Ciudad Juarez is a vibrant, bustling border town south of El Paso, Texas that has played a significant historical role in Northern Mexico, from its central part in the Mexican Revolution to its more recent reputation as murder capital of the world.
The Rio Bravo del Norte river separates the two cities and combined the fast-growing population currently numbers 2.1 million people. At over 22 million crossings, it is the largest immigration processing center in the world for the US government.
Central to its industrial base is the private maquiladoras or assembly plants which are the greatest source of employment. Originally 80-90% of employees were women due to their superior fine motor skills. The cadre was instituted to create more jobs in Mexico to fill the gap as the American Brasseroes program of crudely treated Mexican migrant labor ended. The maquiladoras are privately held but provide training, education and other benefits to its workers.
The city was Mexico’s largest border city by 1910—and as such, it held strategic importance during the Mexican Revolution. Villa and other revolutionaries struggled for its control (and income from the Federal Customs House), destroying much of the city during battles in 1911 and 1913. Much of the population abandoned the city between 1914 and 1917.
Over time the Revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war. This armed conflict is often categorized as the most important sociopolitical event in Mexico and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. After prolonged struggles, its representatives produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917.
However the Parfido Revolutionale Instituionale party ruled in a quazi dictatorship for the next 70 years, with Pancho Villa being the most colorful ruler—a soldier, politician, schooled in prison and eventual leader, who in his later years became an actor. He also accumulated 27 wives.
Real demoscracy has prevailed only since 2000. President Calderone started the ‘War on Drugs’ in an attempt to bring under control the various drug cartels. This set up a wave of violence where more than 3100 were killed in 2010. With a federal police enforcement push of 8,000 troops (with training funded by the U.S.) that number was reduced to 1600 in 2011 and a much lower rate in 2012. Pena Nieto, the new President says he will continue security measures but focus on public safety. Some say that the violence is largely over because the “right ones are dead” and others attribute the relative peace to the fact that Guzman, the most wanted drug lord in the world has won control.
Sights to see include the Museo de la Revolucion en la Frontera, the large public market square,Mercada Juarez ,where you can buy traditional Mexican wares, the 17th century Mision de Nuestra Senora Gudalupe, the Chavena Fountain, and the Federal Customs House where U.S. President Taft held an unsuccessful summit with Mexican President Diaz to try to enlist Mexico’s help in WW1. There are also many pleasant parks in the area.
Social life “blends” in a border town…..young people easily move from the Mexican to American culture more easily than inland districts. Fifteen year old girls are feted with a quiceanara, something like a sweet 16 party. Over 90% of Juarez citizens are catholic with a 97% literacy rate and the city boasts 3 public and 2 private universities.
Since the crime has diminished, the old night life areas are being restored and many areas of the city are safe for tourists with a local guide in tow. The food is authentically tasty and the people warm and friendly to Americans. Definitely worth a day’s visit and much more colorful and dynamic than El Paso.