There’s a place in the world, just south of the United States border, that many talk about, but rarely go.
A city that is a police state, plagued with what seems like a never-ending drug war, government corruption, and extreme poverty for as long as many people can remember. This city is Ciudad Juárez.
The flashing lights of the federal government police vehicles are a sad strobe, bouncing off the shattered windows of the businesses closed since the violence started. But in the midst of a country divided by a war with itself, sanctuary can be found in the Ciudad Juarez nightlife.
So I went out in search of these havens.
My first stop was on the corner of Paseo Triunfo de la Republica and Calle Lara Leos at a second story cafe bar called Asenzo.
I walked up the spiral staircase and was greeted by the deafening and familiar sounds of a STRFKR cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. The smell of cigarettes hung in the cold winter air and filled the lungs of the party-goers, all looking for an escape from the realities of their country.
I excused myself from my company to use the restroom and was greeted by walls decorated in sharpie marker. There was poetry, profanities, and love notes about heartbreak and the feeling of emptiness.
I returned to my friends and we made our way to the dance floor. People moved their bodies to the hypnotizing music. The darkness of the dance floor turned the dancing bodies into nothing but silhouettes swaying gracefully – like dandelions in the wind. I was infatuated by this.
It was a world different than the one I’d just walked in from. Outside there was sirens, hunger, missing women and war; but in here, there was beauty and a passion to be free.
I read once that “en Ciudad Juarez a bailar es un acto de desafío” which translates to “in Ciudad Juárez, to dance is an act of defiance”. The kids wanted to dance and they did just that.
Our second stop was a gay bar named Cavas. The inside was decorated with much like any other bar: dark, but painted by the strobing colors of the rainbow light system. At the bar I saw men flirting with beautiful trans women.
It wasn’t much different than the gay bars in the United States but at the same time it was.
This gay bar was located in the middle of a war zone – nonetheless these people were here and they danced which the same defiance as the people in Asenzo. They all longed for the same freedoms their brothers and sisters just north of the border have.
These people inspired me. They kept dancing and – in a way – that meant that they kept fighting.
That night, I was invited to spend the night by my guide. As we took the uber back to his house, I stared out into the street and thought about the struggles of the Juarenses. I thought about all the articles and news reports that highlighted the violence and war and felt a sense of sadness that no one ever highlighted the beauty that I’d seen that night.
These people were fighters. They were lovers. They were artists and dancers. They were poets.
And they were living; and in Ciudad Juarez, that means something.
Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo
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