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Pope Francis To Find Ciudad Juárez Emerging From Bloody Era

Above: Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he leaves after celebrating Mass in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Francis celebrated Mexico's Indians on Monday with a visit to Chiapas state, a center of indigenous culture, where he presided over a Mass in three native languages thanks to a new Vatican decree approving their use in liturgy.

Aired 2/16/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Ciudad Juarez Pope Francis Will Encounter Is Emerging From Bloody Era

GUEST:

Lorne Matalon, Fronteras reporter, Marfa Public Radio

Transcript

Residents of Ciudad Juárez are preparing for a big day Wednesday when Pope Francis ends his first state visit to Mexico.

He will celebrate Mass in the border town, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

The people of Juárez have endured years of horrific violence from drug cartels vying for power. But the city the pope will encounter is emerging from that bloody era.

Lorne Matalon, Fronteras reporter for Marfa Public Radio, has been reporting on the pope's visit. He said killings crested last year and now are in decline.

"If you're not involved in organized crime, you're perfectly safe. If you avoid certain areas at night, you're perfectly safe," Matalon told KPBS Midday Edition Tuesday. "I think the black-and-white media depictions that danger starts the minute you cross the border is a bit of a hyperbole."

He said that preparations for the pope's visit point to a very different Juárez. The government is asking businesses to stay open, not just past sunset, but 24 hours a day to serve people visiting the city and camping in advance of his Mass.

"In 2010, that would have been a nonstarter," Matalon said.

Authorities in Juárez have been preparing for the big day by blocking traffic from streets surrounding the pope's route and adding extra police, Matalon said. But they're also urging residents to fill those streets to get a glimpse of the leader of the Catholic Church.

"Without being too simplistic, it feels really good there right now," Matalon said.

But he added Juárez residents are still struggling. Matalon described what they're writing in message books for the pope:

"Please come here and, in essence, don't let our government and leaders get away with anything. Please call them on the narco-trafficking and inequality," he said.

Read Matalon's report on the pope's visit here.

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