Sara Miller Llana, Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 2011
Ghost towns are nothing new in Mexico. Entire villages have long been left empty, as residents with no way to make a living migrate to the US for jobs.
But now a force beyond mere economics is causing Mexicans to shutter their windows and flee: drug violence.
An official in the state told the Associated Press that some 700 had left their homes and slept at a water park in Buenavista Tomatlan this week. Others have moved temporarily into community centers and churches. Local media has reported that up to 2,500 people have fled the various towns in this part of the state in recent days.
This mass evacuation comes after one in November, in which hundreds of residents in Ciudad Mier, in northern Mexico, fled for a neighboring town, after the drug group the Zetas issued a letter saying that if any residents remained they would be killed. Some 400 left and have since returned home.
In Mexico, some 230,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), based in Norway.
Most have left northern Mexico, especially in towns like Ciudad Juarez that have been in the crossfire of drug violence. That city’s Municipal Planning Institute has reported that in 2010 up to 116,000 homes were vacant. According to the IDMC, using survey data from Ciudad Juarez, in 2010 alone some 230,000 fled their homes.
About half went north to the US, leaving some 115,000 internally displaced people in Mexico.
It will not be surprising if more towns empty out in the face of drug violence, which has spread throughout the country.