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Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarezby Charles Bowden
Synopses & Reviews
In a nice Mexican bar, the air now cool, the glare gone briefly, a glass in hand, calm, yes calm, music from speakers . . . a soothing music, and the eyes of everyone in the place seem peaceful, the bartender a smile . . . it is safe but then, the thought comes that only at such moments can you be taken, that it is not the midnight street, the dark alley, the clot of cholos leaning against a wall on the corner, the police with their cash register eyes, the new pickups, huge and with darkened glass, no, it is not these signals of menace that one must be on guard for, it is this moment in the bar, this calm, the music, the bead of moisture slowly trickling down the glass, that is when they will come, you will disappear, yes, you will leave with them, be forced into a car and leave behind you only very vague memories which before the next drink is swallowed will have vanished, it is always when you relax and feel safe in this place that you are no longer safe, that the pain and terror come and to be honest, the thing you have been dodging but waiting for, the credit flashing on the screen that says The End. That is what everyone on every street here knows and waits for and never mentions . . .--Charles Bowden, from Dreamland
What do you call a place where people are tortured and murdered and buried in the backyard of a nice, middle-class condo? Where police work for the drug cartels? Where the meanings of words such as border and crime and justice are emptying out into the streets and flowing down into the sewers? You call it Juarez or, better yet, Dreamland.
Realizing that merely reporting the facts cannot capture the massive disintegration of society that is happening along the border, Charles Bowden and Alice Leora Briggs use nonfiction and sgraffito drawings to depict the surreality that is Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Starting from an incident in which a Mexican informant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security murdered a man while U.S. agents listened in by cell phone--and did nothing to intervene--Bowden forcefully and poetically describes the breakdown of all order in Juarez as the power of the drug industry outstrips the power of the state. Alice Leora Briggs's drawings--reminiscent of Northern Renaissance engraving and profoundly disquieting--intensify the reality of this place where atrocities happen daily and no one, neither citizens nor governments, openly acknowledges them.
With the feel of a graphic novel, the look of an illuminated medieval manuscript, and the harshness of a police blotter, Dreamland captures the routine brutality, resilient courage, and rapacious daily commerce along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Borderlands violence, so explosive in our own time, has deep roots in history. Lance R. Blythand#8217;s study of Chiricahua Apaches and the presidio of Janos in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands reveals how no single entity had a monopoly on coercion, and how violence became the primary means by which relations were established, maintained, or altered both within and between communities.
For more than two centuries, violence was at the center of the relationships by which Janos and Chiricahua formed their communities. Violence created families by turning boys into men through campaigns and raids, which ultimately led to marriage and also determined the provisioning and security of these families; acts of revenge and retaliation similarly governed their attempts to secure themselves even as trade and exchange continued sporadically. This revisionist work reveals how during the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras, elements of both conflict and accommodation constituted these two communities, which previous historians have often treated as separate and antagonistic. By showing not only the negative aspects of violence but also its potentially positive outcomes, Chiricahua and Janos helps us to understand violence not only in the southwestern borderlands but in borderland regions generally around the world.
About the Author
Lance R. Blyth is the command historian at U.S. Northern Command and a research associate in the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico.
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History and Social Science » Latin America » Mexico