Sprawling CIUDAD JUÁREZ, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, is possibly Mexico’s nastiest border town. Vast, dirty and riddled with visible social problems at the best of times, its spiralling drug-gang violence led to the Mexican army being deployed to patrol its bullet-spattered streets in 2008. This followed the already notorious rape and murder of over four hundred women since 1993, “las muertas de Juárez” portrayed in the depressing Jennifer Lopez movie Bordertown (2007) and Roberto Bolaño’s seminal novel 2666. There’s an element of paranoia to this of course; Juárez is a city of two million people that, by and large, functions like anywhere else in Mexico, and tourists are very rarely affected by drug violence (it’s also just as famous in Mexico for being the home of Juan Gabriel, the nation’s most successful singer). The troops have improved the security situation (murders dropped almost sixty percent in 2012), but it’s still a good idea to pass through Juárez as quickly as possible – you won’t miss much. Travelling between the main transit points is perfectly safe during the day.

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