Juárez, Mexico, a tough call for 2017 WMA regionals: Safe enough?

Who do you trust on Juárez, Mexico, risk?

A week after LSU masters nationals in July, a major regional WMA meet is set for Juarez, Mexico — across the river from El Paso, Texas. A friend called my attention to its reputation for violence. Only a month ago, the State Department listed the city in a Mexican Travel Warning. The specific U.S. warning: “Ciudad Juarez: Exercise caution in all areas. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling after dark west of Eje. Juan Gabriel and south of Boulevard Zaragoza. Defer nonessential travel to the areas southeast of Boulevard Independencia and the Valle de Juarez region.” But the city of 1.5 million is no longer “The Most Dangerous City in the World” or “Murder Capital of the World.”

Last summer, National Geographic found:

Juárez’s once empty streets are crowded again. Around the cathedral, clothing stores and Popsicle shops do a brisk business; cover bands play Spanish versions of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Jailhouse Rock” for shoppers who stop, listen and dance. A children’s museum opened, aimed in part at the 14,000 who the museum’s director estimates were orphaned in the violence. Neighborhoods have organized sports leagues. Parks — including some new ones – are again places to socialize. “People are losing their fear.”

In Juárez homicides have fallen, from 3,766 in 2010 to 256 in 2015. Juárez is no longer on the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world. No cases of kidnapping or extortion have been reported in more than two years. Helped by the U.S. economic recovery, Juárez added 17,000 new jobs in the first half of last year, the best such figure in five years.

Still, the transformation seems credible, though some say it is also the result of an accord between the Sinaloa and Juárez drug cartels. ‘It’s possible. I don’t know,’ de la Vega says. “What I do know is that police are doing a much better job. There are murderers in prison, kidnappers in prison, extortionists in prison.’”

A friend wrote: “Does the USATF have a ransom fund? Oh, I forgot. If they do, it’s probably just for younger athletes.”

Kidding aside, this was a curious choice for a WMA regional. I realize the idea is to spread the meet around, but Juárez has more baggage than masters should be asked to bear.

Another wrinkle: If you’re hopeful of winning a WMA Best Masters award, you have to compete at Daegu, South Korea, indoor worlds or at one of WMA’s regional outdoor meets. Expensive propositions in either case.

Who plans to run, jump or throw at Juárez?

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January 8, 2017

8 Responses

  1. Jerry Bookin-Weiner - January 9, 2017


    I, for one, plan to be there.

    So instead of leading with the positive very positive piece from National Geographic you lead with the negative. Nice work promoting one of the major events on the masters calendar for 2017!

    Did you find out where the areas specified in the warning are in relation to the hotels and facilities to be used? Did you bother to check with the NCCWMA President or with any of the other NCCWMA officers to find out what kind of due diligence they did on our behalf before awarding the meet to Juarez?

    There are areas of plenty of US cities that are included in foreign ministry documents like the State Department Travel Advisory you cite. It doesn’t mean those cities are to be avoided altogether. By concluding that “Juarez has more baggage that [sic] masters should be asked to bear” you are concluding that a place cannot change. I, for one, do not believe that is true.

  2. Scott Hannay - January 9, 2017

    I am involved in Int’l Sales, and have travelled around the globe. I would not travel to Juarez for any reason. This city is dangerous off-the-chart. There is no law and protection, especially for US citizens. It is crazy for the WMA to place an international event in this region.

  3. Ken Stone - January 9, 2017

    Thanks for typo alert, Jerry. Now fixed. As far as contacting region Prez Sandy Pashkin, can you guarantee she will respond? Stay tuned.

  4. Tom Sputo - January 9, 2017

    The State Department warning does state “Exercise caution in all areas.” Unlike what Jerry wrote, this does appear to be problem.

  5. Rex Harvey - January 9, 2017

    I will be attending the NCCWMA Regional Championships in Juarez. I am the NCCWMA Vice-president for Combined Events, which isn’t too important a post, but I will be overseeing and helping in any way needed for the Outdoor Pentathlons and the Throws Pentathlons to be held there. Also I will be attending, along with the USATF WMA delegates, the NCCWMA Regional meeting that is to be held there. Updating the Regional Constitution is only one of the important items to be addressed.

    I am a previous NCCWMA President and know that, unlike the European Region, this meet is rarely a money maker. But rather it usually is a development effort. And it is a unique and important development opportunity that we all should support.

    I look at this visit to Mexico like a visit to New York City. Visiting either, I will exercise vigilance and use common sense as we all always should.

    I have worked Track & Field in Turkey, Iran, Afganistan, Pakistan, Panama, Guatemala, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and other countries of questionable political and security situations and, by using common sense, never had any significant problems.

    Generally I always want to help people like the Juarez government who are working to help themselves, especially when they are working to promote the sport that we love.

    I can guarantee you that especially the Mexican athletes will be welcoming and friendly and luckily will speak more English than we do Spanish. Making international friends is very satisfying and I go to Juarez to do just that.

  6. Rob Jerome - January 9, 2017

    I think Ken raises a valid question here.

    More recent than the National Geographic article is this one:


    I certainly would like to photograph the NCCWMA meet as I did in Costa Rica for National Masters News, USATF.org, etc., but am not interested in losing all my photographic equipment.

    So, details about the location of the stadium, hotels, transportation, security, etc. would be helpful to me and anyone contemplating going to NCCWMA Juarez.

  7. Ken Stone - January 9, 2017

    A friend writes:

    I watched that propaganda video that accompanies your Juarez posting. During a “big city” montage at 2:51, the images are of New York’s Grand Central Station and Times Square, not Juarez.

    To be fair, the narration at that point says that “thanks to things made in Juarez, life is made easier for people throughout the world” or some such nonsense.

  8. Tony Echeandia - January 17, 2017

    I doubt NYC is as Dangerous as Juarez Mexico lol

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