Ciudad Juarez 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.
In Murder City, Charles Bowden-one of the few journalists who spent extended periods of time in Juarez-has written an extraordinary account of what happens when a city disintegrates. Interweaving stories of its inhabitants-a beauty queen who was raped, a repentant hitman, a journalist fleeing for his life-with a broader meditation on the town's descent into anarchy, Bowden reveals how Juarez's culture of violence will not only worsen, but inevitably spread north.
Heartbreaking, disturbing, and unforgettable, Murder City was written at the height of his powers and established Bowden as one of America's leading journalists.
Bowden (Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing) grapples with the almost incomprehensible levels of violence in Ju rez, Mexico. Over 1,600 people were murdered in Ju rez 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.