March 6th, 2009
12:45 PM ET

Juarez was fun – before it was dangerous

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/03/06/mexico.troops/art.juarez.federales.afp.gi.jpg caption="Mexican federal police patrol in Ciudad Juarez earlier this week."]

Gabe Ramirez
CNN Photojournalist

If you drive into El Paso Texas on Interstate 10 from the west and look to your left, you will see a neat cluster of Tibetan inspired buildings that make up the University of Texas at El Paso. Look right and you will see a seemingly endless shantytown sitting on top of rugged desert hills, smoke plumes rising in the air. If you weren’t familiar with the area, you may not even know that you were driving between two countries and two cities. Two cities so far apart and so close together. El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States. Ciudad Juarez is now one of the most dangerous places on earth.

When I think of Juarez, I don’t think of an ultra violent city. I understand what it has become, that’s just not the way I remember it. I grew up in El Paso. My parents still live there. As a child, my father emigrated from a small town in the state of Chihuahua a few hours south of Juarez. My mother has relatives who live in the city. For generations, geography, economy and family have interlinked Juarez and El Paso.

As a young boy I had mixed emotions about Juarez. I remember our weekly treks over the border to visit relatives. Every Sunday the routine was church, breakfast at my parents’ favorite restaurant, visits to my great grandmother's house and occasionally, a haircut at my father's favorite barbershop. A place that smelled like hair tonic and aftershave, where they still used hot towels and straight razors to clean a man’s face. I enjoyed visiting my family’s glass factory, where they hand crafted beautiful vases and figurines. I loved watching the artisans pulling out molten glass from the ovens and shaping it. And I enjoyed the color and commotion of the main downtown market. But, at the time, I mostly thought of Juarez as a dirty, boring, backwater. A reminder of my family's humble past. I felt like I had nothing in common with my cousins there. During most visits, all I wanted to do was escape. To return to my comfortable American existence a few miles away. It sounds crazy coming from a Mexican American, but I just couldn’t relate to the culture.

By the time I was 16, I developed a much greater appreciation for all that Juarez had to offer. Like many El Paso teenagers in the 1980s, I spent many a weekend night on “The Strip” in downtown Juarez. It was sooo easy. Five dollars to park, a quick walk across the Paso Del Norte Bridge and you were on teenage Pleasure Island. Pumping music, dancing, cheap booze, good food, girls! Every Friday and Saturday the clubs on Avenida De Juarez were packed with kids from El Paso area high schools. White kids, Hispanic kids, black kids. Rich kids, working class kids. Kids whose parents had no clue their innocent little babies were stumbling around drunk in a Juarez alley at 3am on a Saturday morning. We would rock out to The Cure and New Order at clubs like The Copa, Alive, The Sub, The Superior. Soldiers from Ft. Bliss would hang out at Spankys or Cosmos. My school, Eastwood High, practically had its own nightclub, The Tequila Derby. On some nights the Derby had a promotion called “Drink and Drown”. Five dollars cover charge, all you can drink. Seriously. I mean I was in high school. By the time I was a freshman in college I was spent.

My favorite hang out was a bar called The Kentucky Club, a classic western dive trapped in the 1930s. It is one of the many places that claim to have invented the margarita and once inside, it is like walking into a movie set. Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Marylyn Monroe drank there. My interest in the Kentucky was that my hero, Steve McQueen, used to hang out there. The bar was well kept with rich hard wood and polished brass. Old gentleman waiters wore proper white aprons and the tables had actual linen. The bar was so old that the plumbing was a trough that drained melted ice and God knows what else, under the foot rail and into the street. You could buy real Cuban cigars. It made me feel mature and sophisticated to have a drink there.

Of course even then, Juarez had an edge. Besides the underage drinking, that edginess was part of the attraction to a teenager. But, if you weren’t careful, you could get into terrible trouble. My friends and I always stuck together. Girlfriends never strayed away even if they were pissed at you. The police kept a ruthless watch over us. If you got out of line just a little, got into a fight or walked out of a club with a drink, you might end up in a paddywagon until your friends collected enough “bail” money to spring you. A friend once got beat up and had his shoes stolen in one of those portable drunk tanks. We almost never strayed off the avenue. One night, my senior year, I got into a Juarez taxi with my friends Eric and Scott. We wanted to go to an off avenue club we had heard about. Something got lost in translation and the driver took us to a brothel out in the desert!

These days it’s just too dangerous for American teenage kids to hang out in Juarez. Compared to now, Juarez in the 1980s was innocent fun. By the mid 1990s the drug cartel wars were in full swing. So were more disturbing and unexplained acts of violence. In 1994, I was working in local TV news in El Paso when the bodies of brutally murdered young women started appearing in the deserts outside of Juarez. First a few, then a dozen, then hundreds. Las muertas de Juarez (the dead women of Juarez) they are called. In the summer of 1995, I walked into a field of desert scrub where the decomposing bodies of several women lay. The smell was overpowering. There were no police lines in Juarez so I found myself accidentally walking all over a crime scene. It would be years, not until my time covering the war in Iraq, before I would see horror like that again. Those murders remain a mystery. And now murder is so common that its hard to tell if it’s just drug cartel violence. That would be the most comforting explanation.

The cities descent into chaos has be hard on my parents. They used to love spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in Juarez. Enjoying a flavor of life you just don’t get in the States. Terrific shopping and great restaurants with the service and feel of a by-gone era.

This holiday season past, a cousin died in a car accident in Juarez. She was a woman with whom my mother had been close as a child. Normally my parents would not have hesitated to attend the funeral, but now they weren’t sure. A few weeks earlier two Texas Tech Medical School instructors were killed when a hail of bullets hit their car while in a funeral procession. After some discussion, my parents decided they had to go. They attended the service but did not follow the funeral procession. I called my mom one Sunday soon after and she said, “We won’t go to Juarez anymore.”

I live in Los Angeles now and hadn’t been back to Juarez since that summer in 1995. Then a few years ago, while covering a story at Ft. Bliss for CNN, I had a free evening. So I decided to cross the bridge and get a drink at the old Kentucky Club. Years of violence had taken its toll. Avenida De Juarez was empty, no drunk teenagers, no GI’s. Most of the clubs from those high school days, including the Derby, were out of business. But the Kentucky was still there in all its shabby glory. The bar was empty save a few old vaqueros quietly sipping beer. I took a seat, ordered a couple of Bohemia’s and thought about all the history in that old speakeasy. There wasn’t much else for me to do, so I walked back across the empty bridge to El Paso.

Juarez is a city I both loved and hated. It was connected to El Paso as much as any two cities could be, with the free flow of commerce and people. Overtime the border became a more defined line. Eventually that line became walled. Those walls have made the business of trying to get through them very lucrative, and very dangerous. Now, more El Pasoans than ever won’t go to Juarez anymore.

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. PG

    Gabe, you just took me down memory lane. What you describe is almost exactly my own experience. Given the band references, we must be close in age. I'm sure we stumbled passed each other at Alive. The only differences would be: I grew in Las Cruces (we always drew straws to pick the DD), my relatives in J-town owned "tienditas," and, as a woman, I only heard about my male friends brushes with cops and unscrupulous cabbies. No one in my family crosses into Juarez anymore except in the middle of day to see a doctor – no trips to the market, shops, or restaurants. I have family members who experience some kind of extortion on a weekly basis now. It breaks my heart.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Dan A - El Paso

    Only a person 800 miles away from the El Paso / Juarez border would make such a comparison.
    The United States in no way compares with the corruption / poverty / violence that currently exists in Ciudad Juarez.
    That is the reason that so many Mexican residents are fleeing their country to live in the safe haven that is the U.S.
    Even Juarez's own mayor and his family cannot live safe in Juarez, they currently live in El Paso.
    JC, what I want to say is that I think your comment is completely absurd.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Kelly G

    My grandmother lived in Juarez in the mid-late 1980's, she saw it as a cheap alternative to living in El Paso. I went as a child many times to visit and my aunt and uncle lived in El Paso and could cross the border often to go out to eat, to shop, and for lower cost dentists and doctors. My grandmother was murdered in her home in Juarez in 1989 and the family no longer ventures across the border due to the government corruption and drug problems with the Cartels. I do feel sorry for the many people in El Paso who still have family in Juarez and feel they can no longer cross the border to visit.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  4. D Klecan

    I too remember Juarez fondly. As a kid from Albuquerque our family would go down there before Christmas. We would go across the border to buy Xmas gifts; pottery, nativities, ornaments and fill up on Mexican food that never never tastes as good as in Mexico.

    As Americans we need to take responsibility for the horrors in Juarez. Every time someone here in the states buys or uses drugs they are responsible for those deaths. It is a simple matter of demand. Drug cartels would not exist if there wasn't a demand for drugs.

    This is something I am very passion about. I was hit head-on by a DUI a few years back in a town north of Santa Fe. The driver died and I was left with all my legs and pelvis smashed. The driver was under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. So if you don't think this doesn't affect you think again. I was working at the time...for the state. So now I am on permanent disability. My bills are payed for by your tax dollars.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Tony A


    I can relate to everything you said. I did it in the 70's. Been from Bowie High, those were the days. Memories I wish were back. My family says the same, we dont go across the border anymore. Worst than Marshall Law. Its just so sad to see what has happen to one of the best border towns.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  6. MG - Spokane

    In the mid 60's I was stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso. This was much before your time but your description of the city and of Ciudad de Juarez are right on.
    At that time the Kentucky Club was nothing like it was when you were there. It was a dark, scary place with older 'waitresses'. We usually hung out at the Rhythm Club or some place on the main drag singing drunken karaoke before it had a name. We were very wary of the police.
    One Sunday while walking the streets I saw an old man get run over by a pickup truck. No one helped as he crawled to the curb. I was only 19 then but the memories persist.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  7. JR- Midwest

    JC, that is a bit harsh. It must come from living in LA.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  8. Skipper

    All we need. Obama's got enough on his plate. Thanks GOP!!

    March 6, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  9. Military

    I'm stationed in the area and I visited Juarez sometime around the end of 2007 before military were ordered to stay out. FYI... Tequila Derby was still open during my visit.

    March 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  10. Tbone

    Yet another mess created by GW and the repubs for us to clean up. Sheeesh, where will it end?

    March 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  11. R.L.H.

    I was stationed in Ft Bliss in 1958. Juarez was just as you say a quiet town where you could visit on a weekend. It saddens me to think about how it has changed. Then the shops were clean and the owners pleasant to bargain with. The Bars were safe and the booze was cheap. You could walk the streets any time day or night.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  12. TM

    Like Gabe Ramirez, I grew up in El Paso and even if I am older, I have many of the same memories. You right the Kentucky Club of the 60's was where I ordered my first drink at 16. It was a place unlike any other. Fred and the Alcazar were OK too. But unless you have lived on the border for a long time or in Mexico you can't start to understand what rookies we are at the game of coruption.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  13. Ron Lincoln, NE

    I am a born American Citizen that lived in Kansas most my life. I visited Juarez as a child with my parents. I can't say that I was terribly impressed. It's wasn't what I was use to , but I have to say it had it's own quaint way It's too bad that some would be so quick to destroy that. Why is this allowed. We fight wars all over the world so why not put these gutless wonders on the list with all the terroist and make a clean sweep. Start at the bottom and follow the money trail until there is no trail left. No one should be exempt. There is no reason for ruthless killing of inocent people. How has things gotten so bad. We all know it's greed but what are we going to do about it.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  14. EZ

    You should send the US troops, to all your towns and get rid of all your junkies, then there will be no more drugs.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Armando Ruiz

    I've never been to Juarez, but I heard what a party town it use to be as I was growing up. It's sad and horrible that so many innocent lifes have been lost and just in Juarez , but throughout Mexico all because of American hunger for cocaine. I applaud the Mexican Government in their efforts to combat the Drug Cartels and the fight within their own corrupt officals, making it harder to win the fight.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  16. Mary

    Thank you, Gabe, for writing such a descriptive piece about Juarez in the 80's and 90's. As a former El Pasoan, everything you wrote rang so true for me. Especially the smells of the typical babershops (my dad used to bring us along when he got his haircuts for a buck... my brothers would also get pretty good crew cuts!!!) I too, was a teenager in the 80's and vividly remember a time walking over the bridge with my friends after prom, the boys all tuxedoed out, and us girls in our long, flowing prom dresses. We hung out at Sarawak often! And of course who could forget The Alive? Talk about memories!!! Yes, we knew back then that Juarez was a rough city, but we never feared for our basic safety. As long as we didn't stray to far from "Gringo Boulevard" we never felt in danger. And traveling just a bit further in, going to the mercado and shopping at "The Mexican Wal-Mart" curio shop was always an adventure. Now, having lived in Houston for the past 7 years and only reading about the horrors going on, I can only imagine how things have changed. If I ever go back to visit El Paso, I doubt I would head over to Juarez . It is so sad, because a lot of the little curio shops and restaruants in the area depend on American tourism. I can only imagine how much they are suffering financially. Again, thank you for this acurate piece which brought back many vivid memories!

    p.s. In the mid 80's, when my brother was in the 7th grade, he was part of a group of students who created a documentary project about an artisan glass factory in Juarez. I wonder if it was the same factory you mention in your piece!

    March 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  17. Bob

    My cousin, who is American, was murdered there in August.
    The crime still is unsolved and that month Juarez had over 40 murders. Thank god something is finally being done. The U.S needs to back the Mexican government all the way.....

    March 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  18. Rita

    I remember back in the late 80's when I would go to Juarez to dance and it was so safe back then and now that I live in Florida and I talk to my parents who still live in Sunland Park NM about 5 minutes from El Paso tell me how dangerous it is to even go to Juarez and see relatives. I hope that the corruption stops as we have to think about the younger generation.....our children! May God take care of all the children and innocent bystandards.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  19. Susy

    one more thing...many of the problems in Juarez are the Drug Cartels. There are two major cartels fighting against "territory" there. And as long as the US continues to have such a HUGE demand over drugs these two cartels will continue fighting and innocent lives will be "hit" in between.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  20. Susy

    I know what you mean. Its scary. Its funny that the US consulate has put all these warnings to be careful or not to travel there at all especially since spring break is right around the corner but the spanish news stations have said the complete opposite. That's its not that bad! All my family is from Mexico from Michoacan to be precise and I myself am terrified of going back and taking my children back to the towns, culture and food I once knew.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  21. Shelly

    I remember visiting my aunt who lived in El Paso. during the summer of 1971, She took us over the border to Juarez to see the bull fights. Coming from a very SMALL midwestern town, it was quite an eye opener for this young Kansas teen. I remember the barefoot young Mexican boys running along side our car wanting to help us park for $2.00. My aunt told us, now don't stray off by yourself as it's not safe to be alone here. Boy, that made an impression on somebody who was used to going most any place and never feeling threatened in their surroundings.

    I guess I won't be going to Juarez again in my life.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  22. toml

    Great article! I grew up in Albuquerque, NM and did business in El Paso during the 80's. I use to love staying in downtown El Paso and traveling over the bridge to Juarez. I do remember the Kentucky Club and the Submarine and the street vendors that sold avacado sandwiches. El Paso has always been a favorite town for me. Too bad for Jaurez and the people who live there.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  23. paul w ehrbar

    Dear Mr. Ramirez-I also both love and hate Mexico, but my ciudad preciosa is Mexico City. I love to stand atop of the tower of Latin America and walk along the Reforma to Chapultepec and take in the history that was written in blood. My early experience in the city took place as a teenager in the early sixties. I automaticly loved the people, the language and the culture which got in my veins. My beloved city has become overrun with violence and corruption and now is one of most dangerous capitals in the world. I cry for Mexico. Regards, Paul Ehrbar

    March 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  24. Yolanda

    My grandparents immigrated from Chihuahua in 1915 and from a time of remeberance, I would say 4 of 5 my grandparents would take me to visit relatives in Juarez. These were our weekend and holiday outings and most of the time what fun all the cousins had. Myy grandfather use to take me on the trolley into Juarez to purchase tortillas, bread and goodies at the "Mercado" at this time. Later, as a teenager in the 60's I too have fond memories of El Paso and Juarez. My husband and I grew up going back and forth for dinner at the Shangri La and the Camino Real. We would cross into Juarez and have lavish dinners, dance the night away into the wee hours. Alas, time has passed and most of my relatives in Juarez now live in Mexico City and we communicate via e-mail. I still have family in El Paso and would not venture to relive these fond memories because of the unrest and violence. It is really too bad.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  25. Marina Tricoche

    "Hurry, we can still make it to the Rose Parade"

    March 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  26. Lilli

    I feel your sadness & pain
    "my Juaritos" is not the same.
    WE have buried 3 of our family members in the 2008. I just wait for the call to head out from Denver to Juarez to bury more.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  27. Jeff

    My buddies and I were just in El Paso last Fall for a UTEP football game. We ventured over the bridge to see Juarez for ourselves. We went in having heard about some violence, but everyone in El Paso assured us if we stayed on the main drag and in the market, we'd be fine. We were greeted by lots of offers from taxi drivers to wisk us away to "gentlemen's clubs", but besides feeling slightly uncomfortable with their pushiness, we didn't feel unsafe. We were greated at one point on the avenue by a state tourist person...Carlos. Not sure if legit or not, but he had a badge and looked official, so we went with it. He guided us to the market and after some shopping, we settled in on the front porch of an adjoining food stand. We drank Dos Equis and ate tacos for a few hours watching the locals and tourists. Fear for our safety never entered our thoughts. After a hefty tip to Carlos and the owners of the food stand, we made our way back down the avenue. It was a Friday so there was a long line at the Western Union office, but other than negotiating this crowd and waiting in line to cross back into El Paso we didn't encounter any problems. After our experience, I've been surprised by how quickly things have seemed to worsen in Juarez. I hope things improve in the months to come for the sake of the law abiding locals who we really enjoyed.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  28. Ileana

    Juarez use to be fun. Sometimes we would get up and say, hey let's go to Juarez. We would go and do some shopping and eat at a nice restaurant and have a couple of drinks in some club and then head back home feeling great. Now it's like if I don't have anything to do in Juarez why go. It's very dangerous. The soldiers look very intimidating with their face covered and their riffle. They look scary and you do not feel secure at all. In fact I don't know whether to be more scared of the soldiers or the other criminals. (That is scary!) Nothing like the U.S. soldiers.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  29. mcnorman

    You forgot to mention that Ft Bliss had issued warnings last year that Juarez was off limits.
    That really put a crimp in the soldier's fun.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  30. Rob L

    Similar to Anderson, I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico – just 40 miles north of El Paso. Unlike Anderson, my memories are of a time 15-20 years earlier. With family in El Paso, regular trips south, including shopping and dining trips to Juarez, were at least a monthly routine. My grandparents did nearly all their grocery shopping in Juarez and, though we knew it was for tourists, my sisters and I always enjoyed visiting El Mercado (the old one) and the glass factory (perhaps the one belonging to Anderson's family).

    My family – and that of my late wife – still live in Las Cruces. None of them (including my very brave brother in law) will cross the border in El Paso any more. A few years ago, my father's pickup truck was stolen from their driveway and, according to the Las Cruces police, was probably across the border and stripped before Dad woke up to find it was gone. My parents house has been broken into twice for firearms and valuables. Statistically, El Paso may compare favorably to other major US cities, but the border region around Juarez doesn't seem very safe to me.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  31. Jimmy

    Its so sad, how many people have good stories of Juarez, Grandparents live in the valley of El Paso, the many trips there to the dog races, drinking my first Shirley Temple. Just hate it for all the little kids there.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  32. Gary - Former El Paso Resident

    I used to live in El Paso and as teen ager would go to Juarez and have a Blast. The Sub, Caverns of Music, Fred Brown Derby Bar where we could get 50 cent beers....easy on the budget. You could pay a gentleman a $1 to watch your car and it was scratch free. Juarez had some great restaurants and the food was good and inexpensive.

    You could go across the border and shop in the Open Markets and find just about anything a person could make by hand.

    Now my friends say they will NEVER go to Juarez it is just too dangerous.

    This is Sad as El Paso – Juarez are the 2 largest border cites in the world. It was a free trade zone and both cities benefited. Now the drug cartels benefit with fear.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  33. S Callahan New York

    Wonderful article Gabe. I could almost smell the atmospher...like Bob Dylan.....:-)
    I'm a little anxious as my first cousin and his wife are going to Mexico for a weeks vactation this coming week....they don't care about the reports they they are hearing....their attitude is what will be -will be. Personally, I think they should go with caution...but they love Mexico and go there each year.
    .I don't know if Juarez is anywhere near the beaches...but that is still a big tourist attraction......It's my hope the defense in Juarez will bring the city back on peaceful terms. God willing.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  34. strawberry

    I can relate to Gabe's story. I myself no longer live on the border but I used to. I now reside in Nashville, Tn. I can very much relate to this story. I didn't live in El Paso but lived south –in McAllen, Texas which is south of El Paso. Fortunately, this situation hasn't arrived "yet" across the border in Reynosa, Tamps. but everytime I hear of deaths or of drug related stories coming from these border towns it just sickens me. I myself could not wait to get back to my american home in McAllen after a long day at my grandmothers in Rio Bravo. I too remember crossing the border w/ my high school friends to have some "fun." Gabe, thank you so much for writing your story, it has taken me back about 20 years. You made me remember some great memories. How I wish it was still the same & how sometimes I wish I was there, but I guess in a strange way its good that I no longer reside because it would be so hard for me not to go back & try & relive those great memories. I praise Pres. Calderon for trying to clean it up. We have to take care of what is left & clean it up!! Viva Mexico!! xoxo

    March 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  35. Mae

    After returning from Vietnam in 1969 my husband was stationed at Ft Bliss and we remained in El Paso until 1972. Juarez at that time was a place we loved visiting. On special occasions we loved going to the El Camino Real for great drinks, wonderful food and dancing. When out of state relatives came to visit, going to the quaint inexpensive shops was always a treat for visitors. I used to drive over to Juarez by myself and never felt one ounce of fear but always enjoyed mingling with the friendly and warm and welcoming Juaristas. What a sad shame that things have changed so drastically and no feels safe there anymore. I will always have fond memories of Juarez as it was "back then."

    March 6, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  36. Sandra Falcon

    Being an El Paso native and not having visited El Paso in over 5 years, I am saddened to hear about the situation in Juarez. My family and I are taking a mini vacation over spring break to El Paso but will be very disappointed that we will not be able to take that short trip over the border to enjoy some delicious mexican food. It is a shame that this is what it has become.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  37. Angela

    I remember visiting Juarez as a child in the late 80's.
    The market was so incredible to me.
    I had dreamed of taking my own children someday, I guess that won't be possible.
    How very sad for the people of the area.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  38. vanessa, El Paso, TX

    hello, Gabe, I'm also from El Paso, TX and I, too, used to follow in tradition the weekly treks to Juarez. I went to Ysleta HS were we used to party in the same places you mentioned. I still can't believe, by watching our local news, that this is happening in our backyard, litterally. Places I used to go to clubs and raves in high school are littered with bullet holes and dead bodies. My family and relatives still live there. There has been talk by local news to legalize certain drugs, but I don't think that is the problem. The problem is corruption. How to stop it? I don't know, but something needs to be done. My family is scared everyday for their life..I hope this gets resolved soon.

    BTW, you forgot to mention, Vertigo's, Manhattan Clubs in your story..lol

    March 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  39. hb

    oops....I meant the 2nd Amendment. I would imagine drug dealers, however, are not a fan of the 1st amendment.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  40. hb

    Unfortunately, when you were living it up in the '80s, things were not so nice in Columbia and Jamaica. Once the violence there had been somewhat sustained, it unfortunately moved to Mexico, hence the violence we have today. What a shame.

    I love how Americans brush this off as a Mexican problem, or just argue that the violence would end if the US would legalize drugs. The answer is clear: America has a drug problem and innocent people die as a result. Folks need to stop being so selfish, hold themselves responsible, and quite doing drugs. This would save a lot of lives.

    On a final note, drug dealers in Mexico (and the US) are huge fans of the 1st Amendment.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  41. Rudy Diaz

    I fell the same way... when I go visit El Paso (in Austin now) I want to visit Juarez, then I don't. Too many stories of friends getting mugged trying to pay bills, dad's old buddies sons getting shot... too much. Breaks my heart.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  42. Arden Rothstein, Ph.D.

    I regularly watch AC 360. As a frequent traveler to Mexico, I was disappointed to watch the coverage last night that is excessively alarming to unsophisticated travelers and cripples the already devastated tourism to perfectly safe portions of Mexico, given past sensationalistic coverage, never followed by amelioration of the conditions. More specifically, I am a psychoanalyst who lives in New York CIty involved (avocationally) for over 45 years in the folk art community of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Having written a collectors' guide and now president of a non-profit organization, Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art (www.fofa.us), aimed at preserving and promoting the extraordinary art traditions of this area, we are up against coverage that makes Americans feel all of Mexico is unsafe. It would be great if you could help your viewers understand the circumscribed nature of the problem; in the absence of this, people panic. We've seen this since the protests of 2006 in Oaxaca, after which there was a six-month period of stability. The news (including the Times) went to town on this and then never wrote follow-ups to make it clear that it's perfectly fine (as of at least 2 years ago). The area is devastated as a result. In the past few months there is a slight trend toward recovery, but alarming articles and TV news coverage about Mexico (as if all of Mexico is involved) only extinguishes this bit of restored confidence.

    Best regards,
    Arden Rothstein, Ph.D.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  43. Cristina Ramos

    Great article! I related to every single word you wrote. It saddens me to see our families across the border go through so much fear and anxiety. We hope and pray that all will be resolved sooner than later.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  44. Monica Gonzalez

    I just recently returned from a one week trip to El Paso and this is so true. You don't go over to Juarez at all. All the horrible stories you hear now are not compared to the good times we had back in the day of crossing the bridge to party on the strip.
    The saddest part is the wall that now stands right in the border. I had so many feelings going through me that it is hard to explain. Hard to believe that part of the US belonged to Mexico and now there is that wall. It was sad. That forced separation is devestating.
    To read stories like this one it breaks your heart because that is where you were raised and that is where you came from and to see what it has become it's just a shame.

    March 6, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  45. laura

    Great article, you brought back so many memories. I remember those days, The Derby, Copa. Now when I visit El Paso, I won't set foot in Juarez, not even during the day.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm |

    ... I remember even earlier, 1970, I was sationted at Ft. Bliss for training before going overseas. I think it was a penny to cross the bridge and two to get back. I remember the colors, the clubs, and the girls! ..always the girls.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  47. G. Martinez

    Mexico is a lost cause unless there is a Reagan, Thatcher, or Churchill like Mexican leader out there in the future. The four or five families that are in power, and have been for hundreds of years, have managed to ingrain corruption and hopelessness in the people's very soul. Everything and anything can be bought in Mexico.

    These types of countries are ripe for those useless and self serving populist governments, such as the one devastating Venezuela and Ecuador. The people of these countries see only corruption and despair and jump at the first opportunist that claims to have a better way.

    The US has a vested interest in insuring that more nations in this hemisphere see the proven benefits of democracy and capitalism in improving the lives and rights of people who truly and respectfully practice it. The example that the corrupt and inept Bush administration left behind will take decades to correct, but it needs to be corrected.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  48. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    The thing about life, is that you can always go back into the past--but only to visit--times change--and so do people and cultures--and as for Juarez--it appears it has changed-however not for the better.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  49. Lorraine

    Juarez used to be a fun place to party on weekends. In my twenties it was the happening place to be. I felt safe and so did my friends. I was born and raised in El Paso and I just can't believe how bad Juarez has become. I recently had a childhood friend (close) go to Juarez with his co-workers for happy hour. His co-workers told the family when he stood up to go to the restroom he bumped into some guy walking by and said "excuse me" in spanish or course. He walked out of the restroom and just as he was about to sit down the guy put a gun to his head and fired. He never saw it coming. He never hurt a fly. No one in the bar did anything or say anything to the guy with the gun, he walked out as calm as can be. A life gone for no good reason, that's what Juarez has become. My family still lives in El Paso, your home has to have bars on the windows and all doors. If you don't, then your just asking for it. You can't park your truck outside your garage at night because its good as gone. I don't want to think about it anymore.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  50. JC- Los Angeles

    It's getting harder and harder to argue that the United States and our culture of corruption, isn't a whole lot better than Juarez.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
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