Book Review: A Masterful New History Explores the Contradictions and Complexities of Ciudad Juárez

Aerial shot of Cuidad Juárez.  Photo thanks to FECHAC

Aerial shot of Cuidad Juárez.  Photo thanks to FECHAC

Written by Kent Paterson in the Texas Observer:  "Oscar J. Martínez’s new book pushes back against the historical amnesia, toxic politics and stereotyping that have shrouded the city for decades." 

"A visit to Ciudad Juárez this spring quickly revealed the swirling contradictions in this turbulent city across the Rio Grande from El Paso. I saw crowded restaurants, new businesses, strolling families and street performers entertaining crowds.

I also met a man who was anguished over his brother’s murder, and I saw two young women putting up a missing poster for an uncle who vanished two months prior. He’s now a police file among hundreds of others containing the grainy, black-and-white portraits of men and women lost to the world. Meanwhile, amid the clatter of Avenida Juárez, flyers soliciting low-paid factory workers were plastered on a phone booth, featuring the smiles of three workers beckoning new hires to “come and form part of our great family.”

As a journalist who’s covered Juárez for more than 30 years, I’ve come to appreciate the complexities of this place. It’s a sprawling border city that stands as a beacon for a better life to countless migrants, but is also littered with tragic outcomes, usually with some connection to forces on this side of the line."  Continue reading  


El Paso Social Justice Education Project co-founder Oscar J. Martínez's newest book is now available through the University of Arizona Press or Amazon.  Following is a short description of the book:

A singular, timely history of a unique border town

Juárez is no ordinary city. Its history is exhilarating and tragic. Part of the state of Chihuahua and located on the border with the United States oppo­site El Paso, Texas, Juárez has often captured the world’s attention in dra­matic fashion.

In Ciudad Juárez: Saga of a Legendary Border City, Oscar J. Martínez provides a historical overview of the economic and social evolution of this famous transnational urban center from the 1848 creation of the interna­tional boundary between Mexico and the United States to the present, em­phasizing the city’s deep ties to the United States.

Martínez also explores major aspects of the social history of the city, including cross-border migration, urbanization, population growth, living standards, conditions among the city’s workers, crime, and the circum­stances that led to the horrendous violence that catapulted Juárez to the top rung of the world’s most violent urban areas in the early twenty-first century.

In countless ways, the history of Juárez is the history of the entire Mexican northern frontier. Understanding how the city evolved provides a greater appreciation for the formidable challenges faced by Mexican fron­terizos, and yields vital insights into the functioning of borderland regions around the world.

OSCAR J. MARTÍNEZ is a Regents’ Professor of History at the University of Arizona. He has authored and edited numerous books and many articles, book chapters, and reviews. His most recent book is Mexico’s Uneven Devel­opment: The Geographic and Historical Context of Inequality.

Order from University of Arizona Press,

Paper:  $29.95  

Book cover UA Press.jpg

Recommended Readings Compiled by Social Justice Team

Anderson, Joan B., and James Gerber. Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border:  Growth, Development, and Quality of Life.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

Bowden, Charles. Murder City:  Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.  New York:  Nation Books, 2010.

Dear, Michael.  Why Walls Won’t Work:  Repairing the U.S.-Mexico Divide.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013.

Dudley, Steven. “Juárez after the War,” In Sight Crime. Organized Crime in the Americas.  February 13, 2013.

Lusk, Mark, Kathleen Staudt, and Eva Moya, coeditors.  Social Justice in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region. Springer Publishers 2012.  Hardback and e-book. (Most chapters about the central borderlands

Martínez, Oscar J.  Border People:  Life and Society in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.  Tucson:  University of Arizona Press, 1994.

Martínez, Oscar J.  The Chicanos of El Paso:  An Assessment of Progress.  El Paso:  Texas Western Press, Southwestern Studies No. 59, 1980).

Martínez, Oscar J.  Ciudad Juárez:  Saga of a Legendary Border City.  Tucson:  University of Arizona Press, 2018.

Martínez, Oscar J.  Mexico’s Uneven Development:  The Geographic and Historical Context of Inequality.  New York:  Routledge, 2016.

Martínez, Oscar J.  Stunted Dreams:  How the United States Shaped the Destiny of Mexico.  El Paso:  Social Justice Education Project, 2017.

Molloy, Molly.  “Economic Violence in Ciudad Juárez.”  NACLA Report on the Americas, 48:2 (2016):  157-166.

Monárrez, Julia Estela. “Ciudad Juárez.  Sobrevivir:  Vidas superfluas y banalidad de la muerte,” Alter/nativas, No. 3 (2014):  1-25.

Monárrez, Julia Estela. Trama de una injusticia:  Feminicidio sexual sistemático en Ciudad Juárez (México:  El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2009.

Monárrez, Julia Estela, et al.  Violencia contra las mujeres e inseguridad ciudadana en Ciudad Juárez.  México:  COLEF, Miguel Angel Porrua, 2010.

Nathan, Debbie.  “Work, Sex and Danger in Ciudad Juárez,” NACLA Report on the Americas, 33:3 (November/December 1999):  24-46.

O’Rourke, Beto, and Susie Byrd.  Dealing Death and Drugs:  The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, An Argument to End the Prohibition of Marijuana.  El Paso:  Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.

Orozco, Victor. Ciudad Juárez:  La Nombradía Varia desde sus orígenes hasta la actualidad, 2 vols. México:  Grupo Milenio, 2012.

Padilla, Héctor, “Ciudad Juárez: Militarización, Discursos y Paisajes.” In Vida, muerte y resis­tencia en Ciudad Juárez, coordinador Cruz Sierra, edited by Juan Pablo, 105–41. México: COLEF, 2013.

Padilla Delgado, Héctor Antonio. Estudio sobre los efectos de los homicidios dolosos en Ciudad Juárez, 2008–2012. Ciudad Juárez: Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, 2016.

Payan, Tony.  The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars:  Drugs, Immigration, and Homeland Security.  Santa Barbara:  Praeger, 2016.

Payan, Tony, Kathleen Staudt, and Z. Anthony Kruszewski, coeditors.  A War that Can’t be Won? Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2013.  Paperback.  (several chapters on the central borderlands, including one coauthored by then City Council Representative Beto O’Rourke)

Peña, Devon G. The Terror of the Machine:  Technology, Work, Gender, and Ecology on the U.S.-Mexico Border.  Austin:  Center for Mexican American Studies, 1997.Rippberger, Susan, and Kathleen Staudt.  Pledging Allegiance: Learning Nationalism at the El Paso/Juárez Border. NY: Routledge/Falmer, 2003. Paperback (rare among border books in our region to analyze education)Romo, David D.  Ringside Seat to a Revolution:  An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, 1893-1923.  El Paso:  Cinco Punto Press, 2005.

Rosenbaum, Ruth.  “Market Basket Survey:  A Comparison of the Buying Power of Maquiladora Workers in Mexico and UAW Assembly Workers in GM plants in the U.S.” Newton Centre, MA:  F. L. Putnam Securities, Inc., 1994.

Ruiz, Ramón Eduardo. On the Rim of Mexico:  Encounters of the Rich and Poor.  Boulder:  Westview Press, 1998.

Salzinger, Leslie. Genders in Production:  Making Workers in Mexico’s Global Factories.  Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2003.

Staudt. Kathleen A. Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Paperback.  (central borderlands a key chapter and perhaps best understood in comparative perspective)

Staudt, Kathleen A.  Free Trade?  Informal Economies at the U.S.-Mexico Border.  Philadelphia:  Temple University Press, 1998.

Staudt, Kathleen A. “Neoliberal Regimes, Research Methods, Local Activism: Border Steel, environmental injustice, and health in a Texas-Mexico border colonia.”  In The Mexico-U.S. Transborder Region: Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions, Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez and Josiah Heyman, coeditors. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2017, pp. 305-21.  

Staudt, Kathleen A.  Violence and Activism on the Border:  Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez.  Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2008.

Staudt, Kathleen A., and Irasema Coronado.  Fronteras no más:  Toward Social Justice at the U.S.-Mexico Border.  New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Staudt, Kathleen A. and Josiah Heyman. “Immigrants Organize Against Everyday Life Victimization.” In The Immigrant Other: Lived Experiences in a Transnational World, Rich Furman, Greg Lamphear, and Douglas Epps, coeditors.  NY: Columbia University Press, 2016.  (one of few to analyze immigrants as agents of change, not simply victims, with two contrasting organizing strategies)

Staudt, Kathleen A. and Zulma Y. Méndez.  Courage, Resistance, and Women in Ciudad Juárez:  Challenges to Militarization.  Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2015.

Staudt, Kathleen A., César Fuentes and Julia Monárrez, coeditors. Cities and Citizenship at the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Paso del Norte Metropolitan Region. NY: Palgrave USA 2010.  (Analyzes our transborder region as a whole, birthed at COLEF).

Staudt, Kathleen A., Mosi Dane’el, and Guadalupe Márquez-Velarde.  “In the Shadow of a Steel Recycling Plant in these Global Neoliberal Times: The Political Economy of Health Disparities among Hispanics in a Border Colonia.” Local Environment, 21, 5, March, 2016, pp. 636-52.  (Westway colonia)

Staudt, Kathleen A., Tony Payan, and Z. Anthony Kruszewski, eds.  Human Rights along the U.S.-Mexico Border:  Gendered Violence and Insecurity.  Tucson:  University of Arizona Press, 2009.  Paperback.  (several chapters on the central borderlands; emphasis on people’s agency, not only vulnerability)

Washington Valdez, Diana. The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women:  The Truth about Mexico’s Bloody Border Legacy.  Los Angeles:  Peace at the Border, 2006.

El Paso Social Justice Education Project releases it's first publication

Have you been wondering about the relationship between Mexico and the US--especially since all the Trump foolishness--yet don't want to commit to an old fashioned textbook? Try Oscar Martinez' easy to comprehend 30 page booklet. It's even got maps!

  • This booklet explores the role of the United States in shaping the destiny of the Mexican people.  
  • Historically the United States has exerted overwhelming influence over the way that Mexico has developed economically.  
  • In the mid-nineteenth century the United States undermined Mexico’s long-term development by dispossessing its neighbor of its most valuable lands, imposing a border that has heavily favored U.S. interests, and paving the way for the dominant U.S. economy to compete more directly with the much weaker Mexican economy.  
  • As a result, Mexicans have had to struggle to build their country under the shadow of the powerful United States, not unlike small retailers who try to survive in the face of crushing competition from a Wal-Mart megastore located uncomfortably nearby.  

The booklet is sold on Amazon for $9.95 and $6.99 for the Kindle edition.  All proceeds go to the nonprofit programs of the El Paso Social Justice Education Project.