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Murder City: Lessons of The Dead in Mexico explores the idea that Mexico is collapsing into a permanent culture of violence. Bowden focuses on Ciudad Juarez, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso. Infamously known as the place where women disappear, last year alone 1,607 people were murdered, a number that is set to accelerate in 2009.
Miss Sinaloa is a beauty queen who is raped and loses her mind; her descent into madness becomes a parable for the town itself. As Bowden searches for reasons to explain why so many are dying, he realizes that what is happening in Juarez and other border towns - caught in the crosshairs of the drug and immigration wars - represents the total collapse of civic society. As he writes "this book is not about how the world ends but how a new world is being born."
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