Juarez Fights Drug Cartels with Youth Orchestra

A new youth orchestra in the Mexican border city of Juarez made it's debut this week. From the Changing America Desk, Monica Ortiz Uribe reports the orchestra is part of an effort to steer the next generation away from violence.


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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 Juarez into a recruiting pool for criminals and killers. But not these kids. They want a different kind of future.

“My name is Luis Reynoso, I play the clarinet and I’m 11 years old…I think this orchestra is really cool like it helps you learn music and I’ve been getting better grades in school.”

This orchestra is part of a national program funded by Mexico’s second largest television network. It involves some 5,000 children spread across 23 states. Guillermo Quesada is the Juarez orchestra conductor.

“We rehearse Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6:30. And the kids are there all the time. All the time. I thought from the beginning that you know 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 opening piece the 220 member orchestra played Oh Fortuna by Carl Orff.

Reporting from Ciudad Juarez, I’m Monica Ortiz Uribe.

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