Borderzine multimedia experience leads to journalism career opportunities

It’s been five years since my wife Danya and I first walked into the Cotton Memorial building for our introduction to journalism class at the University of Texas at El Paso. This is where we met our mentors David Smith Soto, Zita Arocha, and Lourdes Cueva Chacon. And where we learned the countless lessons we referenced every day at our internships and now at our jobs working for a daily newspaper. I was a creative writer at heart and felt comfortable with my storytelling abilities. Danya was an artistic photographer and felt comfortable telling visual stories.

The battle over standardized testing

EL PASO—The battle over high-stakes student testing has never been more critical and nowhere more apparent than in El Paso, TX, where educators are morphing into criminals. El Paso Independent School District’s Lorenzo García, is the first superintendent in the nation to be convicted of fraud.  Sentenced in October, he is currently serving a three-year sentence for directing a scheme to hide and manipulate the scores of English Language Learning (ELL) students in state-mandated tests. Immigrant students trapped in the middle

From the day the El Paso Times broke this story last year, many have focused on, Los Desaparecidos –77 students who were coerced into dropping out of school by Garcia’s criminal tactics– but there are hundreds of thousands of students throughout Texas just like them.  Many blame the current educational system for making them disappear. “The one size fits all model does not allow for districts like ours to succeed. So what other ways are there if you can’t succeed?

Thousands climb Mt. Cristo Rey to express their faith on Good Friday pilgrimage

EL PASO — Lucille Maya remembers when her father carried her infant brother up Mt. Cristo Rey to ask for a miracle. Her brother was born with a birth defect and doctors told her family that he would never be able to walk, but soon after her father’s pilgrimage her little brother walked for the first time. “I do this for my faith.” said Maya, 73, who has been coming to Mt. Cristo Rey all her life.

Bomb threat empties the University of Texas at El Paso campus

EL PASO—More than 15,000 students and faculty members were evacuated today from the University of Texas at El Paso as a result of an anonymous bomb threat. At 1:58 p.m. the UTEP Police Department issued a text message and an e-mail alerting everyone enrolled in the Miner Alert System to evacuate the campus. UTEP Police Chief Cliff Walsh would not disclose any details about the ongoing investigation, except that it was initiated by a phone call and the proper precautionary steps were taken as a response to the threat. “The campus is safe. We are going to check the campus out and we will engage in other activities to make sure the campus is safe and we are working with our state, local and federal partners on this as well,” said Walsh during a press conference at Mundy Park, just outside of campus.

Hundreds of friends and family of victims of violent crime gather in Yucca Park at the annual reading of more than 1,500 names engraved into the memorials granite walls.(Danya P. Hernandez / Borderzine)

El Paso’s violent crime rate belies its top ranking as a safe city

EL PASO — In El Paso’s Lower Valley four granite disks hold the names of more than 1,500 victims of violent crime, a memorial linking the shattered lives of thousands who have witnessed how this city is not as safe as everyone believes. This year 67 names were added to the wall, 15 of them killed by a drunk driver. This statistic is not being factored in when El Paso is ranked one of the safest cities in the United States every year by the CQ press, an independent publisher of a book titled City Crime Rankings. “Every day, I listen to the news. I hear the radio.

"Our family will never be the same," said Gonzalez, mother of Angela Gonzalez. (Danya Hernandez/

DWI related deaths are not treated as violent crimes in El Paso

EL PASO — With a knot in her throat, the mother of a daughter killed in a Driving-While-Intoxicated incident tells the story of how the tragic event changed her family’s life forever. Unfortunately, like in many of these cases, the victim stays dead while the drunk driver remains alive and free. “Our family has forever been tarnished. Our family will never be the same,” Connie Gonzalez said. She is the mother of Angela Gonzalez, who along with her friend Orlando Figueroa, were run over by a drunk driver while crossing Lee Trevino in 2009 killing them on impact.

Joseph Torres, Latino journalist and author of News for all the People visits UTEP on April 17 to educate students about the history of ethnic media. (Danya P. Hernandez/

The struggle for ethnic parity in U.S. media started with the American Revolution

EL PASO—A modern day champion for a free press, fighting to maintain and safeguard the lessons learned and taught by persons of color in the history of American journalism  made his way south to this border city. Latino author and journalist Joseph Torres stood before students at the University of Texas at El Paso on April 17 and asked them, “Who was Ruben Salazar?”  The classroom full of aspiring young Latino journalist grew silent. Surprised by their silence, he explained how a boy from their own border town became one of the most important Chicano journalists in the 1960’s and how his voice was violently silenced in 1970 by police in Los Angeles. “What most people don’t know about him is that he tried to organize the Latino community and journalists to become activists to create change,” said Torres before reading a rare quote by Salazar that could be a clue to the speculations surrounding his death. “There is much bitterness in our Mexican-American community, gentlemen.

A family having dinner at Little Jimmis mobile food truck, parked at his usual spot in El Paso’s Lower Valley in front of the K-mart on Zaragosa. (Kristian Hernandez/

Roach coach, lunch truck or mobile food vendor?

Mobile food vendors in El Paso – Radio story


[Natural sounds: Cooking food on a the stovetop inside mobile food truck]

KRISTIAN HERNANDEZ (Reporter): Mr. and Mrs. Trejo stand patiently on the side of a busy street in far-east El Paso waiting for some beef tacos they just ordered from a mobile food vendor by the name of “Tacos el Charlie” that has made this dirt lot his spot for the night. YVETTE TREJO: You can’t really see what is in there so you are taking a chance. You don’t really know how clean they are but our experience off the trucks has always been good. I guess we are going off of imagination and pictures, how about that and hope. RAUL TREJO: And hunger.

Veteran White House correspondent, Sam Donaldson at the University of Texas at El Paso. (Robert Brown/

Sam Donaldson – From El Paso to covering the White House and back to his alma mater

EL PASO — The legendary, the tenacious, the former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson has earned many titles along his successful trek in journalism, but it all began in this southwestern border city. Donaldson, 78, is a veteran reporter for ABC news who does not hesitate at the opportunity to visit his former University of Texas at El Paso to talk about his passion for journalism and politics. Donaldson is best known for serving three times as ABC’s White House Correspondent covering presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. He covered the war in Vietnam, the Watergate trials and was the first anchor of ABC’s Sunday Evening News. “I enjoy talking to people who are interested in the news business and interested in the things that I have done from the stand point of learning about those,” Donaldson told Borderzine before taking the stage of UTEP’s Centennial Lecture Series on March 26.

CHCI sets pace for Hispanic Heritage Month, establishes targets to broaden its scope

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute quick-started Hispanic Heritage Month at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital this year, capping its two-day public policy conference by attracting 2,100 supporters to a glitzy annual presidential gala Sept. 14. The celebration, officially spread annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, increasingly spills over to fill both months with ethnic festivities.

Journalist, Mentor George Ramos, winner of three Pulitzers, dies at 63

The death of George Ramos, recognized journalist and educator, has created a void that aches in the countless hearts of those he touched in his lifetime. At age 63, Ramos had become the prime example of what devotion to journalism and the community he served really is. Who would have guessed that this Chicano boy born in Los Angeles would grow up to win three Pulitzer prizes? Ramos was once quoted saying, “I can’t just sit on my laurels. I didn’t get into journalism for the rewards.

Rubén Vives, Los Angeles Times Reporter, Awarded the Gold Medial for Public Service, the most Prestigious of the Pulitzer Prizes

He is a testament to the undocumented immigrant student’s hopes and dreams of reaching the summit to change the world. Rubén Vives, a 32-year-old Los Angeles Times reporter, was awarded the Gold Medal for Public Service, the most prestigious of the Pulitzer Prizes, on April 18, for his work with colleague Jeff Gotlieb exposing corruption in the city of Bell, Calif. Their investigative work led to the indictment of eight city officials on corruption charges. In a column for Orange Coast Magazine, Shawn Hubler writes about her relationship to Vives and his mother, who once worked as a nanny for Hubler. “Her son was a 17-year-old high school student then.

Listen up Ms. Napolitano: more enforcement doesn’t equal border safety

EL PASO—Two Hispanic students stood up in protest as the rest of the audience in the auditorium clapped during Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s recent speech at the University of Texas at El Paso. The female students held up signs that read “Education not Militarization” and “Security to Whom?” but only for a few seconds before they were escorted out of the auditorium. As this occurred, I wondered if their removal from a public forum is a violation of their freedom of speech.  So I asked the question during my next Communication Law class and found out that what had happened is like screaming fire in a crowded theater: “You can say anything you like as long as you don’t put anyone in danger; Napolitano could claim she was in danger,” said Dr. Barthy Byrd, associate professor in the Department of Communication and an expert on media law. Napolitano barely looked up from the paper she read during her speech to acknowledge what had just happened in the audience.  Afterward, she answered a few pre-selected questions that only demonstrated she really does think we owe her our gratitude for protecting the U.S. Southern border. “Some of the safest communities in America are right here on the border,” said Napolitano, claiming that she was not here doing a victory lap.

Latino youth hailed as hero in Tucson shooting

TUCSON – In a state now famous for discriminating against Hispanics, a young man has shown the nation the strength and courage a Mexican American can have in the line of fire. Daniel Hernández, 20, is being hailed throughout the nation for his role Jan. 8 in saving the life of Congresswoman Gabriella Gifford when he provided first aid to the 40-year-old congresswoman who had been shot in the head. A memorial for the massacre that claimed six lives and left 13 others wounded was held on Jan.12 at the University of Arizona. More than 14,000 persons attended the commemoration, including President Obama, who personally acknowledged Hernández’s heroism and thanked him.

Hundreds of Juarez students commute daily to class at UTEP

EL PASO, Texas — A young man catches a ride with his friend and they make their half hour trip home from school across the international port of entry into the streets of the most dangerous city on the U.S.-Mexico border. Manuel Acosta, 22, drove his red Nissan Sentra from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to the Colonia Rincones de Santa Rita where his friend Eder Diaz, 23, lived with his parents in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The trip home was routine to both students. Chihuahua State Police reported that a group of masked men armed with .223 caliber rifles similar to the NATO military rifles intercepted them at the intersection of De La Arbolada and Manglares streets in near of Diaz’s house. The assailants fired 36 shots killing Acosta at the scene and fatally injuring Diaz, who died in the early morning hours of November 3 at a hospital in Juarez.

Life’s little things carry loads of meaning for Dagoberto Gilb

EL PASO, Texas – Dagoberto Gilb creates colorful images with a few words, drawing scenes in an audience’s imagination like a skilled painter. The El Pasoans present at a recent lecture here are his canvas and also his inspiration. This border city in the Chihuahuan desert is the main setting for many of the stories written by this internationally published author. “I have written 72 short stories and all of them except for three are set either in El Paso, or L.A.,” Gilb said. For the first time since he wrote Pride a feature in the Texas observer in 2001, Gilb, read it here, where it originated.

Farmers distrust proposed federal food-safety legislation

EL PASO, Texas — The bright orange habaneros and purple Japanese eggplants, picked by the same hand that helps you bag them, rest vibrant under the morning sun inside old wooden buckets. This direct transaction, valued for so long by both farmer and consumer, is being threatened by new federal legislation that could disrupt it all. The Food and Drug Administration Food Modernization Act, currently on the Senate floor as Bill S510, would change the way food is produced, distributed and marketed in this country. A version of this bill was passed in the House more than a year ago, and is being voted on this year sometime after the November elections. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, U.S. Commissioner of food and drugs believes this is a historic opportunity and in a recent article published by the New York Times said, “This legislation would provide FDA with important resources and authorities that we really need to be able to do our important job.”

The FDA will have total authority over the food supply and will be allowed to enforce new standards, establish fees and declare recalls.