Bastards Border Cycling Club celebrates Juárez culture, public space

JUAREZ—Dozens of cyclists move forward in organized chaos alongside the channelized Rio Bravo. Within sight of the steel wall topped with concertina wire that divides Mexico from the United States, they reveled in the miles-long concrete expanse, blasting music, sprinting, pulling wheelies.

The Bastards Border Cycling Club celebrates Juárez arts and culture through cycling. The collective formed in May 2021, when a group of college friends with a shared love of bikes started organizing weekly rides. Every Thursday night, dozens of people ride 10 to 20-mile routes to visit attractions like downtown cantinas and the Juárez Art Museum. Sundays they embark on long rides outside the city.

Cyclists across the globe advocate for space on roadways and respect from drivers. But these riders are taking on another challenge: reinvigorating public space and culture in a city that developed a reputation for violence. Members say the increasing popularity of cycling is making the streets safer. Border Bastards is one of many cycling clubs and collectives in Juárez, while the local and state government have gradually invested in bike infrastructure.

“We’re discovering Juárez together,” said Jorge Castillo, one of the group’s founders. “And we’re trying to change the image of Ciudad Juárez.”

More:El Paso Cyclists welcomes back members from Juárez amid relaxed border restrictions

On a brisk spring evening, Castillo pedaled like clockwork on a black Aventon fixed gear alongside the channelized river, talking into a walkie-talkie in his right hand. Raúl Medina was on the other end of the line, radioing ahead when the riders at the end of the group fall behind.

“This is public space, after all,” Castillo said while riding. “This is one of the few places you don’t have to deal with the traffic.”

The ride in the river channel captures the spirit of Bastards: bringing life to public spaces that most people ignore or avoid.

Cyclists ride down the side of the channelized Rio Grande in March 2022.

More:Border art collective unveils Rio Grande mural depicting migration history in El Paso, Juárez

Bicyclists celebrate their hometown

Castillo, Medina and other friends started Border Bastards Cycling Club and invited anyone to join the rides. They say the name emerged from their feelings living in Juárez: a city that grew rapidly out of the desert, a place where cultures and countries collide.

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