High school student uses listening to share Hispanic mental health message

Since 2023, a Burges High School student has set up a listening table in the school’s courtyard every Friday during lunch to invite his fellow students to talk with him about anything. He simply listens without judgment and doesn’t offer advice.

“I feel like in a Hispanic community, we aren’t very listened to because of traditions and closed-mindedness,” Edwin Ortega said. “I wanted to bring some welfare to the community by setting up a table and have them talk to me so they can be listened to.”

Ortega was inspired by the Listening Table movement founded by Orly Israel, who became an internet sensation through his Instagram account @Orlyslisteningtable, which has 154,000 followers. Ortega said before beginning his table, he reached out to Israel.

Once a grand residential thoroughfare, El Paso’s historic Montana Avenue district evolves as commercial zone

When Elizabeth Pimentel was growing up on Montana Avenue in the late 1960’s, the street was filled with family homes and neighbors knew each other. “I remember taking care of the elderly people’s dog across the street,” Pimentel said. That house is now an acupuncture studio. The stately homes between the 1000 to 1500 blocks of Montana Avenue reflect eclectic and classic architectural styles from the late Victorian era through the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were mostly residential until about the 1990s when businesses began buying up the properties, Pimentel said.

Texas struggles to diversify its mental health workforce to reflect changing community demographics

In Texas, more than 40% of the state’s more than 30 million residents are Hispanic, but its mental health provider population is more than 80% white, according to 2023 data. Also, less than 20% of the state’s 10,440 mental health providers who responded to the 2023 workforce survey said they offer mental health services in a language other than English.

People of color and white people have similar rates of mental health disorders; however, people of color are less likely to receive treatment for their mental health issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2020, 52% of white people with a mental illness received treatment, but only 37.1% of Black, 35% of Hispanic, and 25.4% of Asian people received treatment.

Fall gun buyback in El Paso deemed convenient step toward safer community

Cars lined up at Ascarate Park and El Pasoans handed in firearms ranging from non-functioning pieces, to handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault rifles during the county’s gun buyback initiative. During four hours on Saturday in October El Paso Sheriff’s deputies collected 491 firearms. Each person was allowed to turn in a maximum of 10 guns so long as they owned the weapons. In exchange they received a gift certificate of a minimum of $50 for weapons that no longer worked, $100 for handguns, $150 for rifles and shotguns, up to a maximum of $200 for semi-automatic assault rifles. Ammunition was also accepted but without a reward. “The idea with this program is to make it safe, easy, convenient, and to incentivize people that do not want their weapons, to come forward and anonymously turn them in,” Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso county attorney said.

Senior community garden cultivates younger members, opening gates to 50-year olds

Since 1972, Welden Yerby Senior Community Garden in Northeast El Paso, has been a haven for retirees looking for a healthy hobby.

Now the garden, which previously required members to be 55 or older, is lowering its age requirements to 50 to plant the seeds for expanding its membership.
“You know a lot of times life is just so busy at home, but this is a kind of respite to get away and grow and be in touch with nature,” said Ben Avalos, 66, who has been a member of the garden for nine years.

Keystone Heritage Park preserves high desert nature amid urban development

Keystone Heritage Park and Botanical Garden is an unexpected oasis amid the residential development of El Paso’s Upper Valley. It is old land. It sits on what was the ancient settlement of the Mansos tribe alongside Doniphan Drive, part of the historic Camino Real. The 52-acre Keystone Heritage Park is mostly wetlands, with a 2-acre garden that showcases native desert plants

“We have mostly Chihuahuan desert plants, Sonoran desert plants, a few African plants, a few South American plants,” said RubyAnn Gaglio event coordinator for the park. She said everything is desert adaptive to survive on low water and heat.

El Paso baker’s whimsical creations showcased in Food Network’s Halloween Cookie Challenge

El Paso baker, Naomi Gil, did not believe it at first when the Food Network invited her to be on one of their seasonal shows. “They reached out on my business profile, and they even went to my personal profile,” Gil said. “I don’t know how they found me.”

Gil, 27, is the owner of Azúcar Morena Bakery in El Paso, a dessert catering service with a following on Instagram. Gil did not respond at first to messages inviting her to try out for the Food Network’s, Halloween Cookie Challenge. She throught it might be a hoax.

Photo essay: A day of lucha libre and libros as Chamizal Library unveils new library cards

Reading and wrestling ruled the day when El Paso’s new library card designs were unveiled at the Chamizal Community Center and Library in September. The limited edition cards carry images of luchadores, the masked competitors who participate in the lucha libre style of wrestling from Mexico. The first part of the event was to get people to sign up for their new cards. Then they proceeded outside to mingle with the luchadores and watch a wrestling match.  

The luchadores promoted spending time with families as well as the value of education, encouraging everyone there to use their new library card to read more.

Cross-border pharmacy tourism still thriving, but expert urges caution when buying certain drugs

Esther Huerta has lived with a kidney transplant for 17 years and has to take medication for the rest of her life to ensure her body does not reject the organ. Huerta says the medicine is too costly to buy in the U.S. so she crosses the border to Ciudad Juarez every month. Huerta takes Sirulimus and Mycophenolic Acid to prevent rejection of her kidney transplant. Her medicine costs approximately $600 in Juarez, in comparison to almost $1,000 in the United States. Pharmacy tourism is the act of going to a different country to obtain medication due to lack of insurance, lower cost, and easier access.

Campus cat program watches over feral and stray felines who call UTEP home

Every now and then, visitors to the University of Texas at El Paso campus might notice a cat scurry into the bushes or lying down in an open space. These cats live on and around campus and are looked after by Miner Pick Catz, a student organization at UTEP. Since 2021, Miner Pick Catz has supported these feral felines with food and medical care in case of an injury or illness. Before the campus group formed, another feral cat organization, Cat Rescue Corporation, helped the cats and is still one of the partners continuing to help today. “They’re nonprofit, so they pay for the food that we use, all the supplies, also the money for getting them fixed and then also getting their shots and any surgeries that they need,” said Penelope Vega, president of Miner Pick Catz.

Howdy Homemade ice cream creates jobs for El Pasoans with disabilities

A new Downtown ice cream shop is serving up unique flavors along with work opportunities for El Pasoans with special needs. Howdy Homemade ice cream opened this November on the first floor of the Roderick Artspace at the intersection of Missouri and Oregon. The Dallas-based franchise is staffed primarily by teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 23% of people with disabilities in the U.S. are employed, compared to 68% of people without disabilities. After almost seven years since its opening, Howdy Homemade now has 10 franchisees across the country, four of which are in Texas.

Vet shortage contributes to overcrowding at El Paso animal services shelter

Kennels are packed tightly in the hallway, squeezed into employee break room areas and just about any corner where there is some space. Overcrowding has worsened at El Paso Animal Services and more animals are waiting longer to be adopted. In September, Joey had been at the shelter more than a year. He’s a friendly, medium-sized golden Labrador Retriever mix with striking two different colored-eyes. “We’re really trying to get pictures of Joey out on social media to get someone to adopt him,” Michele Anderson, the Marketing Public Engagement Manager for Animal Services said.

Latest version of Viejo Coffee finds its happy place in El Paso’s Kern area

Tucked away in a space behind a popular local bar on North Stanton Street is a coffee business whose owners’ dreams are not so small. Viejo Coffee recently moved from Downtown El Paso to its new location in the Kern Place area by UT El Paso. Its owners, José Arevalo and Miguel de la Rocha had always dreamed of opening a business together. Childhood friends, they opened their first business immediately after graduating from Hanks High School. They went through a few food truck concepts, but both felt they could do something more creative.

San Elizario experiments with cultivating low-water use gardens amid climate change

SAN ELIZARIO, Texas – This small border city in the Chihuahuan Desert is known for farming high water usage crops, like cotton and pecans, but the high heat and lack of rain from climate change is changing the traditional techniques of home gardeners.
Lorenzo Luevano was born and raised in San Elizario, and got his first taste of agriculture at a young age when his grandmother introduced him to gardening. Now in his late 20s, Luevano serves as the city’s agriculture manager, teaching residents in this low-income community how to grow their own fruits and vegetables in desert conditions.

‘Life-saving conversations,’ immersive learning, advance military training in suicide prevention

On a sunny spring morning, Air Force cadets gathered in a dimly lit auditorium at the University of Texas at El Paso to hear a 20-year Army officer with 11 combat tours talk about suicides in the military. Retired Lt. Col. J.C. Glick began his discussion, via Zoom, with a brief description of his military experience, mostly in special operations. What he said next stunned many of the cadets. “About 18 months after my 11th combat tour — was my first of four suicide attempts,” he said.

El Paso’s Mission Trail sees surge of growth and economic development 

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.

El Paso libraries offer free seeds to encourage residents to save money and grow their own healthy food

El Paso’s public libraries go beyond feeding the mind with books and videos. The libraries also offer an inventory of free seeds to residents to encourage them to grow their own edible gardens. The seed libraries include non-genetically modified fruits, vegetables and herb seeds to give El Pasoans easy access to nutritious food, especially in lower-income communities. “We wanted to help El Paso become more food sufficient and self-sufficient in terms of growing and eating their own food. So, we wanted people to start urban gardens and to start living healthier lives and eating healthier through their own means,” said Jack Galindo, marketing and customer relations coordinator for the El Paso Public Library.

Better paying job opportunities await more El Paso women going into construction work

Roger De Moor has presented his students with an emergency scenario many of them know well: Your 3-year-old has locked themselves in the bathroom. They’re panicking. In a room that looks like a high school shop class, nine women walked up to a makeshift door and slid a small pick into the doorknob, searching for the groove that would open the lock. “My teenager, she takes the keys,” said Kathy Chavez, whose daughter went through “the terrible teens” and used to lock the door to her room. Chavez’s cousin, Terri Garcia, held up the pick and grinned: “Not anymore.”

The cousins are single moms eager to rely less on Garcia’s aging father for help with home improvement tasks — and to save money.

Pet Guardian Angel works to help big dogs find a loving home in El Paso

At the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, people decided to adopt a pet since they’d be home and had time for an animal. But with a return to work and school in the fall of 2021, shelters are full again and rescue groups are working to find homes for all the animals. “In El Paso, it’s a really bad community when it comes to dogs and cats,” said Jacqueline Zuloaga, an employe with Pet Guardian Angel, a small no-kill shelter. “There are stray dogs everywhere. A lot of people dump dogs, and that’s how a lot of dogs end up on the streets.

Where are the substitute teachers? El Paso educators stressed by lack of backup for their classes

EL PASO – School districts are seeing a shortage in substitute teachers and it is taking its toll on educators. Rebecca Moreno, a substitute teacher with the El Paso Independent School District, says the need for subs is overwhelming. “I have been getting a lot of calls, there’s just a lot of work out there, but there are only so many of us out there,” Moreno said, adding that she hopes more people will try to join the teaching pool. “We need people to step up to the plate, you know to come out and help out our community. We desperately need it and we are a great team, great community and the kids are amazing.”

UTEP, NMSU take different approaches to pandemic on campus

The University of Texas at El Paso began the fall 2021 semester with a 3.5% drop in enrollment from the previous year. Still, more than 24,000 students returned to campus, even while many worried about the possibility of contracting COVID-19. “That’s the only thing I’m scared of,” Analaura Castillo said

Castillo is a UTEP industrial engineering major. She has personal reasons to be concerned. “I have the vaccine, but I have a younger sister so she’s not able to get it,” Castillo said.

Pandemic isolation sparks entrepreneurial spirit for El Pasoans

When Felix Fajardo lost his job working for an El Paso car dealership, he used Facebook and Instagram to promote his services. Now he takes his truck with a 375-gallon water tank and electric generators to his clients and operates as a mobile detailing and car wash service. “It was hard to find a job again. I took what I learned and became my own boss,” he said. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic a number of people in the U.S. lost their jobs or saw their work hours reduced.