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.
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.
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.
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.
COVID-19 influenced a lot of things when it first became prominent in the United States at the beginning of 2020. Many events had to be moved to be online or completely canceled due to the unknown that the pandemic brought. Sports were no different, teams of all sporting events also found themselves having to adjust adapt to the new normal that the pandemic brought. The 2019-2020 sport season in the El Paso was an unusual year for many sporting teams as many of them did not know the status of their game’s week to week. Many games had to be canceled or postponed due to the rapid growth of cases in the community or due to one of the players on the teams contracting the COVID-19 virus.
American residents and citizens who live in Ciudad Juárez are taking advantage of their status to cross to the United States and be vaccinated. But the health authorities in El Paso are not keeping records of people from Ciudad Juárez who have benefitted from this.
Health authorities in the Mexican state of Chihuahua said it is hard to determine the exact number of residents in Ciudad Juárez who have been vaccinated in El Paso since a large percentage of the population has dual nationality, Mexican and American.
Elaine Gordon Wilson and her fiance Kevin opted for a church ceremony with a virtual audience. Angel Iturbe and his fiance chose an outdoor event with safety rules for guests. Both tell the stories of how their plans to get married survived all the challenges the pandemic threw at them. https://soundcloud.com/borderzine-reporting-across-fronteras/a-tale-of-two-pandemic-weddings
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.
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.
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.
EL PASO, Texas – Maria Contreras sits inside a dark room with a news channel on the TV in the background. The 92-year-old mother of three and resident of SunRidge at Cielo Vista sits in her wheelchair with her orange cat, Tiger. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, she hasn’t seen her children for the past 11 months except for her son Raul Contreras. Contreras parks his black pickup truck outside her window, sits in a comfortable folding chair with an umbrella and chats with her using a monitor similar to a walkie talkie. As she was with her son’s visit, the facility’s staff, Ricky Posada, surprised her with her with care package from the organization Mija, Yes you can.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As my Dad packed his bag for his next trip, we talked about how coronavirus had affected his work. A truck driver that keeps food on tables, toilet paper in bathrooms, and medicine on shelves, he has a crucial role in an economy battered by the coronavirus. When the pandemic first hit and panic buying cleared grocery shelves, there was a moment when the value of those who drive through the night to deliver important goods across the country came into national focus. But largely, it’s an unseen role. My pandemic experience has been vastly different than his as city ordinances advised me to stay home and only go out when necessary.
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.
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.
CIUDAD JUAREZ — Chihuahua State Police officer Juan Antonio Martinez stands with a thermometer in hand, checking temperatures of people crossing the Paso del Norte Bridge. As Mother’s Day approaches, he’s especially worried “because of their age, mothers are the most vulnerable and grandmother’s too,” he said. Martinez is unable to social distance while holding the thermometer to the forehead of border crossers. The temperature checks are applied to people coming from El Paso into Ciudad Juárez after walking through a “sanitizing” station, where they are covered with a fine mist. A Chihuahua State Traffic Police took the temperature of a motorist crossing the Bridge of the Americas in Ciudad Juáre on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters)
Health authorities in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are warning families with ties on both sides of the border to stay home this Mother’s Day to avoid spreading COVID-19.