From left to right: Vikki Steeneveld, foreign exchange students studying social work, Corene Seymour, social work graduate student, Samia Gramida, environmental sciences graduate student, and Oscar Lozoya, interdisciplinary studies graduate student, hold the "Global perspectives on access for people with diverse abilities" panel to discuss the role disabled people play in their cultures. (Aaron Martinez/

Disabled persons confront negative cultural attitudes

EL PASO – Oscar Lozoya, a blind graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso, says he realized early in his life that the attitude toward disabled people in Mexico where he grew up is generally very negative, forcing many to hide their disabilities. “The feeling most people in our [Mexican] society have towards disabled people is that of pity, not of deep human compassion, but one of negative feelings,” Lozoya said. “In Mexico, it is hard to get a true count of how many disabled people there are, because disabled people and their families will hide it, so they won’t have to live with that stigma.”

Four international students at the University of Texas at El Paso shared their experiences of living with a disability in their country of origin at a meeting entitled “Global perspectives on access for people with diverse abilities.” The panel discussion examined how persons with disabilities are treated in different cultures, by governments and because of their social standing. Afraid of being stigmatized, Lozoya, who is engaged in interdisciplinary studies at UTEP, did not seek out government or social help for his blindness. While special education is available in the Mexican education system, Lozoya said he believes it harms the students more than it helps them.

The lights of Ciudad Juarez can be seen from the UTEP campus. (Danya Hernandez/

Study examines how student writing reflects Mexican drug-war violence

EL PASO – As the drug war continues in Ciudad Juárez, one of the world’s deadliest cities just cross the border from the University of Texas at El Paso, the work of international students here has shown the effect drug-related violence has had on their everyday lives. “In the past few years, violence and conflict have become a constant threat to the lives of many students on the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Alfredo Urzua, assistant professor of languages and linguistics at UTEP. “These students that are directly or indirectly exposed to violent events must find a way to balance their educational goals while living in an unstable and unsafe environment.”

Many of the students at the university come from or have close ties to Juarez. The impact the drug violence has had on the university can be seen since the start of the war. UTEP students have protested against the violence and helped families that have been affected.

El Paso, the safest city in the U.S. by fact, the most dangerous by media coverage. (José Luis Trejo/

El Paso is still the safe, prosperous Sun City it has always been

EL PASO – As editor-in-chief of The Prospector and Minero Magazine, reporter for Borderzine and the occasional freelance journalism work I have been able to take around El Paso, I find hard to believe the image many have of this city. As the drug-related violence continues in our sister city, Ciudad Juárez, the borderland has been in the national spotlight with various media outlets focusing on the drug-war. Even though El Paso was ranked as one of the safest cities in the U.S. by CQ press in 2010, the city is still perceived as a dangerous city due to its proximity to Juárez. When I went on an internship at the Houston Chronicle in 2010, once people found out I was from El Paso they all would ask the same questions: how dangerous is El Paso? Is it true that the violence has spilled over to El Paso?

Director/producer Luis Carlos Davis (third from left) presenting his documentary at the University of Texas at El Paso. (Aaron Martinez/

Coyotes say who lives or dies along “389 Miles” of the U. S.–México border

EL PASO – The length of the Arizona-Sonora, México border runs for only 389 miles, but the human stories on both sides of that line are countless. The documentary “389 Miles: Living the Border” by director/producer Luis Carlos Davis, explores the ongoing struggles of Mexican citizens who try to cross the border to get to the U.S. The documentary had a recent showing at the University of Texas at El Paso followed by a panel discuss that included university professors, students and the director of the film. “Something I really wanted to do when I started this project was to be really open hear what everyone had to say,” Davis said. “This is not a black and white situation. It has many layers.

Training program keeps international students in the U.S. after graduation

EL PASO — International students graduating from U.S. colleges can extend their stay legally and work in this country for one year by applying for the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). “(OPT) is the only way we as international students can stay working legally in the US,” said Fernando Hernández, who graduated from UTEP this year with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems. “I am planning to stay in the U.S., going back to México will be like walking backwards.”

OPT offers F-1 visa students the opportunity to stay in the U.S. to work for a 12-month period in a field related to their degree. According to Carol Martin, assistant director of International Programs at the University of Texas at El Paso, the goal of OPT is not to extend the students time in the U.S., but to give them an opportunity to gain work experience in their field of study. “The goal of OPT is to give them practical training to help them be a better graduate,” Martin said. “The point of OPT is not for them to be in the U.S. as long as they can and to get a job, that is why it is not called optional practical employment.

New frontline in war on freedom of speech

EL PASO, Texas — College campuses are and should be considered a utopia for students, faculty and staff to make their voices heard, whether espousing new ideas or protesting against the injustices of the world. Recent events at universities across the nation make it painfully clear this is no longer true. A significant case of censorship in college media recently occurred with the firing of an advisor at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s student newspaper, the CU Independent. After being fired from her position, Amy Herdy claimed the reason behind her dismissal was retaliation for her attempts to defend her students from hassles they were receiving from faculty after stories were published in the paper. Herdy also said that Paul Voakes, dean of UC-Boulder, requested that the advisor provide him with notification if the student newspaper planned to run anything that the university may deem to be controversial.