Having skate parks for El Paso’s action sports enthusiast also draws them more into the community, and according to Robertson, helps encourage good citizenship. (David A. Reyes)

Local nonprofit propels skateboarding into area parks

EL PASO – El Paso City Council approves a $1.4 million bond for the construction of the largest skate park in the region with help from a tireless local organization. The new state-of-the-art skate park in Northeast El Paso, began construction in June financed by the 2012 Quality of Life bonds approved by City Council. The park is scheduled to be completed by August 30, 2014. “We firmly believe that skateboarding, BMX, and all action sports are here to stay,” said Bill Robertson, assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and member of the El Paso Skatepark Association, “[these sports are] part of our culture, and by making parks available you’re actually extending opportunities not only to young people, but also to families.”

Part of this skate-park project stems from an idea that Robertson, Paul Zimmerman, and Gabe Lawler devised back in 2008, when skateboarders and El Paso City Hall got together to build more “high quality” concrete facilities for skateboarders, according to the association. The El Paso Skatepark Association has ushered in 17 skate parks in El Paso County, with 10 within city limits.

Marfa, TX, a town of about 2,000 people is a hub for contemporary art in the Southwest. (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

Marfa – Tiny Texas town is a vibrant hub for contemporary art in the Southwest

MARFA, TX – An hour’s drive north of Ojinaga, Mexico, sits an isolated “little island of actors, writers, and artists of all kinds” as gallery owner, Ree Willaford, affectionately calls this west Texas town of 2,000 souls. Willaford is the owner, director and curator of Galleri Urbane, with locations here and in Dallas, specializing in contemporary art. In Marfa, the satellite exhibit lounge is located at the Thunderbird Hotel. Willaford and her family started in 1992 with “Contradiction,” an organic juice and coffee shop that also carried non-organic treats like tiramisu in historic Ybor City, the old Hispanic cigar-making district of Tampa, Florida. The Willaford family then moved to Silver City, New Mexico where Ree’s husband Jason, an artist, started open house showings with photographer Michael Burman.

The Dead Bolts is one of only three other men’s roller derby teams in Texas. (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

Roller derby got me down

EL PASO – The interview process with the men’s roller derby teams had been stimulating, attending the practice had been inspiring (although a little scary at times), and the writing process had been consuming. Altogether writing about one of Texas’ few men’s roller derby teams brewing right here was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a journalist in El Paso. After three years of journalistic writing, this was the story I was the most amped about covering. After months of waiting for the chance to get the story, hours of work, and bubbling excitement – my story was published. I sent a text of ‘thanks!’ and ‘hope you enjoy’ to my sources, and anxiously waited for their texts back of approval.

Paisano Green Community (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

El Paso struggles to fit families into public housing after sequestration cuts

EL PASO – Families living in public housing will find their quarters shrinking as a result of the federal budget slashing known as the sequester, but local officials say they hope to avoid putting anybody out on the street. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said Shane Griffith, El Paso Housing Authority (HACEP) public information officer. HACEP had already been planning how to meet the needs here when the spending reductions cut of $85 billion in revenue to non-exempt domestic programs for the next 10 years were declared in late March. The housing assistance payment (HAP) standard, which is the federal subsidy allocated to landlords of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, has been reduced from a proration of 99 percent to 94 percent. The proration for the operating subsidy of the Public Housing Program – the funds HACEP receives to operate its 46 public housing properties – has been reduced from 92 percent to 77 percent.

The Dead Bolts is one of only three other men’s roller derby teams in Texas. (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

The renegade Sun City Roller Girls shoved the Dead Bolts into El Paso men’s roller derby

EL PASO – Glares from overhanging lights reflect off of a sprawling shiny concrete floor, as the skaters whizz by poles and stay within the “white invisible lines” of the flat track where they practice. Wobbly players wear their helmets for safety and insignia. One marked with a yellow star struggles to pass the pack, and fumbles through a wall of men who will either block or assist him. Ivy Ashley Marie Ruiz, or as the derby world knows her, Miss Prettie Poison, is a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She coaches fellow veteran roller-derby players and the “fresh meat,” which is the six-week derby 101 program for women, and now men, who are trying out for the five-year-old Sun City Roller Girls league.

The El Paso Occupiers mingle next to Los Lagartos sculpture. (Luis Hernández/Borderzine.com)

El Paso’s Occupy movement seeks justice, but their expectations may be too great

EL PASO – There are small herds of them scattered between the trees, some shirtless and tanned from the sun, sitting around in cozily crammed circles that are set-up between their tents along with various handwritten signs they have made and carried for weeks. I went into the San Jacinto Park completely convinced that I would be called to join their ranks of Occupy El Paso and come out smelling like the downtown streets of El Paso. I thought that they would try to convert me and convince me to go pro-hippy, sleeping in the grass with them, and laughing over text messages out loud to each other while a siren goes streaking by, but that’s before I stumbled into the red and white-striped food tent and got a taste of humility. In the food tent, I timidly approached a man in a tan sun hat, with clear blue eyes that wrinkled when he proudly told me he had been Occupying El Paso for 10 days. When he started talking about his story, I nearly joined the Occupy movement on the spot – but didn’t.