 2011 – but the murders seem to be spreading across the country.
The drug cartels there “affect so much and so many,” Schwarz said. And as the bad guys continue getting away with murder, much of society has shifted to this “narco culture,” glorifying cartel members as gods by writing and performing music about them, dressing in a similar fashion and creating television shows based on their lifestyle.
“Some (people) walk past (murder scenes) yawning because they’re so used to it,” Schwarz told CNN last month. But it shouldn’t be like that. “There are grave consequences of (the drug) war,” and he wants people on the outside to see its effects.
Documenting the suffering city has shown him “how close, how real it is. How everyone keeps dying, and how the monster always wins.” While documenting Haiti, for example, he said he felt as if he were having an effect – that there would be closure. He doesn’t see that hope in Juarez.
“People stare at this and it’s easy to brush away,” Schwarz said. “But it’s not going away.”
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN