Editor's note: Pope Francis has arrived in Ciudad Juarez, a border city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. He is the first pontiff to visit Mexico's border with the United States, Univision reports. While there, Pope Francis will visit a prison and seminary, then deliver his "Two Nations, One Faith" Mass at the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juarez at around 6 p.m. ET. Continuing with the message of togetherness, the pope's homily will be livestreamed to thousands watching in the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, just on the other side of the border. - Shelley
Ciudad Juárez (Spanish pronunciation: [sjuˈðað ˈxwaɾes], /ˈhwɑːrɛz/WHAH-rez; Juarez City) is a city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Commonly referred to by locals as simply Juárez, and known as Paso del Norte (Pass of the North) until 1888, Juárez is the seat of the municipality of Juárez with an estimated population of 1.5 million people. The city lies on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), south of El Paso, Texas. Together with the surrounding areas the cities form El Paso–Juárez, the second largest bi-national metropolitan area on the Mexico–United States border (after San Diego–Tijuana), with a combined population of over 2.7 million people.
Strategically placed on the Mexico–United States border, Ciudad Juárez has long been a center of illegal drug trafficking. The Juárez Cartel's long-standing control over the city's trafficking activities was challenged in 2007 by its former ally the Sinaloa Cartel, leading to an exceptionally bloody turf war. In the period from 2008 to 2012, violence between the two reached unprecedented heights as the city became known as "the most dangerous place on Earth". At the very height of the conflict, in 2010, there were an average 8.5 to 20 homicides (for a total of 3,766) and eight kidnappings per day. By 2012, the Sinaloa cartel had decisively gained the upper hand and violence declined sharply as a result. As of 2015 and 2016, perceptions of the city are much more positive. While killings do still occur, they do so at a much lower rate that is comparable to or lower than that in many American cities.
There are four international ports of entry connecting Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, including the Bridge of the Americas, Ysleta International Bridge, Paso del Norte Bridge and Stanton Street Bridge. These combined allowed 22,958,472 crossings in 2008, making Ciudad Juárez a major point of entry and transportation into the U.S. for all of central northern Mexico. The city has a growing industrial center which is made up in large part by more than 300 maquiladoras (assembly plants) located in and around the city. According to a 2007 New York Times article, Ciudad Juárez "is now absorbing more new industrial real estate space than any other North American city." In 2008, fDi Magazine designated Ciudad Juárez "The City of the Future."