Researchers and professors from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) have been constantly documenting the impact of the violence in the lives of the Juarenses.
Some of their studies have shed light on the exodus of Juarenses to El Paso or to other cities in the interior of Mexico due to the drug trafficking violence. One leading research center, the Centro de Investigaciones Sociales (CIS) in collaboration with the Observatorio de Seguridad y Convivencia Ciudadana have estimated that around 230,000 people left Juárez in 2009, leaving behind more than 32,700 homes abandoned. The researchers have collected data to infer that at least 54 percent of that people –one of the highest estimates of the Juarez-El Paso migration– might have come to El Paso.
CIS’ researcher Alberto Ochoa Zezzatti has been working with artificial intelligence models to make projections for the future of the city. In 2009, his model estimated that the number of killings in the city would reach around 3,000 in 2010, a figure which was very close to the more than 3,100 registered at the end of the year.
His projections for 2011 don’t offer a better picture for the future. According to his estimates, the number of assassinations will surpass 5,000 by the end of this year and the exodus of people from the city will continue. Ochoa’s model estimates that the total population of Ciudad Juárez will go under 1 million people by 2012. Preliminary figures from the 2010 Mexican Census found that 1,328,017 people are living in Ciudad Juárez as of today.
Ochoa builds his models based on patterns of human behavior under different circumstances or variables, such as place of origin, job conditions, education, income and prosperity, among others. It is a heuristic model, which means that it is based in suppositions. Because of that, its accuracy isn’t total.
However, Ochoa’s model looks at the current situation in Juarez through an interesting lens and its findings are a warning of what could happen to the city if the spiral of violence continues at same pace. “The continuing migration of people from Juárez -mostly from middle class- will have a devastating effect on the society”, he warns.
If the trends continue, he says, by 2020 there will be two separated cities in Juarez. One will grow and develop in the north along the border and those areas that are still operating in downtown; the other one will extend through the south, where the most neglected people are living now. Wedged between these two cities there will be a strip of abandoned houses.
While listening to Ochoa I was imagining an apocalyptic city in less than 10 years, but social analysts do their research with the hope that their findings will have an impact in the design of public policies in a way that the worse case scenarios don't become a reality. Hopefully this will be the case.