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.
Babak Tavakoli, 25, an Art major at the University of Texas at El Paso, has gained recognition for his chalk art at Hillside Coffee, Independent Burger, Crave, and other locations in El Paso, landing him a new project for Eastlake High School. “I barely recently started getting jobs like this” he said. “I had never been a working artist, just a student artist.” Until about four months ago, Tavakoli never had an Instagram, but when he finally made it he got various request from business owners asking him to embark on art projects to attract people to their businesses. In this case, Eastlake High School’s flag team was in need of a mural-sized banner to travel with for their competitions, and this year the theme was graffiti.
Born in the Mexican town of Canutillo Durango on Sept. 5, 1953, Cleo Parrish struggled to gain United States citizenship for 45 years. On Sept. 14, 2016, her 45-year wait came to an end when she was declared a U.S. citizen. “It was a surprise to me because I struggled understanding and learning English while I was crossing over,” said Parrish, 64.
With altruism as the main drive behind his art collection, UTEP librarian Juan Sandoval has amassed over 1,000 works of art that he keeps in his modest Sunset Heights apartment. “I always had poor friends growing up, so I would help them out by buying their art,” said Sandoval. The first time he bought a piece was in 1975 to encourage a friend. “In college, I used to buy original works of art for $25,” he joked. The works Sandoval has acquired throughout the years range from simple Native American tapestry to intricate and abstract lithographs made by prominent artists such as Luis Jimenez, Francisco Toledo and Marta Arat.
EL PASO — Translucent white porcelain clays, rulers, pencils and pieces of guns are scattered in Margarita Cabrera’s workspace as she peacefully sits inside her sanctuary surrounded by her sculptures and creations. Cabrera, a local sculptor, educator and mother of two, focuses her art on the difficulties related to immigration. “I address issues of cultural identity, labor practices, craft, community, empowerment, and violence,” Cabrera said. Cabrera, 42, was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, but moved to the U.S. at around the age of 10, when her family was in search of better opportunities. Her inspiration to become an artist began in childhood.
EL PASO — La lucha contra el uso de drogas y la prevención de enfermedades de transmisión sexual (ETS) ha sido enfocada por el Programa Compañeros A.C. en las dos comunidades mas vulnerables — las personas que se inyectan drogas y sus parejas y los hombres que tienen sexo con hombres. Esta observación llevo a Nora Gallegos unas de los directores del programa a tomar acción rm Juarez igual que en El Paso, no solo en la cuestión de enfermedades de transmisión sexual, sino también en el impacto del consumo y uso de drogas en la comunidad. “En el camino nos dimos cuenta que había dos poblaciones en ese entonces un poco más vulnerables, las personas que usaban drogas inyectadas y sus parejas sexuales y los hombres que tenían sexo con hombres”, afirmó Gallegos. La lucha contra el uso de drogas y la prevención de enfermedades de transmisión sexual (ETS) en la frontera de Ciudad Juarez/El Paso, han sido los motivos principales que han llevado a la fronteriza Gallegos a ser reconocida en varias ocasiones. Uno de sus mayores logros fue una celebración que se llevó a cabo en la Casa Blanca en el mes de mayo donde Gallegos fue reconocida por su labor comunitaria.
EL PASO — With more than two decades in the battle against against drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases here and in Juarez , Programa Compañeros has successfully focused on the two most vulnerable communities — people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men. It was the realization that these were the ideal groups to target that led program director Nora Gallegos and her team to take action, not only in the STD’s area, but also on drug use in both cities. “As we went we found out that there were two communities that, at that time, were a little bit more vulnerable; the people that used injected drugs and their sexual partners, and men who had sex with men,” said Gallegos. The fight against the use of drugs and the prevention of STDs in the border cities has given Programa Compañeros widespread recognition in both countries. Gallegos was honored at the White House in May, where she was recognized for her community work.
Editor’s note: U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine died Feb. 14 in Fresno, Calif. at age 87. In 2013, the poet known for giving “a voice to the voiceless” spoke at UT El Paso and spent time visiting classes and talking with students and faculty. Here is Borderzine’s story of that visit, originally published March 29, 2013.
EL PASO – Like many children, Yvette and David Lomeli were obsessed with toys and comic books as children. But instead of putting childhood things aside as they grew, this brother and sister duo built their passion for collecting into a successful home-based business that led to their opening of Mayhem Toyz and Comics store in the spring of 2014. “This has kind of been in the making for over 15 years,” Yvette Lomeli said. “I started with a business similar to this one, but the goal was always to have a store. At the time we had a website, we traveled the country and did trade shows, eBay, local flea markets, or sometimes out of the garage, but the goal was always to have a store.”
El Paso- Hace un año, Héctor Fabián Ruiz, de 24 años de edad, cumplió su sueño desde niño al comenzar su propia línea de ropa en El Paso designando ropa para familiares y amigos. Inspirado en los búhos ahora se ha convertido en uno de los jóvenes diseñadores con más auge en la cuidad. “Desde que estaba en kínder, me encantaba dibujar, pintar y ahora que estoy grande me gusta mucho la moda, especialmente la ropa de modo urbano”, dijo Ruiz, que actualmente estudia diseño de moda en EPCC. “La idea de fabricar ropa fue de uno de los miembros de mi familia, el me dio una idea muy grande y por eso estoy haciendo esto ahora”, comentó Ruiz. Desde hace tres años, Ruiz trabaja tiempo completo en Talecris Rescursos de Plasma (TPR), por sus siglas en inglés, un centro de recolección de plasma.
EL PASO – When Carlos Marentes decided to help migrant farm workers who slept on cold sidewalks in Downtown El Paso he never imagined it would one day lead him to meeting the Pope. Marentes, who opened El Centro de los Trabajadores Agrículturas Fronterizos (The Border Farmworkers Center) in 1995, was one of three people selected from the U.S. to take part in the World Meeting of Popular Movements conference at the Vatican in late October. The conference was an open discussion about poverty, unemployment, loss of homes and land that affect people around the world. Marentes was surprised to receive an invitation to the conference. “I was meeting the pope,” Marentes said.
EL PASO — Anthony Wright came to a crossroads early in life – follow a life of drugs and crime like other kids in his neighborhood, or follow his dream of being a world-class track star. Now, a few months after graduating from the University of Texas at El Paso in May 2104, Wright, 24, is about to do something only a select few dream of doing. A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, he is training to secure a spot on a team to compete in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Brazil. “I’ve always been drawn to sports, soccer, basketball, and I always gathered around the groups that always isolated themselves with sports,” Wright said. “I am good at it and I think it’s amazing the ability the human body has and what it can do.”
The 5’9, 190 pound athlete with dark brown hair and eyes peppers his conversations with German phrases like Guten morgen (Good morning), and Wie geht es ihnen?
EL PASO – Dressed in a bright orange jacket adorned with a necklace and a crucifix pendant, Rosa Guerrero flashes a warm smile, projecting the trademark youthful spirit and upbeat stamina that belie her approaching 80th birthday. “Age is just a matter of the mind,” Guerrero said as she sipped her cranberry and orange juice drink, a mix she concocted herself. “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.”
Guerrero’s long resume in the professional dance world has not weighed her down. An avid dancer in all types of genres, a dance teacher of students that range in age from two-year- olds to 100-year-olds, and an ambassador for Mexican folkloric dance, her love for dance is evident in the rhythm of her hand gestures and expressive nature. “I started dancing in my mother’s womb,” Guerrero exclaimed as she sculpted a simple dance move with her hands.
EL PASO – A little stubble on his face, a fedora hanging on an empty microphone to his right, Daniel Chacon is ready to record Words on a Wire, a KTEP-FM weekly radio show that showcases some of the best in creative writing. The show, in its fourth year, is attracting listeners throughout the borderlands and beyond. That’s no surprise to the creator of the show, Chacon, a University of Texas at El Paso associate professor of creating writing and novelist who has a reputation around campus as being somewhat eccentric. A lover of reading and books since childhood (his favorite book as a child was “Danny and the Dinosaur”), several years ago Chacon began thinking about doing thought-provoking radio interviews with accomplished writers. After discussing the idea with then chair of the UTEP creative writing department, Benjamin Alire Saenz, they agreed to approach El Paso’s public radio station KTEP-FMA with the idea.
With one quick motion of his finger on the camera shutter release, David Smith-Soto erases the boundaries of time and eternalizes an intimate instant as two lovers stare into each other’s eyes. “It’s a glimpse of intimacy,” said David Flores, photographer and special collections archivist at the University of Texas at El Paso. “This is life one frame at a time.”
The black and white photograph taken in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2000 entitled “Lovers” is one of 26 prints in David Smith-Soto’s street photography exhibit in the Glass Gallery at the University of Texas at El Paso,
Photo Gallery: The Street Photography of David Smith-Soto
Smith-Soto said he was pleased to show some of his 60 years of photography to a large audience, but that the purpose of the show was to raise funds for journalism student internships. “We need to send out more students into the world, so that means we need more funding for that,” said Zita Arocha director of Borderzine, UTEP’s online bilingual magazine. Arocha said it costs approximately $3000 to send one student on an internship.
There are sports fans, and then there’s the Super Fan – that extra player in the stands who cranks up the crowd to cheer, sing and human wave the team to victory, or at least have a good time trying. In El Paso, many people may recognize Gregg Bush as that guy. “If I can help the sports teams that I care about succeed and win, I’ll do my best to cheer my team onto victory,” Bush said. And cheer them on he does. He is a regular in the stands at UT El Paso games, a fixture in the third-base section at El Paso Chihuahuas baseball games and in the heart of crowd at The Corner Tavern and Grill for major league soccer and other games.
LAS CRUCES, NM — My dad used to say that if Hitler hadn’t started World War II I wouldn’t have been born anywhere, but especially not in Costa Rica. My dad, Leon Smith, was 19, a gangly six-foot tall Jewish kid from Washington, D.C., when the war broke out and he enlisted in the Army to fight Nazis. The Army, in its infinite wisdom, sent him to Costa Rica. Not speaking a word of Spanish was not a handicap for a handsome guy in a U.S. Army uniform and soon enough he met a beautiful señorita, married her and I was born in San Jose a week before Hitler killed himself. Leon became a lawyer working for an international organization in Costa Rica, but he was an avid amateur photographer.