Book Review: Kafka in a Skirt: Stories from the Wall, by Daniel Chacón

 

By Lucrecia Guerrero

Kafka in a Skirt, Daniel Chacon’s most recent collection of short stories, opens with a bang that lights up a corner of the existential darkness, but only enough to make us wonder if indeed there is nothing, nada. “In the Closet,” one of the numerous flash fiction pieces in the book, gives us an adolescent protagonist who has been ordered by his mother to clean that “chingadera” out of his closet. He tells the reader that even though he got down on his knees to search his closet, he “didn’t know what [he] was looking for, but [he] somehow knew [he] would spend the rest of [his] life looking for it.”

I read somewhere that it’s often said that readers read to gain insight into others but that, in fact, readers read to gain insight into themselves. I suspect there is considerable truth to that. Have not many readers, at some time in their lives, feared that they will spend, or have already spent, most of their lives looking for an elusive and indefinable something?

House passage of U.S., Mexico, Canada trade deal called victory for Texas

By Abby Livingston, Texas Tribune

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a major trade deal on Thursday that will reset the economic relationships within North America. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed with a 385-41 vote and will now head to the Senate, which is expected to approve it next year. The deal will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 1994 agreement that dramatically changed the landscape of the Texas economy. While the three countries announced the agreement a year ago, the deal hit some turbulence in the Democratically-controlled House. Many Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged its passage, due to the state’s reliance on cross-border commerce with Mexico.

1st UTEP student chosen for UT system board of regents to champion access and affordability

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed UTEP doctoral student Daniel R. Dominguez to a one-year term as Student Regent on The University of Texas System Board of Regents. He is the first UTEP student appointed to this position. Dominguez, who expects to earn his Ed.D. in educational leadership and administration in 2023, is The University of Texas at El Paso’s director of accounting and financial reporting. His term as Student Regent began June 1, 2019, and expires May 31, 2020. He said he is excited to serve as the voice of the more than 235,000 students who attend the System’s 14 institutions.

1st Democratic presidential debate turns into Texas skirmish as San Antonio’s Julian Castro goes after El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke

By Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

MIAMI — Home-state tensions flared between Democratic presidential candidates and native Texans Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro at their party’s first presidential debate Wednesday night, with Castro saying O’Rourke has not done his “homework” on the issue of immigration. At issue were the inhumane conditions at detention centers for migrants — including Texas — and a photo published Tuesday of the bodies of Salvadoran father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, both of whom died while trying to cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in America. “Watching those images of Óscar and Valeria is heartbreaking, and should also piss us all off … and it should spur us to action,” Castro said, fielding the first question on immigration. Several other candidates addressed the matter, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, pledging to end Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies.

New report explores New Mexico education system’s downward trend under Martinez administration

By Sylvia Ulloa, New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico In Depth
The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction. For detractors and supporters of former governor Susana Martinez, there’s a lot to digest in the numbers released Monday because they track with nearly her entire tenure. The chart below shows the Kids Count rankings in several categories for 2012-2019, but most of the data comes from 2010-17 (Rankings go back to 1990, but a different methodology was used in those years, making direct comparison difficult). “It very much is a reflection of what happened, and more specifically, what didn’t happen during the Martinez years,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which monitors the indicators for New Mexico.

Today’s border reality: River hazards, refugee child trauma; an end to migrating wildlife

There are many perils for humans and wildlife crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, from the hazards of navigating challenging terrain to the trauma of being detained by law enforcement. As tensions rise with each newly erected section of border wall, the impact of hardline policies can be seen taking a toll on the mental, physical, and environmental health of the borderland. Rising waters threaten migrants crossing Rio Grande

Risks to migrants crossing into the U.S. near El Paso have increased with the annual release of Rio Grande water from upriver in New Mexico. The release replenishes the borderlands and allows its farmers to irrigate, but the surge of water and migrants is a potentially deadly combination. Migrants who bypass barriers at U.S. ports of entry to seek asylum by crossing the Rio Grande risk drowning in the high water of the borderland canals.

Like two exhausted boxers, Border Patrol and Central Americans seek respite

By Walt Baranger

SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico – Just feet away from a large freeway-like sign declaring “Boundary of the United States of America,” children play in the Anapra neighborhood of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. But this is not exactly true; they gambol in a narrow strip of the United States that lies between the Mexican state of Chihuahua and the American border fence, perhaps a dozen feet of disused territory between the invisible international border and the steel slats that soar up to 26 feet high, forming a rust-colored dotted line across the continent. Happily for the youngsters, the designers of the United States’ border fence failed to take them into consideration. A shoeless pre-teen can easily scramble nearly to the top of the barrier here, and later ask $1 of American passersby who are amazed to see the fence so easily scaled. Bemused U.S. Border Patrol agents occasionally hand out granola bars or other treats to the little hands that reach north through the bars.

Tired but determined volunteers sustain El Paso’s migrant relief services

As U.S. border officials detain thousands of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border every day, another group waits for the men, women and families who have often been walking for days: volunteers. In El Paso, where Border Patrol agents apprehended 136,922 migrants between October 2018 and May 2019, residents have responded to the influx of migrants with meals and shelter. But it’s been eight months since the latest surge of Central American migrants started. Volunteer coordinators have had to adapt their efforts to a timeline that has no end in sight. “The current volunteers are starting to get fatigued,” Christina Lamour, director of community impact for United Way of El Paso County, said.

U.S. border businesses feeling pain of fewer shoppers from Mexico and tariff threats

El Paso Street buzzes by 9 a.m. on a weekday. A shop owner with a front-row view of the Paso del Norte Bridge picks up a bedazzled pump and sets it on a box containing the mate. A jackhammer pulses two stores down, caution tape forcing walkers to the street. A steady stream of feet — some quick-paced, others leisurely — move past a Customs and Border Protection officer watching the scene unfold. Life moves, but not at the pace it once did.