By Sarah Dahlen
Ciudad Juarez has become an unfortunate symbol of all that is wrong at the U.S./Mexico border: violence, poverty, exploitation, lawlessness. With an average homicide rate of 200 people per month in recent years, this reputation is not entirely undeserved. But Juarez and the rest of the Paso del Norte Region, which includes El Paso, Texas and adjacent areas of New Mexico, is more than the sum of its statistics.
A new collection of articles, Cities and Citizenship at the U.S.-Mexico Border, aims to explore various aspects of this bi-national, tri-state area. Edited by Kathleen Staudt, César Fuentes, and Julia Monárrez Fragoso, this academic volume embodies the interdisciplinary approach necessitated by studies of the border.
The authors, scholars from Mexico and the U.S., come from a wide range of disciplines, including economics, women’s studies, education, political science, and urban planning. Their various approaches are united by the recognition that globalization in this export-processing center has created a regional dynamic worthy of exploration.
At least, that is what several of the book’s contributors achieve. Others present information that is connected to the book’s themes only by coincidence of location and lacks meaningful contextualization.
The result, for the reader, is a greater understanding of the Paso del Norte area, but not necessarily of its uniqueness among border regions.
Despite its faults, this volume makes clear that the fates of these border towns are inextricably connected. Thus, the impunity of those who have murdered women in Juarez leads to a climate in which violence against women is normalized on both sides of the border.
And while economic polarization between rich and poor is particularly pronounced in Mexico, it has carried over into the formation of colonias, unincorporated communities without services or infrastructure, on the U.S. side as well.
For those with an interest in border studies, this book is recommended.
Sarah Dahlen is an university librarian and part of the Review ‘n Receive book review program.