The UTEP Theater Department fall production of Borderline, a play by El Pasoan Andrew Siañez De La O, staged a sci-fi story set in the old cotton fields of Socorro, Texas. Kim McKean, associate professor of theatre and director of theatre programs at the University of Texas at El Paso said the local setting and culture play an important part in the story. So much so that she and the play’s set designer took a trip out to Socorro, in El Paso County’s Lower Valley, before drafting the set.
“We went to the desert, to the place that Andrew, the playwright, was imagining for the play,” McKean said. She said the theatre department is always interested in representing local voices. “The department has committed to as much as possible, maybe in one show per season or one show every other season – telling a new play, a new story,” she said.
CIUDAD JUAREZ — When Stephanie Cramer started playing mariachi music in Ciudad Juárez 24 years ago, she didn’t know any other women mariachi musicians in the city. Now a violinist and singer for Mariachi Trio México de Noche, Cramer said she had to earn acceptance from the men because she was breaking a long-standing tradition. “They would make me cry, not only the guys in my group but the clients. They see a girl, and it was something new,” she said. Cramer’s experience is common according to Leonor Xóchitl Pérez, founder and executive director of the Mariachi Women’s Foundation.
Since I was a kid, a special morning for me has included a cup of cafe con leche and Mexican sweet bread known as pan dulce. My favorites are the pillowy conchas or the pig-shaped molasses-flavored marranitos. But in March 2020, the party was over. My mornings were filled with a lonely cup of coffee when my pan dulce supply was suddenly cut off.Due to the pandemic, every non-essential business in El Paso had to close. You would be surprised how many people think bakeries and its pan dulce are not essential.
I was first introduced to K-Pop at the end of 2019, when Grammy nominated artist Halsey and Korean band BTS collaborated on Boy With Luv. At the time, I was going through a rough patch to say the least, unmotivated and unhappy with life. Something about the bright, colorful music video and catchy lyrics that had me humming “oh my, my, my” to myself for days felt like a refreshing new turn in my life. Before that, I was into alternative and punk rock. I still am, but there is a uniqueness to being a K-Pop fan that is unlike any fan experience I have ever had.Days, weeks and a few music videos later, I found myself interacting with fans both in person and on the internet.
Although many snack brands offer the same products worldwide, it seems when they are consumed in different locations they taste different. That’s something you hear a lot from people who live on the border here in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. I made a questionnaire on Instagram to ask my friends and followers which products they felt tasted better in Mexico, I got an overwhelming amount of responses. Most of the people who responded claimed that Coca-Cola soda and chips by Frito Lay, such as Cheetos, Doritos, and Ruffles taste better when made in Mexico. Others went with Mexican sweets such as Ganzitos, and spicy candies such as Pulparindos and Rockaletas.
El Paso’s historic Mission Trail may be quiet on a Monday, but as the weekend approaches, traffic and visitors begin to stream into the small communities of San Elizario, Socorro and Ysleta. The trail is a 9-mile stretch of the Camino Real, the Spanish Royal Road built in 1598. Shops, museums and businesses once again teem with visitors along this section of the oldest European trade route in North America, which is once again seeing a resurgence in economic development.
A local group called El Paso Rocks! has more than 3,000 members on Facebook. Their mission: To take over El Paso with a city-wide scavenger hunt for painted rocks. The rocks are hand-painted by local artists who participate in the scavenger hunt. The group asks whoever finds the rocks to share on social media to spread the fun.
EL PASO – Avocados are not cheap in the United States. Holidays and celebrations increase the demand for this versatile fruit, especially in the Borderland. Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S. is one of the highest days for avocado consumption, and in the border many holidays and celebrations consist of avocado in many forms.
But around here there’s an easy way to pay less for avocados. Ciudad Juárez, across the border in Mexico. I have been bringing avocados from across the border for a few years now on my own following what my mom has been doing for decades.
En la frontera de Ciudad Juárez y El Paso, se ha visto un crecimiento del veganismo y vegetarianismo y se ve reflejado en la variedad de productos a base de plantas que se encuentran en diferentes tiendas y supermercados. Pero también se ve en la variedad de restaurantes que incluyen este tipo de comida.El Paso cuenta con alrededor de 10 restaurantes completamente veganas y más de 30 restaurantes que incluyen opciones veganas o vegetarianas en sus menús, así lo muestra una página web “Happy Cow.”“Cuando nosotros iniciamos, la gente no sabía realmente mucho pero ya había un grupo de personas, una comunidad,” dijo Jacqueline Cordova, dueña de The Green Ingredient. Fue uno de los primeros restaurantes 100% veganas establecidos en El Paso en el año 2013. Cerró sus puertas en el año 2018, pero ella y su esposo Ulises Cordova continuaron vendiendo productos a base de plantas.Cordova, la dueña de este lugar, cuenta según su experiencia después de más de ocho años, como ha visto el crecimiento del veganismo en la frontera desde que abrieron sus puertas por primera vez, hasta el día de hoy.”Ya muchos restaurantes han introducido lo que es tener opciones para las personas que no comen producto animal y cuando decimos producto animal, decimos, no lácteo, no huevo, porque muchas personas no saben la diferencia,” Cordova dijo. Aun con el cierre del restaurante, Cordova y su esposo continuaron con el negocio como proveedores de productos como quesos libre de lácteo y maltrato animal pero con el mismo propósito de que se siga incrementando este estilo de vida “plant-based.”“Nuestros quesos son quesos cultivados, y cuando decimos cultivados es el mismo proceso para hacer el queso que se hace con leche, nada mas lo hacemos sin leche con nueces o semillas,” explicó.
Holidays around the country are celebrated with unique traditions, special to their region. And the holidays in the borderland also have their own festive recipe. Sharing a border with Mexico, El Paso is a melting pot of cultura with a dash of America and a dash of Mexico.In a city where the population is predominantly Mexican-American, the spices of two different cultures make the borderland holidays a celebration like no other. If you are new to El Paso, here’s all you need to know to celebrate borderland style. The Holiday prep
The festivities of the holiday season kick off early in the borderland.
The pandemic shut down the concert scene in the borderland last year, but now fans are eager to see their favorite performers back on the stage. “I traveled all the way from St. Louis, Missouri, 16-hour drive, left at 4 o’clock yesterday, just to be here,” said Jovan Tucker. She drove from St. Louis to see rapper Kevin Gates in September at the El Paso County Coliseum.
Ciudad Juárez has long been a destination for people from El Paso to visit family members or a place for fun-seekers to travel without going too far. During my visits from over the last couple years I’ve noticed that the city has also turned into a serious eating destination. From tacos and enchiladas to duck breast with a side of couscous, the city’s culinary options are diverse. Although it would take me many visits to get to know all of the restaurants and street stands in the city, here is a list of some of my favorite spots I’ve discovered in my visits. Catalina Bakery & Bistro
Borderland writer David Smith-Soto’s novel Havana Hallelujah was named the first place winner in Adventure/Drama category in the 2021 International Latino Book Awards this weekend. Smith-Soto was a professor of multimedia journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso from 2004 until his retirement in 2016. He served as editor for Borderzine.com. The International Latino Book Awards is the largest Latino literary recognition program in the U.S. Presenters for the online awards ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 17 included luminaries like Isabel Allende and Edward James Olmos.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected a wide range of businesses during the past year, especially nightclubs in Ciudad Juárez but some businesses found ways to reopen and adapt. Now, they’re faced with a new health order limiting hours and capacity and forcing some to close their doors once again as cases and hospitalizations spike. Nightclubs and restaurants have looked for ways to stay in business. “We had to turn everything into e-commerce we tried to sell remotely and reach the customer ourselves, said Pepe Hernandez, a founder of “Punto Unión,” an upscale property with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The months when businesses were forced to close under a health mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 were difficult.
“The entertainment business ended, so we did it through other brands; we launched a sushi brand, mixology courses, food, and some businesses we turned completely into something new, ” Hernandez said.
Visitors to El Paso’s recently reopened zoo are getting to meet some new animals that settled in while the zoo was closed for the pandemic. “The cougars came in as cubs, two little bitty cubs. Now they are full grown cats,” said Zoo Director Joe Montisano. The popular destination for El Paso families reopened at 50 percent capacity in February. That’s 2,500 visitors a day.
EL PASO — Three artists who grew up in the Segundo Barrio collaborated to create the mural “Quinto Sol- The Rebirth,” in south El Paso. Francisco Delgado, Francisco Camacho, and Bobby Lerma united to paint the mural to inspire children from the neighborhood with memorable artwork. “I believe that it was destined to be on that wall. Everything felt in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, with people who have a good heart, with people that care about the community, and with people who have a strong incomparable love to the neighborhood,” Lerma said. Delgado calls himself a “bordeño,” an artist whose artwork is a mashup of being a Chicano and a “fronterizo.”
El Paso — Bar shutdowns, curfews and stay home orders to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the borderland affected the way many El Pasoans worked. That includes performers such as drag queens who had steady gigs prior to the pandemic, but lost income when they could no longer perform in person.”It’s affected me in a way where I do not have that extra income anymore,” said Alexander Wright, who performs in bars and nightclubs as “Rumor.” She, like many drag queens, performs as a second job rather than as a primary source of income. “Fortunately, I do have a full-time job so I do not rely on drag to go ahead and pay for my stuff, per se.” Wright works as a customer service representative for a staffing agency during the day and does drag as Rumor as a side venture.
EL PASO, Texas – Local trading card stores have seen a spike in demand for cards that were popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s as videos of online content creators buying Pokémon cards during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many collectors to go on a spending frenzy.
Estine Davis has been cutting hair in El Paso for almost 70 years, most of it at her barber shop that is the last vestige of what was once a vibrant Black business district. As she prepared to celebrate her 88th birthday in December, the woman known affectionately as Miss Estine told a reporter she has no plans to retire. “As long as I make a living from it, I’m going to cut hair,” she said. To celebrate Miss Estine, a group of friends organized a “Toot and Wave Car Parade” in her honor . The parade began at Shiloh Baptist Church, 3201 Frutas, then made its way to Estine Eastside Barber Shop at 104 N. Piedras.
El Pasoans and other area residents have been taking to the streets to celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other events by using outdoor garlands and neighborhood parades to commemorate celebrations because the pandemic is limiting indoor social gatherings.
CIUDAD JUAREZ — Las redes sociales se han vuelto más transitadas tanto para buscar información como para convivir debido a la cuarentena puesta por la pandemia del COVID-19, donde se recomienda distanciamiento social.
Como medio de información, las redes sociales han servido para mantener a gente de diferentes partes del país al tanto de la situación de cuarentena de los demás y además han ayudado muchos convivir y encontrar diversión mientras se encuentran aislados.
Referring to itself as El Paso’s flagship Esports team, the El Paso HoneyBadgers organization was just beginning to build its membership. Then the coronavirus pandemic forced the group of gamers to shift to meeting online only. “The social aspect of the HoneyBadgers is kind of harder for us. We, our teams love to practice and they love to be around each other,” said team president Caroline Salas. The El Paso HoneyBadgers is an electronic sports team based at the GAIA Makerspace at UTEP that sometimes competes through playing multiplayer video games against other teams in competitive matches.
EL PASO — As chilly weather sets in and fall finally arrives in the borderland, so does the beloved tradition of making pozole. https://youtu.be/gx1y6wnZmkc
Elva “Raquel” Salas, 60, sells the slow-cooked red chile and hominy stew from home on weekends to earn extra money. The mother of three and grandmother of eight works full-time at a power plant, but on Sundays she sells her homemade pozole to friends, family and others who don’t have time to make their own. Salas uses a recipe from her grandmother’s kitchen. She says it’s all about the seasoning.
Normally around this time of year, the church kermes or bazaar season would just be wrapping up in El Paso. Every year, many Catholic churches hold huge, weekend-long fundraisers. They are a tradition in the borderland – large, carnival-like gatherings complete with live music, family games like loteria, and some of the best Mexican food you can find. Think gorditas and elotes. Churches usually do most of their fundraising for the year at these bazaars.
Since its opening in 2001, Café Mayapán is known for more than it’s traditional take on authentic Mexican food. It also serves as a center for celebrating Mexican heritage, building community and supporting economic development for working class women. But now it’s struggling to survive, due to the pandemic. “I think it would be a shame if Café Mayapán ends up closing up, because it would be a loss not only for these women, but also for the community” said Aimée Carrillo, a longtime customer. The cafe at 2000 Texas is one of three enterprises run by La Mujer Obrera, an organization dedicated to helping marginalized women.
One thing that the coronavirus pandemic has allowed me to do is read. I’ve been able to connect with many stories, characters and settings through the turning of pages. But no matter how connected I can feel to any story, it is deeper with those that feature my homeland on the U.S., Mexico border.What all these books have in common is an understanding of what it is to be somewhere in between two countries – sometimes lost, sometimes more aware than ever. From an odyssey to an identity crisis, from an individual struggle to political battles, these books situate us in the middle of La Frontera and help us understand our history while informing our present.In times of COVID-19, what better way to pass our days than getting to know ourselves and our heritage?1. The Line Becomes a River by Francisco CantúThis book is a memoir from a third generation Mexican-American who is a former Border Patrol agent from Arizona.
When El Paso was placed under stay-at-home orders in March, many residents may have felt overwhelmed. But there are signs that the community is trying to stay positive during this pandemic. Here’s a sample of some of what is being shared on social media. Neighborhood notes
To help fight loneliness during while everyone is stuck at home, some residents are doing little things to help keep people’s hopes up. Twitter user @Jara_Films hung piñatas on the West Side that carry messages encouraging anyone walking or driving by to stay strong.
When Jerry Hobson retired in 2010, he and his wife, Susan, got to work on a plan to turn some old family farmland into a garden of fresh produce for people in need. “We were here with land, water, time, and some nickels and dimes and it was like someone was saying: ‘You kind of have it pretty good, maybe it’s time to share that and give back,’ ” said Jerry Hobson, 74, who retired after a career as a chemical engineer with El Paso’s Chevron Refinery and El Paso Natural Gas. The farm, located south of La Union, NM, near Canutillo, Texas, has been part of his family for a hundred years. Over time it was divided among Hobson’s family members. The three acres that belong to Jerry and Susan Hobson is now known as Jardin de Milagros and provides truckloads of fresh vegetables to area food pantries.
The sounds of off-road vehicles grinding through the desert in east El Paso County are mostly just a memory now. The sprawling dunes area known as Red Sands is closed and Sheriff’s patrols are turning off-road enthusiasts away to limit the potential for public contact over coronavirus concerns. But, before the closure, the sounds of 4x4s filled Red Sands day and night as groups of vehicles roamed the rugged terrain, climbing over dunes and sometimes getting stuck in the soft sands. That’s when the Texas Rescue Patrol might come to the rescue. The Texas Rescue Patrol is a group of volunteers who are part of the off-roading community who respond to calls for help and try to do whatever they can for stranded vehicles or accident cases, especially in the hard-to-reach areas of the desert.