In honor of Pope Francis’ visit to Ciudad Juarez (MX), AGENCY has taken a closer look at the way the binational region is manipulating traffic to accommodate the masses of expected visitors on both sides of the international divide.
The impact of the papal visit provides insight into the temporary repurcussions of globalized power structures on the cities and daily lives they encounter. As a kind of counterpoint to the papal reconstruction of medieval Rome, deploying baroque axes to enable access to sacred sights during jubilees and pilgrimage, we offer this sketch of a contemporary papacy, which instead limits public access through fluid manipulations of layers of security and infrastructure.
As the visit affects the sister cities differently, it appears the civic response is asymmetrical, an indicator of the inherent values and embedded capacities of the municipal governments on either side of the international divide.
The Pope’s procession will move from the airport Wednesday morning to several stops throughout the city – including a local prison and maquiladora – arriving for mass near the international order in the afternoon. The procession route will be managed by teams of police in cooperation with the Pope’s own security detail, allowing most of the city outside the immediate vicinity of the papal mass or procession route to continue its normal traffic patterns.
On the El Paso (US) side, road and highway closures are expected to limit access to nternational crossings and downtown, and near a stadium which will accommodate overflow’ visitors who plan to watch the pope and receive their blessings – in absentia – from the stadium screen.
In contrast to the approach in Juarez, El Paso is preemptively shutting down large sectors of urban fabric, detailing the impact on bus routes and access to major highways in the city. Citing concerns with the proximity of the pope’s scheduled travel to the US/Mexico border, the city has restricted travel in “downtown and South-Central El Paso”. As a result, many businesses and schools have shut down for the day. The city has managed public perception of the visit as well, relaying in official announcements that “the Mass in Juarez will not be visible from El Paso roadways”.