The Most Dangerous City in the World Tour
by Mark Nizer

Dateline: August 2016

I was booked to do four 90-minute shows in two 4,000-seat venues in two days as part of the Chihuahua Festival of the Arts in Mexico. The theaters were in Juarez and Chihuahua, two cities located in the largest state of Mexico, also called Chihuahua. I was excited to experience a new culture and expose my wife and youngest daughter to it, as well.

We googled Juarez to get some leads on what we were getting into, learn some more about the area's culture and decide what we'd do when we got there.

We were dismayed to learn that, according to The Express (a British tabloid), the city had been deemed "THE MOST DANGEROUS CITY IN THE WORLD," largely due to the area's drug trade. Google it yourself and you'll see it's been noted for murders, kidnapping and more. Granted, The Express may tend to sensationalize things. However, its description was backed up by National Geographic, which, to me, is the bible of city reviews.

"It's the Mexican ghost town deemed so dangerous, even police don't dare enter," wrote The Express. "Run by criminal drug cartels, only 5,000 of the original 60,000 inhabitants have dared stay. The rest fled in fear of their lives or were brutally killed."

The Express went on to describe gruesome brutalities involving shootings, stabbings and burnings that led to the town being dubbed the "Valley of Death." In 2015, in fact, the town saw a shocking two murders per day.

Needless to say, my wife and daughter backed out of joining me. My mother offered to pay me what I was getting for my performances to NOT GO. I told the presenter I had concerns about my safety. He understood, but expressed his exasperation that this is a consistent problem and that the city and state of Juarez and Chihuahua were safe.

However, the information I learned online scared me pretty badly, so I replaced my wife and daughter as traveling companions with my friend "Kevin" (probably not his real name), who agreed to come along as my security guard. "Kevin" is the kind of person who can do anything. From woodworking to welding, rebuilding an engine to wrestling a gun-wielding attacker using only his toothbrush and some floss, he is the dude. 

I once asked "Kevin" if he would be on my team in the coming apocalypse and he declined, saying he had other plans and I was not relevant in that timeline. True, all I could bring to the table would be a couple of laughs as we sat around the fire roasting a deer carcass and perhaps fix a weak WIFI signal. But with "Kevin" along, I got permission from my family to embark on an adventure to "The Most Dangerous City in the World!"

We crossed into Juarez at the El Paso, TX, entry point. The first indication things might be dodgy came at the Mexican border checkpoint. No one was there. No need to stop; no one was around. Just come on in ... IF YOU DARE! However, the road coming out of Juarez was packed with people trying to get into the US. We then drove six hours into the belly of the beast to Chihuahua, where my first gig was booked for the next day.

As it turned out, the entire time we were there, I felt not only safe, but also welcomed. Everyone was kind and the massive audiences, which were close to capacity, were amazing. We went out afterwards and wandered the streets until the wee hours of the morning. The scariest thing that happened occurred when our taxi driver, while heading back to our hotel, suddenly pulled down a side street and stopped without consulting us to help jump-start a stranded motorist. Awesome!

But the night before I headed back home, I got a frantic phone call from my wife. Back in my quaint hamlet of Free Union, VA, at the little country store across the street from my house, at 5 a.m., there had been a shooting. My wife and middle daughter had witnessed the entire incident after being awakened by a screaming couple. The man ended up shooting the woman, who turned out to be his wife, as they were fighting. My wife and daughter were both traumatized and are still dealing with the event's aftermath.

So, in a sad and very twisted way, it turned out the most dangerous city in the world actually wasn't the one 3,000 miles away in a country I was afraid to visit, but right across the street from my very own home.

Romero, K. (Jan. 1, 2016). The dangerous ghost town even police don't enter: Welcome to Mexico's Murder Valley. The Express.



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