Playing music to escape Mexico murders

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Esteban Ruiseco is exactly the type of teenager Mexico's ruthless drug cartels prey upon. The 15-year-old comes from a broken home and has dropped out of school twice.

He also comes from Ciudad Juarez, which at the peak of the Mexican government's war on drugs became infamous as the most violent city in the world.

In 2010, more than 3,000 people were murdered in Juarez. The murder rate has dropped since then but the threat of violence remains constant, particularly for young people who quit school and are out of work.

But Esteban has found a way to escape.

He is learning the clarinet and has joined the Esperanza Azteca (Aztec Hope) Juarez Youth Orchestra. It is based on the Venezuelan "El Sistema" model and aims to re-connect young people with society.

"Before finding the orchestra, my life had no direction," he says.

"I was stressed all the time. Watching the news on TV you'd see nothing but executed people. Why work if I was going to end up like that?"

Photography and video by Dominic Bracco II; producer and reporter Susana Seijas; production assistant Jorge Lagunas Zavula.

Produced with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

First Person

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