Ciudad Juarez was the most violent city in the world. In 2010 the Mexican city's 1.5 million inhabitants saw over 3,000 homicides. Now it ranks 37, far behind U.S. cities like New Orleans and Baltimore.
Today, little by little, the 450,000 citizens who fled the city's cartel violence are returning. New businesses are springing up, headlines feature mass weddings instead of massacres, and the circus is in town again after a seven-year hiatus. The dusty border town once defined by horrific violence and narco culture is coming back to life.
Before the war, Juarez embraced its hard knock roots and cartel bosses walked the streets like movie stars. This has changed. More and more young people would rather pick up a part time job than a pistol. The city’s youth have seen death first hand. In fact young people between the ages of 14 and 25 saw the brunt of the conflict. Now they want a different life.
The official narrative points to government intervention, a decade of outreach programs, and investigative policing for the drop in violence. Others suggest a deal between rival cartels. But on the street level, ending decade long neighborhood rivalries, and a tendency to kill, is often a personal struggle.
The photojournalist Dominic Bracco II's reporting follows Diego, a former gang member on his personal journey for reconciliation and redemption.