Border Boom Town traces the social and economic evolution of Ciudad Juárez, the largest city on the U.S.-Mexican border and one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the world. In this evocative portrait, Oscar J. Martínez stresses the interdependence of Juárez and El Paso, a condition that is similar to relations between other "twin cities" along the border.
Using a wide variety of local historical materials from both sides of the Río Grande, Martínez shows how Juárez entered the modern era with the arrival of the railroads in the 1880's, serving as a principal port of exit for waves of Mexican emigrants bound for the United States. In more recent years, increased migration to the area has resulted in extraordinary expansion of the population, with significant impact on both sides of the boundary.
Proximity to the highly industrialized country to the north and remoteness from Mexico's centers of production have brought a multiplicity of assets and liabilities. Juárez's vulnerability to external conditions has led to alternating cycles of prosperity and depression since the establishment of the border in 1848.
With the stimulus of new development programs in the 1960's and 1970's designed to integrate this neglected area into the national economic network, Juárez enjoyed the biggest boom in its history. However, government efforts to improve socioeconomic conditions failed to solve old problems and gave rise to new social ills. Ironically, the "Mexicanization" campaign on the border has led to unprecedented levels of foreign dependency.
Martínez's analysis shows that integrating the northern Mexican frontier into the national economy remains an elusive and complex problem with which Mexico will continue to grapple for years to come.
By Oscar J. Martínez
Oscar J. Martínez migrated with his family from central Chihuahua to Ciudad Juárez in the 1940's, and he spent his childhood in Juárez and El Paso. He is Professor of History at the University of Arizona.