Juárez con­fi­den­tial,

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

De­spite the per­sonal in­vest­ment he has made in this film, Bow­den doesn’t hold out hope it will af­fect the drug wars along the U.S.-Mex­ico border. “I’ve wasted a lot of my life on what you would call the drug world,” he said wryly. “It’s kind of like Viet­nam: num­ber one, no­body wins; num­ber two, the peo­ple are dy­ing for noth­ing. They are dy­ing be­cause of the pro­hi­bi­tion in the United States. The drugs are more avail­able now and of a higher qual­ity than when I started writ­ing about it in the 1980s. There are now more narcs than there have ever been on Earth. There are now more con­victs than there have ever been in the his­tory of our coun­try. I can’t say I’ve ac­com­plished much.”

The writer is rec­on­ciled to this fu­til­ity be­cause he’s com­mit­ted to doc­u­men­ta­tion, a habit he de­vel­oped while work­ing to­ward a doc­tor­ate in his­tory. Bow­den dropped out of the doc­toral pro­gram to be­gin re­port­ing in the late 1970s. “I be­lieve in cre­at­ing records,” he said. “With Juárez, I ran into some­thing that was bloody, mur­der­ous, huge, and be­ing ig­nored.”

These days, Bow­den is try­ing to write about some­thing other than Juárez. An ar­dent stu­dent of ecol­ogy, he is fas­ci­nated by the Mis­sis­sippi River and its trib­u­taries. He trav­eled re­cently from his Las Cruces home to the Arkansas River delta for an up­com­ing Na­tional Geo­graphic story on the re­gion.

Bow­den hopes that this is his last year to re­port on the drug war. This spring he pub­lished Dreamland — a book with il­lus­tra­tor Alice Briggs that blended ex­plicit, graphic im­ages and rau­cous, be­hind-the-scenes ac­counts of life in Juárez. Bow­den con­sid­ers it his “exit in­ter­view” from cov­er­ing the bor­der­lands drug trade. “The vi­o­lence in Mex­ico has reached such a mag­ni­tude that the main­stream press is start­ing to pay far more at­ten­tion than they have in the past,” he said. “Now I can re­tire, sit on a rock, and write about birds and the mys­ter­ies of life.”

Charles Bow­den

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