Beto O’Rourke, along with the other freshmen members of Congress, attended orientation sessions. (Kristopher Rivera/SHFWire)

El Paso, Texas, freshman House member gets preview of Capitol life

WASHINGTON – Rep.- elect Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas,  in the capital this week for new-member orientation, said he was surprised with the warm welcome veteran colleagues had for the freshman class of the 113th Congress. “The surprise has been how nice everyone has been, including incumbent members, senior leadership, and they’ve been doing a great job taking care of us,” O’Rourke said Thursday in an interview outside the Capitol. “I hope that continues, and I’m under no illusion that it will. But for right now, at least this week, it’s been really wonderful.”

O’Rourke and his newly elected Democratic peers had lunch Thursday at the Smithsonian Institution, hosted by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. O’Rourke is one of 82 new House members, pending the outcome of a few close races, 47 of them Democrats.

The Lounge also works as an art gallery. (Kristopher Rivera/

Music and art now pervade the ambiance of the Sumatra Hookah Lounge

EL PASO – A new lifestyle is sprouting on the corner of Mesa and Rio Grande where the Sumatra Hookah Lounge weathered by a blend of cultures and creativity has become a point of origin for many talented artists in the area. “The culture is kind of growing into more of like a musical inclined thing,” said David Zubia (bass/vocalist) of Squids Ltd. “We have a lot of electric music scene, and it’s kind of cool to see these rock bands come out and then connect with the crowd, have a good time with the crowd, and involve them.”

The Genesis of this movement began with the ambitions of David Aver, owner of Sumatra Hookah Lounge, took over the tavern from its previous owner on December 2010. “With Sumatra it was primarily a hookah but there were so many young artists that would come and visit my establishment that I decided to kind of make it my mission to contribute to the community by providing an outlet for local musicians,” Aver said. “So as far as on the music side we’re having a lot of people and everyone’s welcomed.”

David Zubia, Stan Zubia and Manuel Hernandez have played a few shows at Sumatra and are an example of the local talent that use the venue as a starting platform.

Joyce Wilson (Kristopher Rivera/

Joyce Wilson assesses her hopes and challenges as El Paso’s first city manager

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of profiles of women of influence in El Paso. EL PASO – Joyce Wilson, El Paso’s city manager, gets up in the early hours of the morning to exercise, a calm start to most of her days before the city begins to stir. As she works out, she thinks of her daughter who is married and has blessed her with three grandchildren.  The two older ones want to visit this summer. Behind those tranquil thoughts, another scenario of tasks waiting on her desk is on her mind – the public transit system improvements, the storm water utility projects, and an historic downtown waiting for renovation. And she may be thinking of the winding road that brought her to the border city as El Paso’s first city manager in 2004.

El caballo es considerado símbolo de orgullo y cultura. (Kristopher Rivera/

Caballos de la frontera

EL PASO – En las alturas del desierto de El Paso una figura que decora al occidente de Texas es el caballo. Alguna vez usado como método de transporte por los colonos, ha evolucionado para simbolizar cosas diferentes pero importantes en nuestra época. Para muchos permanece en estas tierras como símbolo de orgullo y cultura. El caballo ha influido hasta el cantar popular a través de canciones y rancheras como las de Vicente Fernandez. Esta es el mismo tipo de influencia que los caballos tienen en el oficio de muchos residentes de la ciudad bicultural de El Paso, Texas.

Judge Escobar (Kristopher Rivera/

Judge Veronica Escobar – A belief in the electoral process and the need for economic development

EL PASO – When she was running for the position of El Paso County judge Veronica Escobar listed her top three accomplishments in public service this way: lowering the cost of government, protecting the taxpayer and improving access to health care. In a recent interview, she cited her interest in the redevelopment of downtown El Paso as an example of her dedication to economic growth. “The downtown renovation project isn’t happening fast enough. I am a huge supporter.”

Escobar said she wants to see downtown renovation bring El Paso back to the thriving city it was in the 1950’s until bad leadership brought it down in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. To her, downtown renovation means two things – the recreation of a wonderful community and the encouragement of economic activity.

It's all about the community, believes Susy Byrd. (Alex Gandara/

Rep. Susie Byrd believes in success through hard work and listening to the community

EL PASO – El Paso District 2 Representative Susie Byrd cast a vote on June 14 along with three other City Council members that restored health care benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees reversing an initiative approved by voters last year. Byrd stands by that vote, which sparked a recall effort against her, Mayor John Cooke and Representative Steve Ortega.  “This is less about me and more about my community. Our community has been tainted by religious leadership that seems very intent on tearing down our gay and lesbian community rather than building it.”

Byrd said that at stake is an issue of discrimination that the city needs to combat and something that the community has to repudiate for the rest of the world to see. “We are a very generous welcoming hopeful community and we embrace people of all backgrounds.”

She sees herself as a confident individual who above all cares about her community and says that her accomplishments are nothing more than her duty to the citizens she represents. She says her strengths are getting into the weave of policies and projects, working through ideas and implementing them.

Beautifully renovated on the outside, San Elizario church is crumbling on the inside. (Kristopher Rivera/

Crumbling from the inside out, a Mission Trail chapel prays for support

SAN ELIZARIO, TX – A chapel dedicated to San Elizario has stood on this spot  since the days the conquistadores wound their way north on the old imperial Spanish mission trail along the Rio Grande, but the current church built in 1877 is falling apart. Extensive repairs have maintained the exterior of the church, but the crumbling interior looks like it has been damaged by a violent exorcism. The walls have been battered by storms that weakened the adobe and created numerous pits and cracks. Lillian Trujillo, a tour guide for the church who has deep family roots in San Elizario still sees beauty in the existing structure. “Even though it’s damaged you can see that it’s a beautiful church.

The need for repair is evident on the Aztec Calendar. But, how should the City go about doing the repairs? (Kristopher Rivera/

Montezuma’s revenge – Tower of Babel replaces the Aztec Calendar

EL PASO – After 58 years of exposure to the sandblasting winds rolling off the Franklin mountains, cracks have appeared on the Aztec Calendar in downtown El Paso as if a hard-riding Juan de Oñate had used it for jousting practice. But repairing the artifact that the Mexican consulate gave El Paso in 1953 as a symbol of friendship and respect is problem as complex as the ancient designs on the calendar itself. The calendar must be removed from its location in order for the Mexican consulate to agree to repair it but moving it could result in further, perhaps irreparable, damage. The city fathers want to relocate it to an indoor facility but activists want none of that. “We were all appalled so we did our research…and it is in fact, there’s contracts to remove it and give it to the Consulate,” activist Cemelli De Aztlán said.