By Patricia Giovine.
Ciudad Juarez is returning to maps featuring attractions for visitors to the U.S.-Mexico border region around El Paso after two years of being excluded due to a wave of drug-related violence.
"Ciudad Juarez should never have been excluded from the tourist map of El Paso since it's our main trade partner and we are all one region that cooperates one with the other," former city council member and current Democratic congressional candidate Beto O'Rourke told Efe.
During the past two years, the illustrated map distributed at visitor centers in El Paso showed the top destinations for tourists, with the area beyond the border occupied by Ciudad Juarez shown as a desert with just some logos.
The maps, designed by illustrator and current El Paso Business Region Chamber of Commerce president Jose Alejandro Lozano, had always included Juarez, with the exception of 2010, when the Mexican border city was wiped off the regional tourist geography.
The decision to exclude Juarez was made by the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce, which considered it unadvisable to send tourists into such a dangerous city, Lozano said.
"At the time, I agreed, but the situation in Juarez is improving and it's time to support them by promoting the city," Lozano said.
Mexico's Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, will be the main sponsor this year of the map, which will bring back the border city and its attractions, such as museums, shopping centers, the Paquime archaeological zone and the village of Juan Mata Ortiz, known for its pottery.
"The fact that Juarez is appearing once again on the map of tourist attractions in Texas is like a vote of confidence on the safety in the city," Chihuahua tourism office director Demetrio Sotomayor said.
The map of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez area will be published by the El Paso Business Region Chamber of Commerce and Chihuahua, with the Mexican state paying half of the $10,000 cost of printing 60,000 copies of the color brochures, which are distributed at hotels and airports, Lozano said.
El Paso will continue to be the featured destination, but Chihuahua officials can decide which attractions on the Mexican side of the border to include, Lozano said.
The map is not finished, but it currently has the words "El Paso, Texas," in large letters, along with the slogan "Vacation in two nations ... two worlds apart .... a distance of just minutes."
The words "Ciudad Juarez, Mexico," appear in smaller letters at the bottom of the map along with a detailed illustration of the city's downtown.
This is the way it should always have been and those who designed the 2010 map turned their backs on a neighboring city despite the fact that "it is the reason that we (El Paso) are here," O'Rourke said.
"I applaud the fact that our neighbor city is once again being included since Mexicans contribute $4 billion to the economy of El Paso each year and both cities together represent one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world with the most interaction and family ties," O'Rourke said.
Tourism industry and business leaders said they were responding to the travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department, which has advised people at various times to avoid travel to northern Mexico due to the drug-related violence in the region.
The latest travel warning was issued in February and remains in effect.
Both Mexican officials and U.S. law enforcement agencies say murders and kidnappings have dropped this year in Ciudad Juarez, located just across the Rio Grande from El Paso. EFE