The killing streets next door

EL PASO, Texas — Generations of Mexican students have been commuting to the El Paso campus of the University of Texas for almost a hundred years. Two of them were murdered in Juarez last week, riddled by 36 high-powered bullets as they drove home in a residential neighborhood where one of them lived. Manuel Acosta, 22, drove his red Nissan Sentra from UTEP across the line on the early evening of November 2 to Colonia Rincones de Santa Rita where his passenger Eder Diaz, 23, lived only to die four hours later at a hospital. They were gunned down at the intersection of De La Arbolada and Manglares streets in their car near Diaz’ house. Those of us who teach here in this beautiful campus now worry about the safety of every one of the some 1400 students who cross the bridge to study here and then go home late in the day, every day.

The Virgin of Guadalupe

EL PASO, Texas — Ever since 1531 when the image of the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously on the cloth worn by Juan Diego, a humble peasant in Tepeyac, Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been a sacred symbol of Mexican faith. Today the image of the Virgin can be found almost everywhere on the Borderland, from churches to sidewalks, from candles to tattoos. The photography class at the University of Texas at El Paso was given the assignment to photograph the Virgin wherever she appeared. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Waiting Room – Intimations of mortality

EL PASO, Texas — The doctor has an understanding look, a tender look in his eye and I see that he is a man who is moved by his patient’s anguish. He reminds me a little of Brother Juniper, the old comic strip character, because of his tender eyes and the slightly bent-over aspect as he reads the just faxed results of the CAT scan. “Negative,” he says looking up at me and he says it loudly and leans forward and grasps my hand. “Nothing, nada.” He smiles. And I…am thinking of the other examination room just a week earlier when another doctor said, “I’m ordering a CAT scan.

You can’t go home again

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico –They’re back, still tired, still poor, still yearning, huddling in line in the hundred-degree sun in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan desert not far from the nearly dry cement ditch that splits the heart of a bicultural community into two alien political entities, El Paso to the north and Juárez to the south. Still tired, still poor, still yearning, on this fiery afternoon in early June several dozen men and one Maria linger in line outside the ground-floor office of Coordinación de Atención a Migrantes at city hall, an office Juárez mayor Jose Reyes Ferríz opened last November to orient repatriated migrants and keep them safe from an established industry of cheating money changers, hookers and other swindlers. This modest and very transitory halfway-haven, a single room with two cubicles, a dozen chairs and two telephones on a corner table, welcomes the disoriented deportees back, gives them temporary identification papers, lunch money and a bus ticket away from the preying lure of Juárez, away from the tempting border, further down into Mexico, back to their home towns. The faces in the queue are not waiting faces. Tired eyes tighten into lizard eyes in faces that strain to make an effort to look for cover in case they need shelter.