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Mexico peace tour: Visit spurs Durango residents to venture outside

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Tomas Bravo/Reuters

(Read caption) Mexican poet Javier Sicilia (c.) arrives to a peaceful demonstration in Monterrey on June 7. Hundreds of Mexicans began a week-long procession through Mexico on Saturday to protest the country's bloody drug war.

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Despite arriving two hours late, the Peace Caravan receives a surprisingly busy welcome in Durango.

The week-long caravan, led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, reached the city at 9 p.m. on Monday, the third day of its trek across northern Mexico to the US-Mexican border. But the streets are full of people – something extraordinary for this city, where in the past couple of years an unofficial curfew usually starts at around this time.

Hundreds of people are out, cheering the caravan on in a touching welcome. The central Plaza de Armas is even more impressive. It is dark out, but people have stayed out listening to the music coming from the stage that has been set up.

“This is something we haven't seen in a while,” says Ángel Gutiérrez Félix commenting on the crowd. “At this time there are only a couple of cars around the town square.”

The caravan was scheduled to arrive earlier in Durango, the day's final destination, but it stopped on the road to Durango, the day's final destination, so that Mr. Sicilia could talk to the people who set up welcome committees along the way to share their stories.

Like Sicilia, whose son was murdered in late March, those on the way had painful stories to share. A six-year-old boy lost his father. A group of school teachers reported a male colleague they accuse of sexual abuse against girls at school.

Not only have they been victims of violence, but they feel they have not been heard by the authorities, who have not investigated their cases.

In the shadow of drug violence

A beautiful sunset lies at the horizon over the desert, but the caravan organizers are nervous. The caravan, made up by 13 buses and dozens of private vehicles, needs to reach Durango before nightfall. Despite a convoy of police cars guarding the group, security remains a concern, especially in this state, one of the most violent in Mexico at the moment. It has the second highest rate of kidnappings.

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