At least 200,000 people have died in Mexico’s so-called drug war, and the worst suffering has been in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. How did it get so bad? After three decades studying that question, Howard Campbell doesn’t believe there is any one answer. Misguided policies, corruption, criminality, and the borderland economy are all factors. But none of these reasons explain how violence in downtown Juárez has become heartbreakingly “normal.”
A rigorous yet moving account, Downtown Juárez is informed by the sex workers, addicts, hustlers, bar owners, human smugglers, migrants, and down-and-out workers struggling to survive in an underworld where horrifying abuses have come to seem like the natural way of things. Even as Juárez’s elite northeast section thrives on the profits of multinational corporations, and law-abiding citizens across the city mobilize against crime and official malfeasance, downtown’s cantinas, barrios, and brothels are tyrannized by misery.
Campbell’s is a chilling perspective, suggesting that, over time, violent acts feed off each other, losing their connection to any specific cause. Downtown Juárez documents this banality of evil–and confronts it–with the stories of those most affected.