He Left Gangs, Drugs, And Violence Behind To Mentor Kids in Juárez

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National Geographic | Pulitzer Center For Crisis Reporting | May 2016

Diego Montejano grew up in a poor neighborhood of Juárez, Mexico, at the height of the drug wars that ravaged the city from 2008 to 2012. During that time Juárez was considered the most dangerous city in the world, with a reported homicide rate of 10 people a day in 2010. Montejano spent his adolescence packaging drugs for the gangs that ran the city and fighting on the streets, using stones and bullets. Like many other children in Juárez, he'd completed just middle school before the streets claimed him. Montejano says that it was like living with two warring personalities: "The Bear" foundpleasure in violence and anger, and "Diego" knew that there would be negative consequences for his actions. But since the violence ebbed in 2012, he has found solace in art, music, and writing as he takes the first tentative steps to turn his life around. Now 19 years old, Montejano works with children and teenagers in Juárez, teaching them how to draw, paint, and rap to encourage them to follow a path different from the one he took.