Ciudad Juarez—on the US Mexico border—was for many years considered the most dangerous city in the world. It also is home to a place often considered one of the best electronic music dance clubs in the world. Hardpop is a small, 500-capacity club located unassumingly in a shopping center on the side of a highway. But it regularly hosts some of the biggest names in house and techno music in the world. International DJs on tour will often skip over much bigger cities in Mexico like Mexico City, but they’ll always stop at Hardpop.
The club opened in 2006, when the rising drug trade infused the entire city with loose cash, and local nightlife was booming. Things seemed to be going well. But by 2008, the city had been plunged into a violent conflict between rival cartels, and the murder rate skyrocketed. Violence had long been a fact of life for working-class people, but it began to reach the more sheltered middle classes as well. Coming out to Hardpop to dance took on new meaning for the club kids. It became a way of seeking freedom in a city that was more and more locked down by military checkpoints, and a place for holding on to community at a time when people were dying left and right.
Max Pearl, a writer for Resident Advisor and Latino USA’s Marlon Bishop tell the story.
Below, check out photos from Hardpop from over the years, taken by Alicia Fernandez. Alicia is a photojournalist and digital producer for El Diario, one of the most prestigious newspapers in Northern Mexico. She started working right as the drug war was getting going, and for years, she had to take grisly photos related to the violence that was enveloping the city. But she was also a major club kid, and would go to Hardpop to dance almost every weekend. Below are some of the photos of the club she took over the years.