Twice a month on the far east side of El Paso, an empty lot comes to life with Indie rock music wafting in the air as food trucks gather, and sales stands display glistening Day of the Dead skulls made from putty in white and black, with paintings of monsters lurking behind them.
The Punk Rock Flea Market‘s creator and organizer, Mia Valdez, said she got the idea of bringing to El Paso something of this sort after learning of a New Jersey horror market that sells horror and unique art.
Valdez, a sculptor from El Paso, always thought there weren’t enough outlets for her to sell and promote her handmade putty skeletons. After researching the Web she found out there are punk rock markets all over the United States except in El Paso. “This is ridiculous,” said Valdez who was born in El Paso. “El Paso needs something like this,” she said.
More than just a place for buying rockabilly merchandise, the Punk Rock Flea Market serves as a gathering place where likeminded individuals can share their interests, socialize with each other and showcase alternative art in order to maintain the movement alive. This new outlet for alternative art and vendors is at 1710 Joe Battle from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. every first and third Saturday of the month for a night of music, food, drinks, and rockabilly merchandise exhibits.
Unique for El Paso, the Punk Rock Flea market offers products not commonly found in flea markets. Ranging from the bizarre (painted sculls made from putty) to the obscure (toys figures from horror movies) and also the cute (beaded keychains). The market welcomes people of all ages for a night on the wild side.
Paintings of monsters, fair trade make up, and stained glass beer mugs are part of the wide variety of items for sale by independent artists at the market. On a recent holiday weekend, about eight colorful food trucks offered all a varied menu raging from burgers, pretzels, ice cream to nachos, burritos and Mexican churros.
Although the market currently attracts less than a dozen artist vendors, Valdez said more vendors are joining the market, which will help to lower the rent fees for everybody. Right now the fee for setting up is $10 per vendor.
“They have to be able to make a living from their art, otherwise they will stop selling and we need to have more vendors to lower rents and grow,” she said.
Aside from vendors and artists the market also features local bands from time to time.
UTEP Senior Leito Gamboa said he has exhibited and sold Fair Trade makeup at the market for the last year. His cosmetics, he said, are made from natural edible products. “By buying these cosmetics people support me and a whole network of people that help make the product,” Gamboa said.
Elizabeth Levesque and Gabby Torres said that selling their work began as a hobby but has become a full time job.
Their tent at the market is illuminated with strings of Christmas lights. Their product is bead art, key chains and portraits made of colored beads of well-known comic book and animated figures.
“I just needed some extra cash and I thought this was fun, but it soon became a full time job since its very time consuming,” Levesque said. Some of her bead portraits take as long as one hour to make. Some of their designs include characters from 1980’s movies such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
Acrylic painter Jessi Gandarilla started painting portraits of religious Saints thanks to his mother who taught him how to paint as a child. Later he branched out from religious icons to monsters. “It was my teenage rebellion… but ever since I can remember I had always been drawing.” Some of his stained glass pieces are hard to make, according to Gandarilla, but for the most part the work comes naturally to him.
One of the gift stands belonged to “Gemologist” Rick Laspada, a former jewelry store owner, who specializes in hand-made unique jewelry with precious and non-precious metals. For Laspada, jewelry is an expression of what is happening to him spiritually. “The whole theme of my jewelry is transformation,” he said.
The market offers a night away from the usual for people to enjoy themselves while they shop with the good food and drinks while enjoying the punk rock music. Like Valdez said, “we want to make it a safe and fun place for the whole family to enjoy.”