- Chihuahua is the name of both a state in Mexico and that state's capital city. This article is about the city. For the state of Chihuahua, see state of Chihuahua. For other meanings of Chihuahua, see Chihuahua (disambiguation).
The name derives from the Nahuatl Xicuahua, meaning "dry, sandy place". The name itself is older than the Spanish conquest of Mexico, however. The city was founded on October 12, 1709 by Antonio Deza y Ulloa, a Spanish explorer. The location was chosen because it is the intersection of the rivers Chuviscar and Sacramento. It is also the midpoint between the Río Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande) and the then-important mining city of Hidalgo del Parral.
Just as in other parts of northern Mexico, Roman Catholic missionary had an important influence during an the colonial era, and the city became a meeting point for missionaries heading to and from the 'sierra' region, a mountainous region, in which natives are yet to be converted to Catholicism.
The city was more involved during the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917), for it became at times an operations base for the División del Norte, the army led by Pancho Villa. Many sites and memories remain of the revolutionary era; the most important of these is the Pancho Villa Museum at his former house near downtown Chihuahua. The house, or rather mansion, which could very well fit into 'western' movie scenarios, was turned into a museum by his widow, and is currently managed by the Mexican army.
During the 20th century, the city grew in population and learned to take advantage of its proximity with the U.S. border. Until the establishment of foreign manufacturing plants in the 1970s, the city was solely a trade post for cattle and agricultural products such as apples and lumber. With the increase of illegal drug consumption in the United States in the 1970s, the city became and important trade post for marijuana, and home to several drug cartels.
Chihuahua is served by Roberto Fierro International Airport (IATA Airport Code: CUU). It is also the starting point for the Chihuahua–Pacific Railroad. Urban transportation is provided by a network of buses, widely regarded as inefficient.
Contemporary life in Chihuahua
The city's most important feature is its collection of industrial zones, in which foreign companies have manufacturing facilities, called maquiladoras, which employ thousands of people. This light industry also requires professionals, both for manufacturing and for management; this training is provided by the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Chihuahua (Autonomous University of Chihuahua State) and by two technological institutes. A number of private colleges also exist, among them the ITESM, which is greatly preferred by the middle and upper classes, despite its poor academic level, for its links with powerful industrialists of the northern state of Nuevo León.
The city's commercial sector has also been boosted by the growth of the middle-class. The wages paid by industries to management and high-level technical employees, as well as the ever-increasing drug-dealing community; provide a cash flow unlike that of most Mexican cities.
Despite the sensibility of manufacturing industry to world-wide economics, the city's economy is protected by the drug traffic activity, which is responsible for the perpetual flow of cash that maintains the middle-class. This has led to a great adoption of drug-traffic culture among the bourgeoisie; which has in turn isolated Chihuahua culturally from the rest of Mexico and the world. Regionalism is perhaps the most severe social problem, for it affects almost every aspect of life in Chihuahua.