Ciudad Juarez Mexico
Mexico's fifth largest city, Ciudad Juarez is among its most famous of border towns. Bordered by Texas and its sister city, El Paso, on the U.S. side of the border the two cities are inextricably connected by history, commerce and culture and Ciudad Juárez remains one of Mexico's most active gateways to the U.S. and vice versa.
Though it may be difficult to remember these days, Ciudad Juárez was once a very happening place. During the prohibition era, Juárez became even glamorous as celebrities and all manner of American partygoers flocked here during the Prohibition era for the sort of freedom that one could only find in Mexico. It became so popular that a train line was built to connect Juárez with California and it's millions of eager visitors. The city even became briefly the world's largest maker of whiskey and bourbon as U.S. distilleries relocated to Ciudad Juárez to escape oppressive U.S. laws (and to supply bootleggers such as Al Capone).
Today, the city remains a fascinating melting pot of old and new.
Ciudad Juarez is one of Mexico's more youthful cities. Founded in 1659 by Spanish explorers, it served as little more than a passageway between Northern Mexico and the unexplored Americas. Originally referred to as El Paso Del Norte (North Pass), it was not until 1888 the city was renamed to commemorate Benito Juárez, the opposing Republican who defied his government and set up his own within Chihuahua.
Beaming like a beacon of victory across the square at Constitucion, the neon-lit Carrera Marble monument to Mexican Independence also commemorates the country's 26th President. It is worthy of visiting, purely to admire the work of Italian sculptors Augusto Volpi and Fransisci Rigalt – the former also responsible for the four white marble Evangelists, within the San Francisco de Asís Temple of Tepatitlán, Central Mexico.
Downtown Ciudad Juarez is teeming with architectural marvels, ranging from historic museums to humble Franciscan mission churches built in the 1600's. Of these, the Guadelupe Mission is by far the most stunning – a simple white adobe, housing a wealth of Indian detailing, as well as the sacred wooden statues of “The Immaculate Conception” and “The Pain”. As the parish sprawled, necessity required construction of a bigger place of worship during the mid 20th Century. Although less than 60 years of age, the Cathedral of Ciudad Juarez is an architectural feat to behold, and well worth spending the latter part of a day trip exploring. For a little historic continuity, the red-roofed Museo Histórico de Ciudad Juarez just a stone's throw from the Cathedral should be high on your itinerary. “Las Meninas” by Spanish Court painter Diego Velázquez hangs proudly within the Grand Central Hall, while the Spanish armory artifacts offer a fascinating glimpse into the Spanish domination of Juarez.
Blighted in recent years by the ever increasing problem of drug trafficking; Ciudad Juarez is now central to a power struggle between the Cartels of Sinaloa and Juarez. Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, has “declared war on drug-trafficking” since taking up office in 2006 – a motion now evident on the streets of Juarez, with omni-present armed Federal Forces, and regular road blockades. Such revelations have raised questions over the safety of vacationing within Juarez, but there are “safe zones” and as with any city it's best to check up prior to planning a visit. A number of tour operators within Juarez offer “safety guides” whom can help you navigate, without skipping the beautiful archaic attractions.
Historic relics may be few and far between within Juarez, but it's forgivable once you embrace the bustling modernity of the city. Still the 2nd largest Mexican-American thoroughfare for import and export, the city is an ever-constant whirl of activity. The Rio Grande Mall on the Vicente Guerrero of Monumental District is by far the largest up-market center for fashions and apparel. Home to the world-class department store Fabricias de Francia, the Rio Grande also offers a wealth of boutiques and brand outlets to satisfy shopping hunger. Women clad in Armani sunglasses and tight white Valentinos head to Avenue Lincoln for their designer fix, but for a true Ciudad shopping experience, the bustling markets are the place to be. A boisterous blend of color and confusion; the indoor Mercado Juarez offers contemporary Mexican crafts, semi-precious curios, native leather apparel and charcoal portraiture amid the tumult. Haggling is customary. Bon vivants of Mexican flavors will find street vendor markets around nearly every corner of downtown Juarez, wares ranging from steaming burritos and tacos, to finely ground spices and vegetables.
For all the negative press received, Ciudad Juarez is seemingly intent on riding out the storm brought about by ruthless traffickers. The city remains a vital portal to Texas, yet continues to thrive on it's own merit with an ever developing industrial quarter. The face of hostility might be ugly, but Juarez is still a city of beauty and sophistication – just waiting to be explored!