Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields

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Overview


Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Infamously known as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

In Murder City, Charles Bowden has written an extraordinary account of what happens when a city disintegrates. Interweaving stories of its inhabitants--a raped beauty queen, a repentant hit man, a journalist fleeing for his life--with a broader ...

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Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields

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Overview


Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Infamously known as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

In Murder City, Charles Bowden has written an extraordinary account of what happens when a city disintegrates. Interweaving stories of its inhabitants--a raped beauty queen, a repentant hit man, a journalist fleeing for his life--with a broader meditation on the town's descent into anarchy, Bowden reveals how Juárez's culture of violence will not only worsen but inevitably spread north.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bowden (Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing) grapples with the almost incomprehensible levels of violence in Juárez, Mexico. Over 1,600 people were murdered in Juárez in 2008; almost as many were murdered in the first half of 2009 and countless more have been kidnapped. Bowden tries to explain the escalation in violence, but explanation—even investigation—is impossible: witnesses don't come forward out of fear of the police; the police in turn are terrified of the military and the cartels. The military are apathetic and often complicit in the killing, as is the federal government. Journalists report the scantiest facts; many are paid off, and the rest fear the consequences of telling the truth. In the absence of hard facts, Bowden can offer only an impressionistic account of his own frustration at the collusion of police, media, federal government, and global economic forces in making inexorable violence the defining feature of daily life in the border town. This is a nonfiction book without facts, without a thesis, and without an argument; Bowden's sentences are gorgeous things, euphonious and deeply sincere—but the book offers no understanding or call to action, only resigned acceptance. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
GQ and Mother Jones contributing editor Bowden (Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future, 2009, etc.) digs into the complexities behind the ominous escalation of violence in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from El Paso that now has the tragic distinction of being the most dangerous city in the world. In 2006, shortly after his controversial election, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whom half of the nation considers illegitimate, declared war on the region's drug cartels. He sent thousands of federal troops to Juarez's state of Chihuahua, vowing to hunt down the leaders of the major drug distributors. At the same time, women in Juarez began to disappear, and their decomposing bodies began turning up in shallow graves in the desert. The disturbing trend was echoed by a simultaneous increase in rape and domestic violence in all of Juarez's social strata. For the city's unskilled labor force, the primary alternative to the drug business is a job in a maquila, whose ultra-low wages assure manufacturers from El Norte cheap production of goods for the global economy. Add to the mix a local police force willing to sell its guns to the highest bidder, and you have the makings of a potentially viral social disaster. Bowden began following the murders in March 2008. Before long, they outpaced his ability to contextualize them. Were they all drug-related? How many were committed for revenge or just the thrill of it by killers taking advantage of the growing lawlessness? Were the cartels behind them, or the police? Or the army, charged with restoring order? Straightforward answers elude the author, as they do nearly every observer-the city's journalists, who are challengedto report on crimes without inciting killers to come after them; the social workers who deal with the human detritus who survive the violence; even a reformed sicario (assassin) who can only lovingly relate the gruesome details of his former craft but is clueless about who ordered his services or why. Bowden uses his tremendous talents to tell a haunting, darkly poetic story of a city's horrifying descent into madness and anarchy. A potent book that readers won't soon forget, and a warning of what can come of an insatiable market that knows no borders.
Library Journal
In 2008, more than 1600 people were murdered in Juarez, Mexico, killings most often attributed to the drug cartels and the drug war. According to Bowden (Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing), that approach is too simplistic. He argues that Juarez is a dying city—dying under the weight of a broken system in which almost half of the economy is fueled by the drug trade, the police either work for the cartels or rarely leave the relative safety of their station houses, the army preys on the guilty and the innocent, and no one seems to be in charge. Bowden even admits that he, and thus his narrative, is overburdened by the sheer enormity of the problems in Juarez. The result is a deeply troubling glimpse at human misery. VERDICT For readers looking for traditional coverage of the issues in Juarez, this is not your book. But Bowden's prose (and at times poetry) has a way of stabbing at the soul, making this the book for anyone who wants to get underneath the truth and into the heart of the matter.—Mike Miller, Austin P.L., TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568586458
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 253,960
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Charles Bowden is a contributing editor for GQ and Mother Jones; he also writes for Harper's, the New York Times Book Review, and Esquire. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Killing Fields of Juarez

    Imagine a city where the police force announces they will no longer venture outside the station house. Imagine a city where this police force lives in fear because the army has been known to detain, torture and rape them. Imagine a city where hospitals refuse to treat gunshot victims because the perpetrators have a disconcerting habit of entering emergency rooms and finishing the job. Then imagine that you don't have to imagine, that you can see this city without leaving the United States and its name is Ciudad Juarez.

    In "Murder City," journalist Charles Bowden chronicles one murderous year in the life of Juarez, located just over the border from El Paso, Texas. There were over 1.600 documented homicides in Juarez in 2008 and the killing has actually increased, with over 2,600 deaths in 2009. While the murdered women of Juarez have received sporadic media attention, Bowden makes the point that they are one piece of a much larger and violent puzzle.

    The Mexican and American governments are keen to portray the violence as a war amongst the drug cartels. Charles Bowden, who lives in Tucson and has written about the illegal drug trade and corruption along the U.S./Mexican border for decades, comes to a different conclusion. He states what is happening in Juarez is a war for drugs, for control of drug trafficking and the obscene profits it generates. He writes of the U.S. border agent who allowed truckloads of marijuana to enter the country for 4 years and amassed a fortune and the Mexican national who attempted to cross from El Paso to Juarez with nearly 2 million dollars hidden in the doors of his SUV.

    But mainly Bowden chronicles the relentless torrent of death enveloping the city. Bowden writes in a non-linear style, refusing to make facile judgements or offering any solutions. Poverty, globalization, guns, drugs and corruption have coalesced to create what Bowden sees as the city of the future and no border fence can contain it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2014

    Medicine Den

    ~$triking

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2012

    A disappointment

    The choppy writing style used in this book made it hard for me to follow. There is probably a good story here, but it could have been better told.

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  • Posted November 27, 2010

    must read

    The book summarizes information found daily on the Mexican newspapers for the last two-three years developing an image of Juarez to people oblivious to the issue with lots of descriptive reading trying to create an image of what the author sees and feels. In my opinion the author is part of the same "society" he mentions in the book where silence is the norm, where ghosts live in the City. I admire the effort and courage of the author. It is obvious he knows who the players are and the real reasons for the murders of Juarez. He should probably write an investigative book. He may not do it because he knows very well, as he describes in the book, that stating the facts gets you killed, persecuted and terrorized no matter where you are.
    Being a Juarez local (not living in Juarez anymore) I think the readers deserve a better explanation of the current affairs focusing more on the "economics" behind the murders as the title of the book implies. At least to me, the book title implied the global economy as a factor for the killings.
    The book is a "must read" for all the people who supports the legalization of drugs. It may shed some light to what the future would be if drugs were available and legal in our beloved America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2010

    High Recommend, one of the best books around!!!

    Bowden is a great writer but I am warning it reads a little odd and skips around. It is a very informative piece if more people read this book then more people can be informed about what is going on right next to us and how we can hopefully change this corruption and mass murders.

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    Posted May 24, 2013

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