The stories behind the story
how much is real?
Murder Capital of the World
When I first wrote Surrender at the Border, Cuidad Juarez had become known as the “Murder Capital of the World.” At the height of the drug violence, as many as ten people a day were murdered because of the war between the Juarez and the Sinoloa drug cartels. In 2008, it looked as if Juarez would descend into chaos. The people who suffered the most were the hard-working folks just trying to make a living.
When I was a child, my parents made many trips to Juarez to shop. My childhood home was full of Mexican rugs, decorations and souvenirs. I still have a carved cabinet from those shopping excursions. While I have fond memories of my parents’ enjoyment, I was very unsettled by the poverty of the people, especially the children.
Things began to change. As news of the danger came out of Mexico, Americans more and more avoided those border towns. Restaurants, mercados (markets), and businesses of all kinds had to close. Life became even more desperate for those people and I wondered how they were surviving.
There are many books now that describe Juarez’s plight but in 2010, Charles Bowden published Murder City, a chilling and heartbreaking look at the violence. He set out in 2008 to write about each person or persons who were murdered and, as the death toll rose, he almost left. Thank goodness he persevered because, for many Americans, he showed us how bleak things really were.
Reclaiming Their City
The good news is that things aren’t as bad in Juarez as they were. Juarez is slowly coming back to life. It’s those same frightened working people who are reclaiming their city.
The clinic for the mentally ill and El Pastor are also real. Watch a short video about it.
The white horse painted on the mountain outside of Juarez is real, too.