Downtown Historic Walking Tour
Welcome to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua,
Mexico, and its Historic Downtown Self- Guided Walking Tour. It has been designed
for you to stroll through the streets and buildings which are full of legends,
traditions and history.
Within two hours, 2.5 miles round trip,
one will have an opportunity to walk through the Cuidad Juarez downtown area. One will see
historical buildings such as the Mission of Guadalupe, built in 1659 by Franciscans;
the Old Customs House, built in 1889; and streets that have experienced events and
activities that have shaped the face their community.
From the founding over
400 years ago, Ciudad Juarez, formerly known as Villa Paso del Norte, has played an
important role in the development of the region from the standpoint of social,
economic, and industrial issues.
The agreement that marked the end of the
Porfirio Diaz dictatorship was signed in Ciudad Juarez. International trade has
been taking place in our city for centuries. The "maquiladora," or twin plant
program, was born in the mid-1960's, making our community a leader in this field.
Today, Ciudad Juarez is one of the most imporatant cities in Mexico, and combined
with its sister city, EL Paso, Texas, creates a metropolitan area with a special
combination of cultural, historical and traditional uniqueness worldwide.
This walking tour begins at the Paso del
Norte International Bridge. Formerly known as the Santa Fe Bridge, because it
connected Avenida Juarez in Ciudad Juarez with Santa Fe Street in El Paso, the
bridge was rebuilt and renamed in 1965. It now connects Avenida Juarez with El
Paso Street. This bridge accommodates pedestrians traveling both north and south
but only handles northbound vehicular traffic. A short distance away, the Good
Neighbor Bridge accommodates the southbound vehicular traffic by connecting Stanton
Street in El Paso with Avenida Lerdo in Juarez.
Both bridges, along with
the railroad bridge, link downtown Juarez and El Paso. The flags and plaques placed
mid-way on the Paso del Norte International Bridge mark the official border of our
two nations at the Rio Grande, or Rio Bravo, as it is known in Mexico.
"Grande" means great/ big and "bravo" means rough/spirited. Even though today
we see a river that is channeled and tame, it wasn't always so. This river was
in fact big and rough until Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico was completed in 1916.
If we face northwest, we can see the river as it channels from the far-off San
Juan Mountains in Colorado where it springs to life and begins its journey to the
Gulf of Mexico.
The first bridges crossing the river were built at the beginning of the nineteenth
century. Before the river (known to the Spaniards as Rio del Norte or The River
of the North) was crossed by wading across the shallows that gave the region the
name of "El Paso del Rio Norte" or Pass of the North. The first bridges were
continually destroyed by the waters when the river flooded. Today's Paso del
Norte International Bridge was constructed in 1962.
Below the bridge, we can see that there is a narrow canal that carries water
at a faster rate than the river. This is due to the way the canal was built.
This is the American Canal. It takes in the water from the Rio Grande before
it comes into Mexico and its purpose is to irrigate fields of El Paso's Lower
Many tourists as well as El Pasoans and Juarenses walk across the Paso del
Norte International Bridge because it links the heart of both cities. It is
at this same bridge that we will end our tour.
AV. JUAREZ TOURIST STRIP (Ca. 1935)
The stretch of Avenida Juarez that runs
from the Paso del Norte International Bridge to Avenida 16 de Septiembre is the
oldest and historically the most colorful tourist strip of any Mexican border
community. For generations shoppers have purchased Mexican products in the
plentiful curio shops, and since frontier days diners and fun seekers have
enjoyed the restaurants, saloons, casinos, nightclubs and other nocturnal
attractions. U.S. gangsters engaged in illegal liquor trafficking across the border
and carried on business on the strip with local entrepreneurs during the days of U.S.
prohibition in the 1920's and 1930's. Before the onset of "no-fault" divorce laws in
the United States, legions of American celebrities worked out details of their
"quickie" Mexican divorces in law offices located in the district. It is said that
the "margarita" drink was invented in one of the bars on the strip. Today as in the
past, Avenida Juarez continues to bustle with tourist activity.
Avenida Juarez shares with other
thoroughfares along the Mexican border (such as Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana)
a reputation that, whether good or bad, is known over the world. In short, this
Avenue is famous and infamous.
In the 1990's, the government of
the state of Chihuahua, the city government and merchants along Juarez Avenue
made an effort to revitalize and present a better image. Unfortunately, few
historical buildings and sites remain standing along Avenida Juarez but the
following are worth mentioning.
1. MARTINO RESTAURANT –Avenida Juarez Norte #643
This famous restaurant was built in
the 1920's and due to its tradition remains popular with locals and visitors
alike. Some years ago, the owners tried to close it. However, the employees
united and bought the restaurant and presently operate it themselves. It is
an outstanding example of Juarez's culinary arts and features a variety of
2. KENTUCKY BAR – Avenida Juarez Norte #629
Welcome to the oldest bar in the city
still in service. Since opening its doors in 1920, this bar with its great
tradition has preserved its elegance and prestige. Great personalities from
the world of politics, art, cinema, sports and bullfighting, including John
Wayne, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Jack Dempsey, have
all sat at its beautiful bar. The photographs of many other famous patrons are
displayed on the walls. Here you can buy bullfight tickets during the season.
A little farther down we find the Plaza del Mariachi. This is the place where
Tommy's Bar once was located and where Juarense bartender, Francisco "Pancho"
Morales claims to have created the famous Margarita Cocktail.
We now come to Calle Mejia and we are reminded that not far from here is the area
known as Bellavista where a little food vendor's stall gave birth to the now famous
"burritos. " This distinctive Mexican food gave Juarez a place in the Guiness Book
of World Records for the world's largest burrito (153 ft.) in 1993.
3. TEMPLO BAUTISTA (BAPTIST CHURCH) – Avenida Juarez Norte #225
Built in 1921, this was the second
Protestant Church established in Juarez. Building the church here was a very
daring act during the days of U.S. Prohibition. From this location churchgoers
witnessed the liquor and entertainment business boom. Religious services are still
4. SAN LUIS BUILDING – Avenida Juarez at Av. 16 de Septiembre
On this corner we find a brick building built
to house the money exchange and bar known as Club San Luis. It was named after the
Spirit of St. Louis, the plane flown by Charles Lindbergh on his famous transatlantic
flight. A small replica of the plane can be seen on the front of the building. In
1929, Charles Lindbergh visited Juarez and met with Mexican aviator Captain Emilio
Carranza, famous for his record setting flights and greatly admired by the public
along the border.
From this vantage point we can see several interesting buildings, including the
Old Customs House (today the Juarez Museum of History), the Custom Administrator's
House and the Sauer Building.
5. CASA SAUER BUILDING - (Avenida Juarez at Av. 16 de Septiembre)
Across from the museum is a building
constructed in the 1920's and named after George D. Sauer, a merchant dealing
in groceries, wines, liquors, cigarettes and import-exports. Sauer & Co. existed
at this site until 1934 and dealt in the beer and bottled drinks business in both
Juarez and El Paso. In later years, this building housed the El Paso Trolley Company,
Juarez Traction Co., El Paso Electric Co., and Southwest Telephone &Telegraph, all
of which provided their services in Juarez. Medical offices, law firms and public
notaries continue to occupy the building.
6. EX-ADUANA (OLD CUSTOMS HOUSE) JUAREZ
MUSEUM OF HISTORY (Av. 16 de Septiembre #209)
Built in 1885-1889, this building served
as the Customs House for many years and it now houses the city's Historical
Museum. It is one of the few examples of Victorian architecture left in Juarez
and is characteristic of the Porfirio Diaz era (1876-1911). On October 16,1909,
President Porfirio Diaz hosted a banquet for President William H. Taft in the
central hall. This was the first meeting ever held between the presidents of
Mexico and the United States.
7. OLD CUSTOMS HOUSE (Ca. 1920's) –
Av. 16 de Septiembre #209
The building's rooms and halls were
lavishly decorated for the festivities of Mexico's Independence Centennial in
19 10. Only one year and a few months later on May 8, 1911, the pact for Porfirio
Diaz's resignation to the presidency of Mexico was reached here. After the great
battle of Ciudad Juarez in May, 1911, the peace treaties giving victory to the
Mexican Revolution, headed by Francisco I. Madero, were signed in this building.
The legendary Pancho Villa, Pascual Orozco and many other heroic figures
participated in the "siege" of this city. The Mexican Revolution lasted ten
years and numerous interested Americans took an active part in the events.
Since the arrival of the railroad in the 1880's, all the merchandise that crossed
from one country to another and payment of taxes were controlled in the Customs
House. For many years the railroad was the primary choice for transporting cargo.
Mexican trains still cross the center of town at night to link up with Union Pacific,
Burlington Northern/ Santa Fe railways in El Paso.
In 1990, the entire building was restored so that it could open its doors as
the Ciudad Juarez Museum of History. This museum has a permanent exhibit of
regional history starting with the pre-Columbian cultures such as that which
existed in Casas Grandes and Paquime in the state of Chihuahua. It also covers
the explorations by the Spanish Conquistadors, the period of the Spanish Vice
Royalty, Independence, the Reformation, and the Porfirio Diaz era.
At present the museum is in the process of expanding its contents. More emphasis
will be given to the daily life, customs and culture of border society which is
characterized by migration, work and the meeting of cultures.
8. ADMINISTRATOR'S HOME OLD CUSTOMS
HOUSE - (Avenida Juarez Sur # 144)
This is the part of the Old Customs
House built in 1885 – 1889 that served as living quarters for the administrator.
The building was recently restored and now houses the Gallery of "Distinguished
For many years this avenue has been considered the city's main street. It was
formerly called "Calle del Comercio" (Commerce Street).
9. PLAZA DE ARMAS (MAIN SQUARE) -
(Calle Vicente Guerrero, Noche Triste and Av. 16 de Septiembre)
Recently remodeled with a gazebo, kiosk
and a fountain, the main plaza is typical of Mexican squares. Even today it is
a meeting place for Juarenses. This space was used during colonial times for the
garrisoned troops to present arms and carry out military maneuvers, hence its name.
The square was plotted by order of the governor of New Mexico ca. 1680 across from
the old Mission of Guadalupe which we will visit later. Close by, is the imposing
cathedral with its stone cut towers which will also be visited later.
10. EL CAMINO REAL deTIERRA
ADENTRO (THE ROYAL ROAD OF THE INTERIOR)
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is one
of several historic trails that has had a significant role in the history and
development of Mexico and the United States. This trail extended from Mexico City
through Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, and on to El Paso del Norte where it continued
along the Rio Grande Valley to Santa Fe, New Mexico. El Camino was approximately
1,500 miles long and functioned for an extended period from 1598 to the 1880's.
The trail also has significance as a North American Indian trade route prior to
and during use by the Spanish explorers and colonists. It is the first road to be
developed by Europeans in what is now the United States, and for a time it enjoyed
the distinction of being the longest road in North America. After the independence of
Mexico in 1821 and with the development of the Santa Fe trail, El Camino Real became
the Santa Fe Trail, the major trade and commerce links from Missouri to Mexico
El Camino Real continued as a major trade route until the 1880's when the railroad
was built from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, and on to Juarez and
11. SITE OF PRESIDENT BENITO JUAREZ'
OFFICE Av. 16 de Septiembre Poniente (west)
From 1865 to 1866, Mexican president
and patriot Benito Juarez was forced to move from one place to another while
fleeing the occupying French forces who were trying to install Maximilian of
Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico. Juarez wound up in Paso del Norte and at this
location he maintained his office. Later he returned to Mexico City to occupy
the National Palace upon the defeat of the French troops and fall of the Empire.
The Juarenses of that era were rewarded for the services they performed for
the nation and the city subsequently took the name of this Mexican hero.
The city's coat of arms bears the motto "Custodian of the Republic".
A small bust and plaque commemorate the site of his office that served as
the seat of government in that troubled time.
On this site also stood the post office building, which was destroyed during
the Mexican Revolution in the fierce battle of Juarez on May 8, 1911. Many
buildings were badly damaged and destroyed during the Mexican Revolution and
with them their silent testimony to the history of the city.
12. OLD CITY HALL Calle
Mariscal at Av. 16 de Septiembre
Old City Hall dates back to late
nineteenth century. The saw cut lava rock covers thick adobe walls and beams
which still guard the interior. This building was a "presidio" (fort) that
served as barracks for the troops who fought the ferocious Apache Indians
and protected travelers on El Camino Real.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries peace treaties with the Indians
of the region were signed in this building. The highest authority was the Captain
of the Presidio. He was also a lieutenant of the Governor of New Mexico since El
Paso del Norte was the village with the greatest number of inhabitants in the
It was in this building that the first town council of El Paso del Norte met
and decided to join the state of Chihuahua and cease being part of New Mexico.
The American flag flew over this building in 1846-47 when Colonel Alexander
Doniphan's army occupied the village during the Mexican -American War.
In 1947, the building was reconstructed. In the foyer, we can find a mural
depicting the local history and on its facade is the Juarez coat of arms.
This site was the seat of civil authority for over 300 years. Currently it is
being remodeled to house the Municipal Arts Center.
13. CUAUHTEMOC MARKET Calle
Vicente Guerrero at Calle Mariscal
Since the late 1880's, pioneers have
exchanged goods and services on this site. Since 1906, this public market has
housed different buildings. Its interior is a typical Mexican public market
where one can buy anything from groceries and ready-made food to herbs, pets,
souvenirs and folk art.
14. THE MISSION OF GUADALUPE
Calle Vicente Guerrero in front of the Plaza de Armas
By standing in front of the Mission you
will notice statues of its founder, Fray Garcia de San Francisco. Born in Old
Castilla, Spain, he came to the New World in 1629 to reinforce mission efforts
in the province of New Mexico. In 1659 he established the Mission of Our Lady of
Guadalupe among the Manso Indians at the Pass of the North, a strategic location
along the developing El Camino Real. The smaller bronze sculpture is a replica of
the Fray Garcia statue located in downtown El Paso. It depicts Fray Garcia in the
act of building his mission. In his right hand he holds the lintel beam carved by
the Indians and bearing the name of the mission and year of its founding. The
cluster of grapes in a Manso Indian basket, at Fray Garcia's feet, represents
viticulture and agriculture which he introduced into the area.
On December 8, 1659, Fray Garcia de San Francisco, accompanied by Fray Juan
de Salazar and ten families of Christian Indians, built a provisional oratory
out of branches and mud and a monastery with a roof made of straw. On January 5,
1662, the New Church of the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe was inaugurated. One
hundred Indians were baptized on that day.
Fray Garcia, after 12 years at the Pass, returned to minister among the Piro
Indians of Senecu Mission, near modern Socorro, New Mexico, until his death
on January 22, 1673.
Guadalupe Mission is the mother of the El Paso Valley Missions. To the tired
traveler along the Camino Real, it was an important stop for food and rest.
During the 1680 Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico, over 2,500 Spanish refugees and
displaced Indians received food and shelter at the mission. Until 1692, the Pass
of the North was the most northern outpost of colonial Spain in the New World.
Constructed solely of adobe, the thickness of its walls can be appreciated
at the main and side doors. These doors with their simple portico and Spanish
colonial oval windows known as "Ojo de Buey" (Bull's Eye), have been recently
restored following the original sketches. The ceiling stands out for its artistic
quality. The missionaries came from the Iberian Peninsula where an Arabic
influence can be seen in civil and religious buildings. At the Mission of Guadalupe,
one can appreciate the Indian elements in the rectangular decorations, the braiding,
the circular stairs, the toothed profiles and the serpent pallets carved into each
one of the ceiling rafters, sacristy doors, candlesticks, lectern and the side
At the center, the church has a stone altar installed during the last
restoration (1968-1971). Under this altar lie the remains of the first settlers.
The floor is flagstone. The choir, at the back of the church, is made of wood and
is supported by two elegant carved wood columns crowned by a wide capital. The
entrance door to the choir is sealed for its protection but one can admire the
work on the door since it is one of the original doors of the mission. At the head
of the altar is a panel with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in a finely
carved wood and glass niche. The entire building is seventeenth century Mexican
Baroque which includes Indian motifs.
15. THE CATHEDRAL Av. 16 de
Septiembre in front of the Plaza de Armas
The Cathedral was also dedicated to the
Virgin of Guadalupe, patron of the cities and seat of the Bishop and the Diocese
since 1957. Begun in 1941-45, it was rebuilt between 1975 and 1977 after it was
destroyed by fire. The original facade and 100 ft. towers remain. The rest of the
building was completely transformed in an austere and sober style. On the south
side is the stained glass window representing "The Grace of God in the salvation
of Mexico through the Virgin of Guadalupe," as well as the miracle of the roses.
16. GARITA DE LOS METALES
(MINERALS'WEIGHING STATION)Calle Vicente Guerrero at Av. Francisco Villa
This building was constructed in 1889 as
part of the Old Customs House Compound. Constructed of red brick, it was used to
count metals prior to exportation. Today, it serves as a center for tourist
information and the sale of folk art from the state of Chihuahua.
17. BENITO JUAREZ MONUMENT
Calles Vicente Guerrero, Ramon Corona at Constitucion
This is the most important monument
within the city. It is an architectural gem commissioned by Governor Enrique
Creel for the Centennial celebrations of Mexico's Independence. In 1909, President
Porfirio Diaz came to Ciudad Juarez to place the first stone of this monument.
It was finished one year later and inaugurated on September 16, 1910. Italian
sculptors Augusto Volpi and Fransisci Rigalt were the overseers of the project.
The monument is constructed of marble and has four plaques which represent the most
significant episodes in the presidency of Benito Juarez.
18. MADERO STREET From the Juarez
Monument to Av. 16 de Septiembre
The Mexican Revolution began in 1910
under the leadership of Francisco 1. Madero. Madero, originally from Coahuila,
became President of Mexico in 1911, and was assassinated in a coup on February
19. VICTORIA BUILDING Av. 16
de Septiembre at Madero Street
This building served as a theater.
The land belonged to Mr. Inocente Ochoa, who was mayor of Villa Paso del
Norte. In 1865 he provided lodging at his home for President Benito Juarez.
20. JUAREZ MARKET Av. 16 de
Septiembre at Agustin Melgar Street
This traditional market dates from
1945. Today one can find folk art, food and drinks, Mariachis and much more.
21. HOTEL RIO BRAVO Av. 16 de
Septiembre at Av. Francisco Villa
This was one of the finest hotels at
the turn of the century. When President Porfirio Diaz came to Juarez to meet
with President Taft, Diaz' entourage stayed at the Hotel Rio Bravo. Also, due
to its proximity to the railroad and the international border, this was the site
of one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution. It was at this battle that the
federal forces finally surrendered to the revolutionaries.
For hundreds of years the river flooded this long valley making the land
fertile and as a result a great agricultural center. However, the river caused
suffering to the population that settled along its banks. The meandering of the
river and the flatness of the terrain caused its instability and the overflow of
its banks. It moved incessantly exchanging Mexican and American lands. This was
the reason for Mexico's claim on the land known as "El Chamizal" since 1865.
Finally, the dispute was settled 100 years later, in 1964, when presidents
Kennedy and Lopez Mateos agreed on the final terms for its transference.
On October 27, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson officially turned over 333
hectares to President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. The toll free Cordova International
Bridge and the Mexican Chamizal Park were built on these lands.
As we return to the International Bridge and pass the toll both we can
turn and look southeast and see the course of the river and the Chamizal Park.