Juarez booked up for pope, but El Paso hotels still have rooms

EL PASO — The “Two Nations, One Faith” visit from Pope Francis to Cd. Juarez has brought national attention to the border region, but not a lot of travelers looking for a place to stay in El Paso. The Catholic Diocese of Juarez is expecting 220,000 people to attend the Mass celebrated by the pope on Wednesday. Thousands more are expected to line the streets of Juarez hoping to catch a glimpse of the pontiff. And, one the other side of the border in El Paso, thousands are planning to receive a blessing from the pope while attending a simulcast of the papal Mass in the Sun Bowl on the UT El Paso campus.

Las maquiladoras de Juárez no están obligadas a dar un día feriado para la visita del Papa

CD. JUAREZ – Se esperaba que todas las dependencias de gobierno y de la industria maquiladora tendrían el 17 de febrero libre para celebrar la visita del Papa Francisco, pero ahora la organización encargada de coordinar las 360 maquiladoras dice que no es un día feriado para los 260,000 empleados del sector. Algunas han optado en dar el día 17 libre a cambio por otro día feriado. Otras han decidido seguir abiertas como cualquier día normal de trabajo. La Asociación Mexicana de Actuarios Consultores, organización que se encarga de coordinar las empresas maquiladoras, ha decidido que el día de la visita del Papa no es un día feriado para los empleado, sino que es decision de cada empresa dar el día a sus trabajadores para que ellos tengan la oportunidad de atender a la misa masiva.

‘Mexican Black Friday’ struggles to compete with U.S. deals in border towns

CD. JUAREZ– People gather in the electronics section of Walmart two weeks before Black Friday with their shopping carts still empty, going in circles among the store’s sales staff, who today wear red T-shirts announcing “the cheapest weekend of the year.”

As they tell shoppers that the price for the 60-inch flat-screen TV in front of them is the lowest they will ever see, someone with a microphone urges shoppers not to wait until Black Friday to do their Christmas shopping: “Forget about the long lines, ‘the good weekend’ is here.”

El Buen Fin, dubbed the Mexican Black Friday, took place from November 13 to November 16 this year. In past years, El Buen Fin has rung up to 197 billion pesos in sales, according to the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce (Conacaco), This year was expected to bring in between four to eight percent more. While El Buen Fin has been successful in most parts in México since its inception in 2011, it hasn’t had the same success in border cities such as Cd. Juárez where shoppers have access to U.S. Black Friday sales.

U.S. businesses feeling the pinch of weaker peso


EL PASO – Six months after the downward slide of the peso in Mexico began squeezing the pocketbooks of Juarez residents, El Paso is starting to feel the sharp impact of less goods being sold on this side of the border, officials say. “I mainly come to El Paso to buy clothes for my son, the jeans and shirts he likes are cheaper here,” said Dona Maria Guadalupe Pacheco, a resident from Ciudad Juarez, who comes to El Paso to buy the items she needs. “I cross the bridge twice a week, I shop here in downtown El Paso. Due to the high price of the dollar, I cannot spend as much money as I used to spend before, I remember spending 50 dollars, now I only spend 20 dollars.” The value of the dollar in the last year has increased about 27.33 percent against the Mexican peso, according to the United States Federal Reserve Bank.

Shop brings second-hand chic to university area

EL PASO — Opening to a huge crowd here this summer, the first Uptown Cheapskate store in this area specializing in used clothing, shoes and accessories aims to bring affordable fashion to students, young professionals, and those simply looking for a great buy. According to owner Kevin Drennan the store opening on August 27 drew the third largest crowd in the history of Uptown Cheapskate store franchises, resale stores with a particular point of view. “The difference between thrift and resale is we’ll pay you cash for your clothes, whereas thrift will just take your items and don’t pay you anything for it. Consignment gives you fifty percent of the profit from an item after they sell it,” Drennan said. The first franchise of the company opened in 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Candy makers call for cheap sugar fix on U.S. side of the border

By Rebecca Anzel, SHFWire.com

WASHINGTON – The U.S. candy industry has a problem. The sugar it needs to produce sweet treats is protected by the government through tariffs and trade restrictions, which drive up the price, industry officials say. This has forced some companies to move  production to places where sugar is cheaper, including Mexico or Brazil. Atkinson Candy Co. is one of those companies.

Los populares mercados de segundas de Juarez se resisten a desaparecer

Cd. JUAREZ — Muchos sitios son icónicos aquí prácticamente por decreto como el Bar Kentucky, la Catedral de Guadalupe, el parque de El Chamizal, pero entre estos hay un ícono algo olvidado– los mercados de segundas de la ciudad. Desde los que van emergiendo con el tiempo y luego desaparecen hasta los que tienen más de cuarenta años, los mercados de segundas son sitios de comercio informal que por diversas causas se resisten a desparecer. Varios de estos mercados populares se encuentran próximos a puntos de cruce y denso tráfico o bien en las inmediaciones de espacios de reunión, como el situado a un costado de la iglesia San Pedro Y San Pablo, o dentro de los mismísimos -y tradicionales- Herrajeros. Los hay de todos tamaños y últimamente han empezado a florecer en las proximidades de zonas habitacionales clasemedieras.

Ragz to Riches thrift consignment shop. (Natalia Aguilar/Borderzine.com)

Mexican shoppers make El Paso trips fun tradition

EL PASO — Daniela Caballero, a senior at UT El Paso, remembers being a young girl from Chihuahua, Mexico, and being so excited for her seasonal shopping trip in El Paso. “I would invite a friend with me and my family, and we would stay in Juarez and cross over every day. My dad would save money on the hotel by staying with family in Juarez, so we also took the opportunity to reunite with our family,” she said. Caballero’s family eventually moved to El Paso, which changed her shopping experience. “Now that my family and I have moved to El Paso, I no longer view shopping here the same way.

El Pasoans with Cuban roots skeptical about business opportunities as U.S. renews ties

Every Friday, Helio Gonzalez and his wife Sunny Sapien load their yellow food truck with homemade Cuban empanadas and ‘cafe Cubano’. They park on Remcon and Mesa in West El Paso. Their truck, emblazoned with a the sign, “Sunny’s Cuba Rican Empanadas,” does brisk business all weekend, especially during the lunch hour. Gonzalez, 28, a law enforcement officer in El Paso, was born in Miami of Cuban parents. As a child, he traveled to Cuba twice to visit his grandparents and extended family in the east side of Santiago.

Segundo Barrio march honors Cesar Chavez and our farmworkers

EL PASO — Shouts of “si se puede! and viva Cesar Chavez” followed the residents of Segundo Barrio — El Paso’s historic neighborhood settled by Mexican immigrants a century ago — into the streets as they were carried along in a river of red flags. Downtown El Paso paused March 31 to watch some 300 residents of Segundo Barrio walk through the downtown area to remember the great Chicano labor leader on his birthday. Participants gathered in the late afternoon at the Border Farmworkers Center (Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos) on Oregon Street. “We are here to remember Cesar Chavez, and the annual event the Centro has in Segundo Barrio brings out different people from the community.

El Paso businesswoman’s trade talk trip turns to tourism after D.C. snowstorm

By Jose Soto, SHFWire.com

WASHINGTON – An El Paso businesswoman traveled to the capital hoping to make new business deals. Instead,  she found herself in the midst of heavy snowfall that shut the government and most everything else. Michele Beckley arrived in Washington on March 5 expecting to attend an event at the White House hosted by Business Forward to discuss U.S. international trade. Mother nature had other plans. Beckley found out just after her plane landed that the event had been postponed to March 18.

U.S. Hispanics lead in creating business, but still face barriers to tech startup network

EL PASO – Digital business has become a booming new frontier. But for Latinos, developing new tech companies is virtually an uncharted field. While Latinos excel in the business world in say, opening a restaurant or building a brick and mortar company, Latino entrepreneurs don’t yet have much of a presence in the digital arena. “They tend to open businesses two to three times faster, and make up about nine percent of businesses in the U.S. However, we do see decreased numbers when it comes to digital or technology,” said Denisse Olivas, director of the Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship and marketing lecturer at UTEP

Related on AllDigitocracy.com: GoBaller founder says more Hispanic startups and investors are needed today

According to a 2014 report by Partnership for a New American Economy, between 1990 and 2013 the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the U.S. more than tripled from 321,000 to 1.4 million. Hispanic immigrants, many from Mexico, played a key role in this growth.

PiktoChart graphic by Maria Esquinca showing countries in the TPP

New U.S. international trade deal raises concerns about shadowy negotiations

EL PASO — Clouded in secrecy, the United States is negotiating a trade agreement with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including Mexico, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP). TPP has been compared to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a trade agreement between Mexico, the U.S, and Canada that was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and came into effect in 1994. Critics of TPP have referred to it as NAFTA on steroids. The other countries involved in the agreement are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia and Japan. Negotiations for the treaty have been conducted behind closed doors with no public or congressional input.

5 underreported stories of 2014

By Wesley Juhl – SHFWIRE.com
WASHINGTON – While important stories about the Ebola crisis, Islamic state group and nationwide protests dominated headlines this year, the news media neglected other important stories. Several prominent journalists met at the Woodrow Wilson Center in December to discuss the most underreported stories of 2014. No one at the event would admit to missing an event outright – one journalist said that would be tantamount to admitting to malpractice – but they shared news they said should have gotten more widespread attention. 1. Loose nukes in Pakistan
Pakistan has at least six nuclear sites and could have as many as 200 nuclear devices by 2020.

El Paso’s unique style shines in holiday gifts and supporting local businesses

EL PASO/SUNLAND PARK — From fresh local produce and artisan foods to hand-woven baskets and natural soaps, Ardovino’s Desert Crossing in Sunland Park, New Mexico is one popular local spot to get a taste of El Paso and New Mexico specialties. Julia Cipriano, owner of Of The Earth Beads & Jewelry, greets potential customers with a genuine smile at her booth. She tells shoppers that she can adjust any piece of handmade jewelry to their liking. She calls it negotiation. “Once I make something, even if I make a duplicate, it’s not an exact duplicate,” said Cipriano, who has been beading bracelets, earrings and necklaces since childhood.

Border job growth tied to better college prep, school funding

EL PASO – Political and community leaders on the U.S.-Mexico border are promoting improved college graduation rates as a key to future economic development in the region. The importance of increasing the number of college graduates to attract and fill high skill, high paying jobs was a big part of the discussion at the 2014 Border Legislative Conference Sept. 12 in El Paso. The conference brought together civic, political and business leaders from both sides of the border to talk about issues of trade, commerce, mobility and education. “There must be a push for higher education in order for the border region to succeed,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

Brothers predict tea trend timing is right for a refreshing new business

EL PASO —After an inspiring speaker at summer church camp described how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary goals, brothers Andrew and Michael Estrada saw their future in the tea leaves. What started as a classic dream for the Estrada brothers at that camp in 2012 in Sacramento, N.M, became a reality in 2014 with the first shipment of “radically refreshing” Humanitea bottled tea. “Fresh brewed tea is just another level of good,” said Andrew Estrada, 26. “At youth camp, we always drink tea. Literally, brewed tea.”

When asked why tea above all else, he said, “It dawned that people don’t like tea because it’s not made correctly.”

The Estrada brothers’ journey began when they came back home from summer camp.

Food truck trend continues to grow as profits roll in

EL PASO — A hungry motorist driving on the desert highway on the east side of this border city could suddenly come up on Jesus Ramos’ El Vaquero food truck, stop and enjoy an “elotes,” a corn concoction that has its origins in old Mexico. “I have been in the food truck business for 30 years,” said Ramos, who specializes in serving the elotes, a mix of corn, butter, cheese and chile in a styrofoam cup. “I began in Mexico, and have only recently been in El Paso for three years. I sell 300 elotes a day at $3 to $5 each and to me it’s well worth the work of owning a food truck.” Opening a mobile restaurant or food truck is not an easy task.

Borderzine names digital pioneer as web content manager

Borderzine, a digital media outlet dedicated to promoting diversity in media, has named multimedia editor and digital strategist Kate Gannon as digital content manager. Gannon has more than 25 years experience on the leading edge of change in newsrooms. She was news systems editor at the El Paso Times where she oversaw technology research and training for journalists and supervised the newsroom’s new media department for online, broadcasting and non-daily publications. In 2005, Gannon was named new media manager of content for the Fort Collins Coloradoan where she helped develop multimedia, data and other digital strategies to successfully grow Coloradoan Media Group into the leading news and information provider in Northern Colorado. She returned to El Paso in 2011 with her husband, El Paso Times Editor Robert Moore, and has been working as a digital content and social media consultant. “I believe Kate’s extensive experience as a journalist, new media manager and teacher make her an excellent fit for Borderzine,” said Borderzine Director Zita Arocha.

Fracking squeezes more natural gas from the desert, but it may also inject new pollutants

EL PASO — Arnold Escobar leaves his apartment under the hot sun of Odessa, Texas, a desert region abundant in oil nicknamed the Texas Petroplex, drives past oil derricks and pumpjacks, to a remote well site where heavy machinery whirs loudly. He slowly walks along the plant to get to the two-ton blender he operates and starts his work day, a long shift that can last 48 hours. “I feel like my job is an important one,” said Escobar, 24. Escobar is a Senior Equipment Operator for Archer, an oilfield service company that specializes in drilling and well services. One of those services is the process known as hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” for short.

Lawmakers call for more transparency in port-of-entry funding

WASHINGTON – Texas needs more funding for its ports of entry. So does Michigan. Lawmakers from both states berated federal officials Wednesday for failing to improve the ports and for not even having a current list of which ports are on a list for funding. “The lack of transparency is troubling, to put it kindly,” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said during a House subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing. “Customs and Border Patrol cannot continue to be a big black hole when it comes to ports of entry infrastructure needs, which can impact both trade facilitation and homeland security.”

Infrastructure needs at ports of entry often refers to CBP staffing, identification technology and roads.

A unique screen-printing shop that made its mark is closing down

Editor’s note: Proper Printshop reopened. Follow up story here

EL PASO – Beneath fluorescent lights Inside a noisy concrete room that smells of paint, Stephen Escarzaga, 24, works a computer mouse to rapidly transform the pictures inside his clients’ heads into a graphic logo, a print or a shirt. For six years, Escarzaga and his partner Jonathan Childress, 24, worked in a unique lifestyle that included screen printing, making music, shooting video and running the show at their printshop. But the Central El Paso business, Proper Printshop, will come to an end as they move on to pursue other career goals. The partnership began in May 2008 as they shared a Westside apartment.

Few local restaurants offer menus in braille for the vision-impaired

EL PASO – Trying to pick from the vast number of dishes on a restaurant menu can be challenging, but imagine not being able to see the menu. Blind or vision-impaired persons must deal with that anomaly. Only a few restaurants in El Paso offer braille menus to their blind or vision-impaired customers, according to phone interviews with 21 local restaurants. The only ones were the national chains Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Some 21 million adults – about 9 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 18, reported having vision problems, according to the 2011 National Health Interview Survey prepared by the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Our job is to bring them (our customers) a piece of Juárez", said Omar Apodaca co-owner of La Choza. (Alexander Gandara/Borderzine.com)

Mexican businesses thrive in El Paso with support from their own network

EL PASO – New businesses and professionals resettling here from México have assimilated almost seamlessly into the local culture and economy in the last two years with the help and oversight of a close-knit network they formed to orient and advise them. Known as La Red, the organization with 300-plus members aims to assist its new immigrant middle-class membership with business and legal advice.  La Red includes business entrepreneurs, laywers, architects and other professionals. They help empresarios from Juárez transfer their businesses to El Paso using L1A visas.  In 2010 L1A visas were issued to 5,000  Mexican business professionals, according to the U.S. state department statistics. The L1A visa is a quicker way for professionals to establish residency for up to seven years and it allows them to bring children under the age of 21.  La Red retains lawyers who can help with the proper documentation. Once issued the visa, they must prove that the business is succesful.  The visa can be renewed every two years.