Once the World’s Most Dangerous City, Juárez Returns to Life

Amid drug wars, Mexico began fixing the local justice system. Now crime is down and residents ‘are losing their fear.’

As night falls over San Antonio, a shantytown turned neighborhood with concrete-block houses, rugged streets, and few trees, children head excitedly to a warehouse stacked with tires. There the din of Ciudad Juárez recedes, replaced by grunts, slaps, and thuds—bam!—of supple young bodies slamming onto canvas.

The makeshift wrestling ring, fashioned from iron and cable scavenged from junkyards, belongs to Inés Montenegro, who opened it two years ago after one of his sons suggested the neighborhood’s children needed somewhere to play. In Mexico lucha libre, a style of pro wrestling with masked fighters performing scripted acrobatic moves, is a national obsession. Montenegro’s funky arena was an instant hit.

Tonight four boys ages 11 to 15—Omar, Alfonso, Eric, and Antonio—hurtle against the ropes, which slingshot them into the center of the ring. They bound gleefully, learning the choreography for such classic moves as the “tiger jump,” vaulting melodramatically into the ring, and the “scissors,” jumping from the ropes to wrap your legs around your opponent’s neck.

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