Review:”El Cartel de Juárez” June 3, 2009 page 3/5a remote outpost on the Mexican frontier whose identity was shaped both by apowerful neighbour to the north and the deliberate neglect of its own federalgovernment. Cruz writes that the stories he will tell represent the “
unpaid debts left from the Revolution
” —meaning that almost all of the unresolved tensions of modernMexico will inevitably surface in Juarez and dominate its existence: the ambiguitiesof a neo‐colonial relationship driven more by US entrepreneurial goals, a seethingendpoint for migrants who have walked in the footsteps of hundreds of thousandswho went before, the wild frontier neglected and relegated to unimportance by adistant central government, a native population of neo‐liberal elites who wouldrather invest with US con men than take a chance on doing the same in their owncountry, a lawless frontier where the drug and corruption plaza was controlled andorganized by men who had bribed their way into administrative positions, and acultural climate where everyone knows what is happening but is more afraid of thedanger of pointing it out.
The book can be frustrating at times, because the vignettes are not connected by astrong central theme. And the one selected to move the tale will make little sense toreaders who know little about Chihuahua. And to complicate things, Cruz’snarratives frequently jump back and forth from past to present and back to anotherevent. One of the most complicated links is the central story of former MissChihuahua, Maria Dolores Camarena Gonzalez. Cruz is determined to tell about herexperiences in the 1980 Miss Mexico competition, her trial in El Paso on 58 countsof money laundering (http://cases.justia.com/us‐court‐of‐appeals/F2/973/427/386351/), a vague connection to another beauty queen with atragic story, Sacnité Rebecca Maldonado, and many descriptions of her genteel andwealthy life in Juarez.It appears to me that Dolores’s story is one that he must have covered as youngreporter, and which he is using as a literary tool and a metaphor for routine eventswith Juárez culture, including a) deeply interconnected links between narcotrafficand normal routines of every day life in Juárez b) ways in which dirty money fromMexico was laundered in the twin sister city on the American side c) how the nastybusiness of drugs and crime is a source of profit for the wealth elite (specifically 12families in a new Chihuahua oligarchy) d) a critique of the “war against narcotrafficking” focus for its attacks on minor and low‐level and sympatheticplayers, and e) the diminished status of women who are presented with fewopportunities for success beyond a cult of beauty . He writes“
Vista de cerca, Dolores era como la frontera en la que nació, creció y vivió.: extraña,ideal, fría, humilde, agobiante, hermética, caprichosa, práctica, liberal, arrogante,incomprehensible, engañoso y utópica, pero real. Una ciudad llena de agravios dondela elite politica se entrelaza para mantener sus privilegios o, de ser possible,acrecenterlos
” (18)But the fact is, many interesting stories and details will emerge in this book. Cruzdescribes how opium came to El Paso del Norte after the San Francisco earthquakeresulted in an influx of Chinese immigrants. The first known drug lord was SamHing who knew that it was necessary to bribe and involve local authorities, and he