Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future

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Aperture, 1998 - Photography - 131 pages
Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Time challenges the propaganda and the realities of the current relationship between the United States and Mexico, focusing on the more intimate connection between the border towns of El Paso and Juarez. Charles Bowden, who first brought attention to the story of the Juarez photographers in Harper's (December 1996), has written an uncompromising, piercing work that combines insightful and informed reporting with a poetic and wry style. His powerful text, integrated with brutal and revealing images by a group of unknown Mexican street photographers, takes on issues of NAFTA, immigration, gangs, corruption, drug trafficking, and poverty, uncovering a very different Mexico than generally depicted in the press and by the United States and Mexican governments.

Conditions in the impoverished colonias (urban settlements), work on maquiladora (foreign-owned factory) assembly lines, arrests and victims resulting from drug and gang violence, the hardships for women and children-- in short, everyday life in Juarez-- are all depicted here with an urgency and passion that could only grow from pure desperation. This group of guerrilla photographers, most of whom work for one of the daily newspapers in Juarez, earning the equivalent of only $50 to $100 per week (although the cost of living in Juarez is nearly that of El Paso), risk their lives daily with the photographs they take, alienating themselves from the local governments in both Juarez and El Paso, the police, the drug traffickers, and the gangs.

It is all too easy for the American media (and, consequently, the American public) to ignore the plight of the almost two million residents of a city seemingly so distant and foreign, yet the brutal irony is that many of these people-- our not-so-distant neighbors-- suffer directly from the effects of our "progress." Many Mexicans continue to work in subhuman conditions, with little hope of lifting themselves out of grinding poverty.

While Charles Bowden presents a riveting investigation of Juarez, its inhabitants, and its visual chroniclers, the renowned activist and writer Noam Chomsky offers in his introduction a bitingly critical account of NAFTA, suggesting its nullifying effect on democracy and the rights of both workers and consumers, and its underlying strategy for protecting the rich and powerful, and keeping everyone else in his or her place. In his afterword, the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano poses the question: Should the Third World really aspire to be more like the First World? His insider's look at contemporary North/South American relations reveals how the relationship between Juarez and El Paso can serve as a metaphor for U.S.-Latin American relations, and demonstrates the devastating toll United States policy and attitude knowingly take on human rights and the environment south of our border.

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User Review  - Narboink - LibraryThing

Published in 1998, "Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future" is essentially an expanded magazine article by Charles Bowden on his impressions of Ciudad Juárez as reflected by various freelance ... Read full review


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About the author (1998)

Charles Bowden is the author of fourteen books including Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America; Desierto: Memories of the Future; Red Line; Blue Desert; and (with Michael Binstein) Trust Me: Charles Keating and the Missing Billions. He is contributing editor of Esquire, and also writes for other magazines such as Harper's and The New York Times Book Review, as well as for newspapers. Recently he won the Lannan Award and the Sidney Hillman Award. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, and is currently at work on a new book entitled, A Borderline Case.

Noam Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs, and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Language and Mind; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vols. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; and Reflection on Propaganda. He has been a professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT for more than forty years.

Eduardo Galeano is the author of the trilogy Memory of Fire-- Genesis; Faces and Masks; and Century of the Wind-- as well as Open Veins of Latin America; The Book of Embraces; and, most recently, Soccer in Sun and Shadow (Verso). His books have been translated into eighteen languages. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he was born.

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