After more than a year of remote classes and cancelled graduation ceremonies, students at the University of Texas at El Paso are excited about commencement. At the end of March 2021, students got the news UTEP would have an in-person ceremony for graduates of the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 at the Sun Bowl Stadium on Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15. The Friday ceremony recognizes bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates and candidates in the colleges of business administration, education and liberal arts. The Saturday ceremony honors graduates and candidates in the colleges of engineering, health sciences and science, and the schools of nursing and pharmacy,” according to the announcement from UTEP Communications. Many of those who will take part in commencement are the first in their families to graduate from a university.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us interact now. For one group, the changes in social dynamics come at a critical time in their lives as they navigate early adulthood. Amid managing socially distant lifestyles, 20-somethings are seeing shifts in their relationships – with some drifting apart and others dissolving completely. “I did lose a handful of friends this year. But now that I look back on it I don’t know if they were really my friends or just acquaintances,” said El Pasoan Brittney Tambeau, 25.
Delta-8 – a legal compound similar to THC from cannabis – has arrived in the Borderland and one CBD shop owner says its popularity is sure to rise among El Paso-area residents seeking to explore its medicinal qualities. May Leach, owner of Whole Health CBD, says the compound is thought to relieve pain, emotional unrest and produce a slight sense of euphoria. It is marketed in different form such as oils, lotions and even edibles. And unlike marijuana, it is legal in Texas, Leach said. Like CBD, short for cannabidoil, Delta-8 comes from the hemp plant and is legal in the Lone Star state after Texas Bill 1325 legalized hemp products in 2019.
Dianna Williams-Hefley grew up with one foot on each side of the border. She spent her early years living in the United States, but due to job opportunities for her parents who were teachers, her family moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. That’s where she went to high school. Williams-Hefley recalls being mesmorized by the art culture she experienced while living in Mexico. Enchanted by the vibrant colors of folk art and the traditional methods used in each handcrafted piece, Williams-Hefley’s appreciation for Mexican artisan work stayed with her even after returning to the U.S.
“I was always trying to figure out someway to get back to Mexico,” Williams-Hefley said.
Dos de los mercados más populares en El Paso tratan de mantenerse a flote durante la pandemia.
Las puertas de El Bronco Swap Meet se encuentran cerradas y vendedores esperan la noticia por parte de los dueños de cuando podrán volver a operar. Por otro lado, Ascarate Flea Market abrió de nuevo después de dos meses de no operar al inicio de la pandemia.
Ciudad Juárez — En esta región fronteriza, COVID-19 ha causado un gran impacto económico en centros comerciales, y negocios pequeños. Los gobiernos de México y Estados Unidos cerraron puentes internacionales en Marzo durante la pandemia. Solo está permitido cruzar por razones esenciales e ir de compras no es una de las razones. Muchos negocios ubicados en la Avenida Juárez tuvieron que cerrar temporalmente a causa de la pandemia y siguen afectados por restricciones en los puentes internacionales Estos negocios dependen del turismo y clientes que cruzan el Puente Internacional Paso del Norte. “Afecta mucho a los países de los dos lados pero aquí nos afecta más porque estamos esperanzados en el turismo,” comento Antonio Hernández Camacho, joyero en Avenida Juárez.
San Felipe de Jesús parish is one of the many churches that re-opened its doors to the public in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico at the end of January. About 35 people came to the church to celebrate Mass, all respecting social distancing guidelines and wearing masks. In an attempt to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the state government of Chihuahua suspended all public religious services in September, the second time since the start of the pandemic last spring. Chihuahua’s restrictions are based on a street-light-inspired system defined by specific indicators, such as hospital bed capacity. When the state transitioned to the color yellow in January, churches were allowed to reopen to the public at 30% capacity and limited to a maximum of 100 people.
Sales of RVs have skyrocketed more than 31% in the past year and aren’t expected to abate as vacationers seek safe ways to travel during the pandemic, according to industry figures.
Borderland recreational vehicle retailers are experiencing the same national trend as local residents fill their showrooms buying up motorhomes and RVs, leaving lots almost empty.
The “college experience,” usually depicted as an exciting time of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities, has changed dramatically due the COVID-19 pandemic. From classes switching to online teaching, technology issues and economic hardships, the pandemic has proven to be challenging for many students. But some Mexican international students in El Paso faced even more challenges after some government offices closed and new restrictions were placed on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border. Irving Avalos Guzman, 19, a first-year international student from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was unable to get his student visa processed on time for him to attend any classes at the University of Texas at El Paso in person. “I would like to cross the border, go to the classes, hang out in UTEP, meet new people,” Avalos Guzman said.
New Mexico state officials have closed Elephant Butte Lake State Park to El Pasoans and other non-New Mexico residents because of the COVID-19 pandemic for the forseeable future, officials said. Only people with a New Mexico driver’s license are allowed in the state’s parks. El Pasoans who used to make the two-hour drive north on Interstate 25 north are disappointed with the state’s edict, enacted in mid-March. The order states only people with proof of New Mexico residency are allowed at Elephant Butte and other state parks, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Elephant Butte Lake State Park has been closed to non-state residents as per a public health order issued by the New Mexico Department of Health, said Susan Torres, public information officer at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources department.
As COVID-19 arrived at the borderland, many of those who frequently cross from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, but are not U.S. citizens or U.S residents, had to stay back in Mexico. For the Dynamo Futbol Club, a local amateur soccer team based in El Paso, that meant some of the players on the team that are from Ciudad Juárez were unable to finish the season. Dynamo encountered many challenges as the pandemic of COVID-19 began in the spring of 2020. Eight players who lived in Juarez were not able to cross to El Paso, after the U.S. limited entry to U.S. residents and essential travelers, such as students. Players on the team range in age from 20 to 35 years old.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in El Paso this past week dropped for the first time in two months but remains alarmingly high. The coming days and weeks will be among the most painful in El Paso’s history, even if the decline in new cases persists. Hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, and the novel coronavirus is killing El Pasoans at a heartbreaking rate that will only grow worse between now and the end of the year. Here’s the weekly COVID-19 data report from El Paso Matters. Deaths
El Pasoans are dying of COVID-19 at rates that were previously unimaginable, though it’s challenging to get precise data.
Some El Pasoans decided not to vote in this year’s highly contested election for a variety of reasons, among them because they said their vote in heavily Republican Texas has little consequence. “Living in Texas, if you are not going to vote for the Republican party, then you might as well not vote with the winner-takes-all style of the election that the U.S. has,” said Nikolaus Frank a nineteen-year-old college student. “That’s one thing that made me not care because I just know Texas is not going to turn blue.”
The United States has an Electoral College where states elect the president based on the popular vote. In other words, the popular vote does not elect the president, but the Electoral College does. For example, four years ago, Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton won the popular vote by some 3 million votes, but then-candidate Donald J. Trump won the election based on the Electoral College vote.
By Francisco Gallegos, Wake Forest University and Carlos Alberto Sánchez, San José State University
Ever had the feeling that you can’t make sense of what’s happening? One moment everything seems normal, then suddenly the frame shifts to reveal a world on fire, struggling with pandemic, recession, climate change and political upheaval. That’s “zozobra,” the peculiar form of anxiety that comes from being unable to settle into a single point of view, leaving you with questions like: Is it a lovely autumn day, or an alarming moment of converging historical catastrophes? As scholars of this phenomenon, we have noted how zozobra has spread in U.S. society in recent years, and we believe the insight of Mexican philosophers can be helpful to Americans during these tumultuous times. Ever since the conquest and colonization of the valley of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, Mexicans have had to cope with wave after wave of profound social and spiritual disruption – wars, rebellions, revolution, corruption, dictatorship and now the threat of becoming a narco-state.
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.
As early voting started in Texas, Jill Biden, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s wife, began her tour of the state Tuesday morning in El Paso, not far from the Mexican border. Speaking to a small, socially distanced group of supporters at the University of Texas at El Paso, Biden urged people to get out and vote, saying that “for the first time in a long time,” the Democrats have an actual chance at flipping Texas from Republican rule and defeating President Donald Trump in this election. “With Joe as president you won’t read the news, shaking your head … or go to bed worrying about what our government is going to do. Because he’s going to be someone who brings out the best in us.
In addition to having an additional week for early voting, so three weeks instead of two, what else should voters know? El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise. We will have 35 (early voting) locations across the county. We were going to be open, some of them are 8 to 5, some 9 to 6, sometimes to 7. The last week of early voting we actually have what we’re promoting is ten till 10.
El Pasoans are casting ballots at 35 sites across the county. Borderzine staff are at many of the polling places reporting on Tuesday’s first day of early voting for the 2020 election. Here is what they’re seeing. https://twitter.com/RoxannMoreno17/status/1316040025339953163
Related story: 6 Questions About Voting Answered by El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise
Good morning, El Paso! I’m here at the Dorris Van Doren library on the west side and the early voting line is already wrapping around the building into parking lot! #EPTXVotes
Ana Maria, 74, and Jose Becerra, 80, are a high-risk couple living in El Paso. The two have illnesses that weaken their immune system and make them fearful of contracting COVID-19. After a recent surgery Ana Maria Becerra, who is my grandmother, socially distanced herself in her home to protect my grandfather from anything she may have contracted during her time at the hospital. This photo essay captures moments of their lives on a recent Saturday, nearly at the end of the two week at-home social distancing period. Married for 51 years, they struggled to stay six feet apart, manage day-to-day tasks and outwait the loneliness.
Story by Corrie Boudreaux and Angela Kocherga for El Paso Matters
CIUDAD JUAREZ – As the first day of classes neared, violinist Rodrigo Cardona Cabrera was filled with anticipation. After years of hard work and an impressive resume of performances across Mexico and the United States, the 19-year-old Ciudad Juárez native earned a scholarship to study music at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “Of course, I’m very nervous because it’s a new experience for me,” Cardona said. “It’s like a new life. But I know that it’s going to be an amazing experience.
The Conversation Editor’s note: When the Trump administration ordered hospitals to report COVID-19 data to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they had been doing, it provoked worries and criticism from public health experts. The White House said that the HHS system will provide more accurate data faster, but the switch did raise concerns that political considerations would influence what data is reported. Professor of public policy Julia Lane, who recently published the book “Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto,” explains why public data is vital to public health and democracy in general. What was the main concern over the data? The whole point of having a career civil service running public data systems is that, because they can’t be fired, they have the integrity to produce the statistics the best way possible.
Nurses have been at the center of the COVID-19 health crisis helping those who are severely ill, coping with a shortage of personal protective equipment, and in some cases getting sick themselves. Borderzine reporter Gabe Montellano began interviewing Mario Murillo, an El Paso nurse, back in March for a story about Latinos in nursing. And then the pandemic happened. Here’s Murillo’s experience of working on the frontlines before and after he himself contracted COVID-19. This conversation originally aired on our partner public radio station KTEP.
By CEDAR ATTANASIO Associated Press/Report for America
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The leader of one of the largest Native American tribes in the U.S. called Wednesday for the governor of New Mexico to end efforts to fight a court ruling that orders improvements in education for members of his tribe and other vulnerable groups. The comments from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez come ahead of a court hearing next week in which Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will ask a state judge to dismiss a consolidated lawsuit representing Native American and Hispanic plaintiffs. “The lawsuit needs to be pursued so Native students can be provided adequate education programs and services necessary to learn and thrive,” Nez said. “Our students deserve an educational environment that prioritizes their culture and unique needs. It is time for our Native students to have the same opportunities as other students.”
by René Kladzyk, El Paso Matters
Daniella Perez, a 22-year-old waitress and UTEP student, lost her job when restaurants closed in mid-March as COVID-19 began spreading through El Paso. “Honestly I’m still kind of in shock. I can’t believe this whole thing. I have been trying to look for more income, but I’m scared because I live with my Mom,” Perez said. This first wave of COVID-19 job losses led more than 50,000 people in the El Paso area to file unemployment claims between March 1 and May 1, according to data from Workforce Solutions Borderplex.
Like most people, Ana and Eddie Gonzalez closely followed developments as COVID-19 swept across the globe. “I remember having discussions with my husband about how sad it was that people were going into the hospital and nobody could go and see them, and that people were dying alone,” said Ana, who works in a truancy prevention initiative for El Paso Independent School District. They took precautions to protect their family from the novel coronavirus.”Every time we went to a store, we always wore a mask, even before the order came in. We were even wearing gloves. I had sanitizer in my purse.
El Paso – Churches across El Paso have had to adapt and become creative during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing prayer assistance on the phone, food drives and online religious services. Mayor Dee Margo announced a “Stay Home, Work Safe” order on March 24th requiring residents to only venture out for essential tasks including grocery shopping, a medical emergency and caring for family. “You know we always say in the Catholic faith that the church isn’t the building but the church is all of us together. We are all the church and if we can’t come together, we can’t come together as church,” said Fernie Ceniceros, the Public Information communications director for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. “We wanted to make it clear to our people that that just because we’ve suspended or we’ve not allowed people to come to the public celebration of Mass – like most other diocese’s in the country – we wanted people to know that we we are celebrating Mass that’s something that’s that we felt was very critical” Ceniceros said.
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.