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Border & Immigration

The Sweet Music Of Hope In Violent Ciudad Juárez

Members of the Azteca Sangre Orchestra play during the group's debut concert in June in Ciudad Juárez.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Members of the Azteca Sangre Orchestra play during the group's debut concert in June in Ciudad Juárez.
Juarez Youth Orchestra

Amid the gun blasts and blaring sirens in violent Ciudad Juárez, some sweet music is beginning to emerge.

A new youth orchestra in this Mexican border city recently debuted as part of an effort to steer the next generation away from violence.

Juarez Youth Orchestra
Juarez Youth Orchestra

The name of the orchestra, “Esperanza Azteca”, means “Aztec Hope.” These children, ranging from 6 to 18 years old, live in the city that's been dubbed Mexico's murder capital.

Drug related violence has transformed the youth of Ciudad Juárez into a recruiting pool for criminals and killers. The kids in this ensemble said they want a different kind of future.

“I think this orchestra is really cool (because) it helps you learn music,” said 11-year-old Luis Reynoso, who plays the clarinet. “And I've been getting better grades in school.”

This group is part of a national program funded by Mexico's second largest television network, “TV Azteca”. It involves some 5,000 children spread across 23 states.

Guillermo Quesada, the conductor of the orchestra in Juárez, said the kids are committed to improving their musical skills.

“The kids are there all the time. All the time,” Quesada said. “I thought from the beginning that we would have a few show up and then a lot quit, because of the hours. But, instead, nobody's quit!”

The kids who play come from the humblest of “barrios” to country club mansions. Ten months ago, many of them had never even picked up an instrument.

For their debut, the 220-member orchestra played “Oh Fortuna” by Carl Orff. Many hope that these children and their music will lift the fortunes of this battered city.

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