- Or did you mean the little dog?
Chihuahua (pronounced "chee-WA-wa") is the name of the largest Mexican state, and also of the state's capital city.
State of Chihuahua
Chihuahua is like a mirror image of Texas on the other side of the Rio Grande. It is the largest Mexican state and the most independent. Most of the Chihuahuans whom an American tourist meets will have an American side of the family, a few cousins illegally working there, or visit every few years to drop an "anchor baby" in case they want to get out of Mexico with a U.S. Family Reunification Visa. (Yes, dear, I know; that is what happens when the United States steals your territory.) The rest assume the tourist is more receptive to sexual perversions than the average Mexican.
The city of Chihuahua is the state capital. The state's largest city is El Paso, Texas. (The portion of El Paso that is in Chihuahua is called Ciudad Juárez, identifiable from the air by the fact that it has open fires in 50-gallon drums rather than functioning street lights.)
Chihuahua is relatively pro-business and pro-American. It is also notoriously independent. Years before the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost its grip on the federal government, it lost its grip on Chihuahua, in favor of a right-wing party whose initials spelled Bread. (PRI officials frantically tried to invent an acronym that would spell out BURRITO but didn't finish in time.)
When Chihuahua's elected officials disagree with the federal government's policy, such as on foreign policy, they do it themselves. For example, the nation's biggest problem is chuecos--used American cars snuck into the country. As importation of any productivity tools is a threat to the national character, Chihuahuans support restrictions on chuecos, but did not like the terms of federal registration. Consequently, you can go to a State of Chihuahua office and register your chueco. The sliding fees are based on the market value of the car, and on how quickly you want to get back home. You must also take a road test to ensure you can drive with a newspaper-sized green decal stuck to your windshield.
The symbol of Chihuahua is of course Pancho Villa. In 1915, the murdering border-raider, with his sidekick Frito Bandito, hit Columbus, New Mexico on a mistaken attack intended for Ohio State University. Villa was selected over a wealth of alternatives in the same citizen name-that-state contest that resulted in the state being named after the cute but effeminate miniature dog.
City of Chihuahua
Chihuahua is an oasis on the Chuviscar River, ringed by mountains. The valley location protected it a bit from sandstorms and tornadoes, and becoming a city protected it a bit from poisonous spiders and snakes. As modern Chihuahua fills the valley and starts to spill over the edges, there is no protection at all against city government, nor of roving gangs, nor of the itinerant squads of "night watchmen" who offer protection from the above for a negotiable weekly fee.
Downtown, government offices, the main cathedral, and the old town, are just south of the Chuviscar. So is the Pancho Villa Museum, where you can see a bathroom fixture he owned that showered the user from all sides; also the bullet-riddled jalopy in which he took his rather more famous shower.
The avenues on either side of the Chuviscar are traditionally known by the names Revolution and Reform. Revolution and reform in Mexico are interchangeable terms that involve replacing one long line to get government permits with an equally long line down the hall, where the permits cost more but now have a hologram.
Indian women of the Tarahumara tribe come downtown every day in order to beg, though their primary source of discomfort is not poverty but wearing tribal party dresses in the 110-degree heat. They are the only people who really think the Chuviscar is a river (despite water which is never more than ankle-deep), and then only at bath time.
The north side of the city has the Institute of Technology of Chihuahua (ITCh), maquilas or offshore factories of Ford and Motorola, a Wal-Mart, cineplex, and computerized bowling alley. Streets in the newer, more prosperous neighborhoods have names such as Leon Trotsky and Enemies of the Proletariat. There are also many tourist motels, as this side is closest to the U.S. As with motels on the edges of other Mexican cities, they will be pleased to offer you a room, even after you clarify that you want it for the entire night. Simply think of a reason to punish the kids before you arrive so you have an excuse for keeping the TV off.
Food in Chihuahua is authentic, compared to places closer to the Pacific Ocean, where everything is sour cream and bean sprouts, or on the Gulf Coast, where "breaded" or "filled" entrées have pure Jalapeños on the inside. A Mennonite monastery south of town produces a cheese which, when melted, acquires the consistency of bubble gum and is about as hard to swallow. The characteristic dish of Chihuahua is the cheese burrito, nicknamed "a meal that fights back."
As Chihuahua is still essentially a cow town, another specialty is dishes from parts of the cow that Americans regard as non-food items, such as tongue, heart, and bone marrow. Always keep that phrase book handy.