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Abecedario de Juárez

Abecedario de Juárez
An Illustrated Lexicon

Illustrated with evocative drawings by artist Alice Leora Briggs, this glossary uses the vocabulary created by the violence in Juárez, Mexico, to tell the stories of the people who live there.

January 2022
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264 pages | 7 x 10 | 135 b&w illustrations |

Juárez, Mexico, is known for violence. It began with the femicides of the 1990s, then continued with the cartel-related mayhem that made it one of the world’s most dangerous cities from 2006 to 2012. Along with the violence came a new lexicon that traveled from person to person, across rivers and borders—wherever it was needed to explain the horrors taking place.

From personal interviews, media accounts, and conversations on the street, Julián Cardona and Alice Leora Briggs have collected the words and slang that make up the brutal language of Juárez, creating a glossary that serves as a linguistic portrait of the city and its violence. Organized alphabetically, the entries consist of Spanish and Spanglish, accompanied by short English definitions. Some also feature a longer narrative drawn from interviews—stories that put the terms in context and provide a personal counterpoint to media reports of the same events. Letters, and many of the entries, are supplemented with Briggs’s evocative illustrations, which are reminiscent of Hans Holbein’s famous Alphabet of Death. Together, the words, drawings, and descriptions in Abecedario de Juárez both document and interpret the everyday violence of this vital border city.


Julián Cardona (1960–2020) was an acclaimed photographer based in Juárez, Mexico. His images have been published in Harper’s, Aperture, and the newspapers of his hometown. He was co-creator, with Charles Bowden, of Exodus and Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future.

Alice Leora Briggs is an artist and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. She collaborated with Charles Bowden on Dreamland: The Way Out of Juárez.

Alice Driver is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Time, and Oxford American.