The beginner’s guide to Juárez: becoming a fronterizo

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The beginner’s guide to Juárez: becoming a fronterizo

Two women stand in the middle of downtown Juárez, near the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.

Two women stand in the middle of downtown Juárez, near the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.

Claudia Hernandez

Two women stand in the middle of downtown Juárez, near the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.

Claudia Hernandez

Claudia Hernandez

Two women stand in the middle of downtown Juárez, near the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.

Andres Gallegos, Staff Reporter

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There are some things every El Pasoan simply knows: the fact that we are in the United States, not in Mexico and our authority on great Mexican food. We also know that El Paso wouldn’t be the city it is if it was not for its connection to its sister city, Ciudad Juárez. It is easy to be an El Pasoan, but to be a “fronterizo,” or border dweller, is a whole other deal. The qualifications to make a fronterizo claim is that you must have feet on both sides of the border. What’s the point of having another country a few feet away from your home if you’re not going to visit? For El Pasoans looking to become a fronterizo, here is a small guide to Ciudad Juárez that goes beyond the bridge and the big red X.

Centro Historico

The path to this destination begins once you cross the Santa Fe Bridge. As soon as one is officially in Mexico, one must walk straight on Avenida Juárez, where there will be old, fabled bars such as the Kentucky Club, Yankees, Club 15 (a small bar that sits around 15 people) and Terraza Oriental (officially known as El Open).

If you make it past the bars, you will end up at the Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution), where the story of the Mexican Revolution as it was lived on the border is told and where President Taft and President Diaz had dinner. Although the façade is beautiful, the entrance to the museum is on the side. However, it is more than a museum. Now that winter is crawling toward the border, a stop for coffee at La Nueva Central (The New Central) is ideal. In the morning, they serve coffee in plastic cups with sweet bread, and in the afternoon, Chinese food. La Nueva Central is a classic mix of Mexican and Chinese, or Juárense, a restaurant that cannot be avoided.

Further on the right is the Plaza de Armas (Weapons Plaza), where one can sit next to Tin Tan and have a smoke, eat corn in a cup or a Popsicle. The Plaza de Armas is right at the feet of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Cathedral (Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral), which has been standing since the ‘40s. To the side of the cathedral stands the original mission that was established in the 1600s.

Behind the cathedral is another museum, Museo de la Antigua Presidencia Municipal (Old City Hall Museum). What used to be local government offices, where treaties of peace between the Mexican government and the Apaches were signed in the 1800s, is now a museum and an art school. The antique and charming architecture of the building, as well as its interior are worthwhile.

Now, if you’re not in the mood for the sights and history, you can step over to the left and pass Avenida Vicente Guerrero and head into the markets. The markets have a variety of products such as herbs, both Mexican and Chinese, candles (veladoras), seeds, toys, crafts, jewelry, natural ointments, perfumes, Mexican candy and fabrics. There is so much in the markets that you will feel odd if you leave empty handed.

Casa de Juan Gabriel

Since the passing of El Divo de Juárez, Juan Gabriel’s status as both local and global legend has only increased. Therefore, a stop at his house is an obligation for anyone who wishes to understand what Juárez felt for her son. The house has become a museum and is a beautiful addition to the row houses on Calle 16 de Septiembre. This street holds the most alluring houses in the city.

Parque Central Hermanos Escobar

Take a break from sightseeing with the many parks scattered throughout the city. Parque Central Hermanos Escobar (Escobar Brothers Central Park) is one of the biggest parks in the city. There is a man-made lake with ducks, paddleboats and even a giraffe. This park is a great place for a picnic and family time. Also, there is a museum, La Rodadora (The Tumbleweed). This is an interactive museum, where children can go and learn with hands-on activities. The museum has an array of different activities, from small plays to cooking classes.

To arrive at the park, drive east on Calle 16 de Septiembre. This street turns into Paseo Triunfo de la República until the street turns right to Avenida de la Tecnológico. From there, drive south until it intersects with Avenida Teófilo Borunda, take a right turn and the park will be visible.

Burritos El Compa & Burritos El Centenario

It’s no secret that the burrito is a classic Juárense dish, but even if every burrito in Cd. Juárez is a thousand times better than any burrito found in El Paso, there are two shops where Juárez cemented its reputation as the best place to get a burrito. Luckily, these two shops are right in front of each other. It wouldn’t be a sin to eat in one and go across the street for one more.

To get there, take Calle 16 de Septiembre and walk east until it intersects with Calle Profesora Emila Calvillo.

El Tragadero

A block from the burrito shops sits El Tragadero (The Feast, roughly). This restaurant is famous for its steaks. As you enter the restaurant there will be a lady prepping fresh tortillas, waiting to cover the cut of steak before it is devoured. El Tragadero is a must. You can have burritos for breakfast and then visit El Tragadero for lunch or dinner.

Tacos El Negro

If you have an ounce of self-respect, then you know that Taco Bell is a disgrace and an insult to the good name of the taco. Just like the burrito, Cd. Juárez outshines El Paso in the grilling of tacos.

A taco shop that must be tried is Tacos El Negro. They are famous for their tacos al pastor and the MacNegro, a burger made with pastor meat as well. Tacos El Negro sits on Avenida Hermanos Escobar, right in front of a nail salon.

Barbacoa El Güero

There are places in El Paso that they serve you brisket and call it barbacoa, but not in Cd. Juárez. Barbacoa El Güero is one of the most famous barbacoa places to visit. One can have either tortas or tacos, or both. It is neither a restaurant nor a street stand. It has become a well-established stand, where one can sit patiently with a bottle of soda pop while the sizzle of the barbacoa flirts with your belly. To arrive at this promised premise, take Calle 16 de Septiembre, drive east (remember that this street changes name into Paseo Triunfo de la República) until you reach Calle Lago de Pátzcuaro, there will be a convenience store sitting on the corner. Take a right and the stand will be there a couple of yards inside a parking lot.

Tacos de Tripitas en la Bolivia y Tepayac

A good taco stand is like an instant lover. You see and meet one that fascinates you, that twirls your insides and instantly satisfies you. Then, one day you never see them again, or you see them occasionally passing by and your stomach aches because that lost-love cannot be recovered.

There’s one taco stand that is famous for its tacos made out of tripitas (small intestines of pigs an cows). The problem with it, however, is that the name of this taco stand got lost in the vernacular of people. To reach this place, one must drive east on Avenida Malecón until it intersects with Calle 5 de Mayo, then take a right, Tepeyac street will be right there, simply take a left until it intersects with Bolivia.

Andres Gallegos may be reached at [email protected]

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