254 residential and commercial structures were destroyed by the wild fire. (Robert Brown/Borderzine.com)

Recovery efforts continue in NM at the site of the Little Bear Forest fire

LINCOLN NATIONAL FOREST, NM – The Little Bear Forest fire started with a lightning strike on June 4th, consumed more than 43, 000 acres and destroyed 254 residential and commercial structures. It also brought together people from around the nation and within the community to help those families devastated by the loss of home and property. The homes that were destroyed by the fire consisted of a collection of permanent residences and summer homes, but no matter what type of structure they were, the owners and leasers have lost a important part of themselves. For many it was impossible to save family heirlooms and mementos from the fire. “We live in Albuquerque,” said Christine Moore whose family shared her childhood home as a summer home, “so we didn’t know anything about it till early the next morning.”

With many people affected adversely by the fire there has been an outpouring of support and generosity from within the Ruidoso community as well as from outlying communities such as Las Cruces and Albuquerque.

El caballo es considerado símbolo de orgullo y cultura. (Kristopher Rivera/Borderzine.com)

Caballos de la frontera

EL PASO – En las alturas del desierto de El Paso una figura que decora al occidente de Texas es el caballo. Alguna vez usado como método de transporte por los colonos, ha evolucionado para simbolizar cosas diferentes pero importantes en nuestra época. Para muchos permanece en estas tierras como símbolo de orgullo y cultura. El caballo ha influido hasta el cantar popular a través de canciones y rancheras como las de Vicente Fernandez. Esta es el mismo tipo de influencia que los caballos tienen en el oficio de muchos residentes de la ciudad bicultural de El Paso, Texas.

"Our family will never be the same," said Gonzalez, mother of Angela Gonzalez. (Danya Hernandez/Borderzine.com)

DWI related deaths are not treated as violent crimes in El Paso

EL PASO — With a knot in her throat, the mother of a daughter killed in a Driving-While-Intoxicated incident tells the story of how the tragic event changed her family’s life forever. Unfortunately, like in many of these cases, the victim stays dead while the drunk driver remains alive and free. “Our family has forever been tarnished. Our family will never be the same,” Connie Gonzalez said. She is the mother of Angela Gonzalez, who along with her friend Orlando Figueroa, were run over by a drunk driver while crossing Lee Trevino in 2009 killing them on impact.

A sign marks an area restricted by the U.S. Border Patrol near the line between Juarez and El Paso. (Mariana Dell/Borderzine.com)

New policy could change role of U.S. Border Patrol agents

EL PASO – Border Patrol agents might soon switch from sitting in trucks along the U.S.-Mexico border to helping traffic move more efficiently on the international bridges. This scenario comes from the idea of Border Patrol agents collaborating with other government agencies and institutions. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher in May announced a strategy plan to fight transnational crimes and drugs, support Homeland Security efforts and aid U.S. Customs and Border Protection. One possible outcome might be reassigning Border Patrol agents to Customs border crossings to reduce the long wait. “Currently Customs and Border Protection needs all of the staffing help that they can get – in particular at our ports of entry,” said El Paso City Representative, Steve Ortega, through an email statement.

Cattle herders help push livestock into trailer trucks for shipment to other parts of the U.S. (Jasmine Aguilera/Borderzine.com)

Border cattle crossing gives new meaning to ‘where’s the beef?’

SANTA TERESA, N.M. – Life in the borderland, as the greater El Paso-Ciudad Juárez area is called, isn’t always easy. But there’s a place west of the metropolitan area along the U.S.-Mexico border that has found a balance. It’s the rare kind that involves a lot of dirt, a little political red tape and a few moos. Cattle come and go from one country to the other at the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing in southeastern New Mexico. The site is one of two along the New Mexico-Chihuahua border, and the exchange of livestock involves regulation from such agencies as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, SAGARPA (the Mexican equivalent of the USDA) and customs offices of both countries.

The Rio Grande has a water depth of 3 feet within El Paso. (Nick Miller/Borderzine.com)

Drought makes water conservation more crucial than ever for El Paso

The Rio Grande and the lack of water in a desert city

EL PASO – The availability of water is a huge problem for desert cities like El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. While Juarez gets most of its water from underground aquifers, El Paso, during a good year, will receive about fifty percent of its water from the Rio Grande. But this northern stretch of the Chihuahuan desert has been in a drought for the past 16 years and El Paso is not receiving the normal allotment from the river. Currently, the Rio Grande has a water depth of only 3.19 feet within El Paso,in contrast to 1995, when water reached up to 14 feet, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission. Anai Padilla, water conservation manager for El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU), says the lack of water in Rio Grande can be noticed everywhere within El Paso.

Ricardo Arellano helps out his 8 year-old son trying new boots at Juarez Boots. (Adolfo Mora/Borderzine.com)

El Paso the Boot Capital of the World, but not for El Pasoans

EL PASO – “One moment,” Juan Guzman Villalobos said as he grabbed more cowboy boots from his RV parked outside the Border Farmworker Center in El Paso, Texas. Juan’s excitement in displaying a mixture of exotic and working boots made him forget about his ride to work. After a few minutes he comes out holding on to a pair of well-worn boots. “I prefer the ones made with ostrich skin because they are the most comfortable to use,” Juan explained while lining his eight pairs of boots in the RV steps. He then points to a pair of boots crafted with alligator skin, then picks up another made out of cow hide embellished with tiger prints.

Photo compilation of Alek Villarreal. (Ezra Rodriguez/Borderzine.com)

Traceurs blast like bullets vaulting obstacles, leaving no trace behind

EL PASO – It is a warm Sunday afternoon and a group of young men has gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso to practice parkour (PK) – the gymnastic art of overcoming all obstacles by leaping, springing, and vaulting. More than physical exercise, parkour is a way of life to its practitioners. Dressed in sporty outfits, they begin stretching and warming up for the workout ahead. A large cloud has just covered the sun and the young men smile in admiration. It’s going to be a great day.

Men are not an strange presence in Zumba classes any longer. (Victoria Perez/Borderzine.com)

Men also can Zumba their way to fitness

EL PASO – Entering a room packed mostly with women can make some men feel threatened and realizing that they have to join in and exercise to the rhythm of sexy music can be even more intimidating. “I was very very scared the first time because there were like 40 girls and I was the only man there,” said Marco Lopez. That’s how Lopez, 23, described his first Zumba class at the University of Texas at El Paso. Men are usually less attracted to aerobics classes for exercise and a class where all you do to work out is dance can become a big challenge for most men. Zumba has become the newest trend in exercising.

Downtown El Paso. (Alejandra Matos/Borderzine.com)

Downtown El Paso


Editor’s note: This is another in a series of El Pasoans sharing their favorite places in El Paso. A series that we named Mi querido El Paso.

MNR was produced to revive an old tradition at KTEP, the student-run magazine. (Oscar Garza/Borderzine.com)

Miner News Radio is on the air – Students revive the radio magazine at KTEP

EL PASO – Before the computer, before the television, there was… the radio. Individuals would sit around the radio and listen as the news, sport events and other entertainment were broadcast through the analog airwaves. The radio was an extremely popular medium that broke new ground long before television and the Internet. “I can remember back in the 70’s, we would sit and listen to the radio a lot,” recalls Dennis Woo, Operations Director of KTEP, a non-commercial radio station broadcasting from the Communication Department at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Summer afternoons, cutting the lawn with my dad and we would listen to ball games, and all kinds of stuff, and so news magazines became like the norm in the 1970’s, and so we tried to teach that here at KTEP.”​

Woo explained that in the late 70’s KTEP was required curriculum for electronic media.

The Salvation Army at El Paso. (Lucia Quinonez/Borderzine.com)

The need for the holiday giving spirit is alive all year long

EL PASO – This border city is well known for being charitable, especially when the holidays roll around, but El Paso has been hit hard by the weakened national economy, which means that community volunteering and donations are on a decline even though there is a greater need than ever. Nonprofit organizations such as the West Texas Food Bank, the Rescue Mission of El Paso and the Salvation Army need plenty of donations and volunteers year round, not only during the holiday season. Nick Maskill, a driver at the Rescue Mission of El Paso told Borderzine that many people donate during the holidays. “Everybody wants to give to somebody,” he said. Yet at other times, these nonprofit organizations have a hard time keeping up with the need in this growing city.

Angela Kocherga and her partner, photographer Hugo Perez, won two Emmys at the 9th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards. (Mariel Torres/borderzine.com)

Belo TV journalists Kocherga and Perez win awards for border coverage

EL PASO – TV reporters covering the U.S.-Mexico border require passion, strong investigative skills and survival skills on a beat that has claimed thousands of lives in a ruthless drug war. Angela Kocherga and her cameraman Hugo Perez, who have covered the violent border for the Belo Border Bureau for the past six years, won the 9th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards Crime-News Single Story category for their story on Juárez paramedics. Working for the Belo Corporation, one of the largest television companies in the nation, which operates 20 television stations, the Kocherga-Perez team covers stories on drug war violence, immigration and cross border health issues and how all this affects people on both sides of the border. Their featured stories are aired in various stations throughout Texas. The award-winning story revealed the everyday risks the paramedics of Ciudad Juárez face while trying to save lives.

Life–or Death–In the Salton Sea

WESTMORLAND, Calif.–About 40 miles north of the Mexican border in southeastern California is a large, salt-water lake known to the world as the Salton Sea.  It is the largest inland sea in the world, and the saltiest. Originally a small piece of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the Salton Basin is about 380 square miles and ranges in depth to a maximum of 51 feet.  In 1905, dams used to diverge the Colorado River failed, flooding the basin without stopping until 1907.  Since then the sea has been fed by natural runoff from surrounding mountains and agricultural irrigation. Throughout the last 100 years, the sea has had periods of shrinking and expanding shorelines along with large die-offs of fish and fowl, creating a reputation for the lake as a “dead sea” in the public’s eye.  Part of the blame lies with rising salinity in the water, which is currently 10 times saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Along the shoreline is the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge–2,200 acres of freshwater marshlands and home to more than 460 species of birds.  The Salton Sea’s salty waters are the refuge’s habitat. Dozens of proposals over the last 20 years to “fix” the Salton Sea have gone no where.

La música norteña y los narcocorridos fueron las primeras formas de expresión que encontraron las crónicas de narcos. (Diana Carrillo/Borderzine.com)

La narco-guerra mexicana da auge a la narco-literatura

EL PASO – La sangre, las armas y las drogas son elementos de un “género” literario que ha tomado mayor ímpetu en los últimos años – la narco-literatura. Este tipo de escritura trata temas relacionados con el tráfico de drogas, la violencia que lo acompaña, y la dinámica en la que se da. El término comparte su origen con las palabras “narco-corrido” y “narco-cultura”. En este extracto de la novela La Bicicleta de Alquiler por el periodista paseño Alberto Ponce de León, se ve el estilo de la obra: “La cajuela eléctrica se abrió del automóvil y los dos hombres se encaminaron para bajar un bulto en peso. La tragedia ya había sido consumada.

Belia Saucedo dice que el programa Memorias del Silencio le ha ayudado a aprender cosas que quedaron inconclusas en su vida. (Elvia Navarrete/Borderzine.com)

Memorias del silencio encuentran su voz

EL PASO – En los tiempos de antes, cuando el conjunto Los Tríos andaban de moda, Belia Saucedo recuerda cuando su abuelito se sentaba a comer naranjas y todos convivían alrededor de ellos. También recuerda los tiempos cuando bailaban rock-n-roll y en el pueblo había pocos habitantes. Tiempos que ella jamás olvidará porque siempre traerá a su abuelito en su corazón. “Sus ventanas tan chiquitas la cocina con su cafetera de peltre sobre la estufa de leña con su aromático café, ¡qué delicioso sabor! Nos servíamos en jarros de barro, cómo lo disfrutábamos,”  escribió Belia en un cuento.

A rose agave, the emblem of the new gallery. (Christina Villegas/Borderzine.com)

Agave Rosa gallery aims to feature the genuine flavor of El Paso’s Hispanic culture

EL PASO – There is a lag between a dynamic city’s ever-evolving culture and the art on display in its galleries, especially in a city permeated with tradition like El Paso, but Martha Arzabala plan’s to change that with her new art gallery, Agave Rosa. One of the goals of Agave Rosa is to create a home for new artists, who may otherwise not have a place to show their work. “Agave Rosa is going to focus on Hispanic artists, because they are the ones that really don’t have support here. You see, the El Paso Art Association is [mostly] Anglo.”

Arzabala joined the El Paso Art Association in 2008. She volunteered to become the secretary and in one short year was elected vice-president.

El Paso Art Market at Union Plaza. (William Vega/Borderzine.com)

New downtown market gives local artists a weekly sales venue

EL PASO – Local artist Carlos Rodriguez has been painting for decades, but up until late October he had never placed his art on sale in a weekly market. With the inception of the El Paso Downtown Art Market, hosted by the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD), artists can now display and sell their handcrafted art in a large exhibit area. The art market started Oct. 29 and is currently open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Union Plaza District in downtown El Paso. The market was requested by the City Council based on similar art markets in Los Angeles and Las Cruces.

The lights of Ciudad Juarez can be seen from the UTEP campus. (Danya Hernandez/Borderzine.com)

El Pasoans want their sister city to remain in the family

EL PASO – With an ongoing drug war on the other side of a 10-foot high fence, El Paso’s reputation has taken some hits recently, but locals see the Sun City’s image in a brighter light. “It’s incredibly sad what’s happening across the border,” said Sonya Stokes, senior psychology student at the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think it’s terrible that El Paso’s image has been tarnished by irresponsible comments that people in power have made and the media has made.”

Over the past year, El Paso has made national headlines for a number of reasons. In November 2010, the annual Congressional Quarterly Press City Crime Rankings announced that El Paso had the lowest crime rate of cities with a population of more than 500,000. In August 2011, an El Paso Times article said that El Paso officials were taking “the first steps toward ending its ‘sister city’ relationship with Juárez.” The story said that the city was surveying local business to get their insight on El Paso’s “safe” image with the constant violence occurring in their Mexican “sister city.”  The survey wanted to know if the violence in Mexico was “hurt(ing) El Paso economically by reducing its ability to draw businesses, conventions and conferences.” According to the article, “up to 41,000 surveys were sent to the business community.”

On Sept.

View from our car approaching the Paso del Norte Bridge on the way back to El Paso from Juarez. (David Smith-Soto/Borderzine.com)

Women of Juarez tell their stories of death and despair

EL PASO – Cinthia was only 10 years old when they killed her. The little girl, full of life and energy, went out one evening to play in the park just one block away from her home, just like she did so many times. The neighborhood in Cd. Juárez was generally calm, but that one particular day in 1997, Cinthia simply disappeared. After twenty days of distress, her family was notified by the authorities they had found Cinthia’s body in a dumpster.

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is located at 301 W. Missouri Ave. (Christine Villegas/Borderzine.com)

Man of a thousand funerals lives for his work

EL PASO – Most people go to only a few funerals in their lifetime, so it is hard to imagine going to hundreds, but Norman Miller says he has performed 1,000 Masonic funeral services. The 93-year-old Freemason has been conducting funeral services for the Freemasons for 48 years. “The military and Masonry have been my life,” Miller said proudly as he sat just feet away from a chapel-like room where Masonic paraphernalia is displayed in the Scottish Rite building in downtown El Paso. “I came in to the Masons in 1958… In December of 1963, I did my first Masonic funeral on an old gentleman, Mr. Pandelities.” Freemasons refer to the funeral ceremony they conduct as an orientation. The ceremony itself is very similar to non-denomination funeral services in large part because of the Freemason’s ambiguous belief in a supreme being.

John Sheridan. (Yahchaaroah Lightbourne/Borderzine.com)

El Pasoan sheds light on Howard Hughes’ Las Vegas Years

EL PASO – America’s first billionaire Howard Hughes was a very reclusive man whose life was brought into the spotlight by great wealth and controversy. John Harris Sheridan, an El Pasoan who works for Chanel 9 news as a producer, brings Hughes’ secrets to light in his book Howard Hughes. The Las Vegas Years: The Women, The Mormons, The Mafia. Sheridan, who worked for Hughes in 1968 as a film editor, writes about the experiences he had with Hughes and his encounters with other characters in the hotels Hughes owned in Las Vegas. Sheridan picks up where the movie Aviator left off going deeply into the life of the man who “decided to keep himself hidden from the news and most people”.

José Luis González, a photojournalist for El Norte newspaper, risks his life every to cover murder scenes at Ciudad Juárez as do most of journalists in one of the most dangerous cities of the world. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Borderzine.com)

Chasing Death

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Everyday journalists from all over the world make a pilgrimage to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Ciudad Juárez, to try to document the city’s daily terror on its people. I have gone into Juárez before to try to document that for myself, but this time I wanted to tell the stories of the journalists. Journalists who risk their lives to cover the thousands of murders that happen every year. This was my attempt to try to get a small glimpse into what it takes to cover Juárez in a day’s shift. For one day this past summer, I rode along with two fixers, and met a news crew from Sydney, Australia, a couple of photographers from El Norte newspaper, and visited the local state bureau of investigation.

Del Valle Marching Band director, Manuel Gamez has taken the band to the state competition three times – in 2003, 2005, and 2009. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

High school marching-band students strive and strain to reach the state finals

EL PASO — The Socorro Activities Complex in east El Paso is filled with the blasting excitement of drums, brass and cheers on a warm Saturday afternoon in October as excited spectators root for area high school marching bands competing for a chance to appear at the state level in San Antonio. The Del Valle high school band has been rehearsing for this competition since August, practicing long hours every day, learning their marching steps and the music. It’s fun and it’s challenging. Aaron Gomez a sophomore told Borderzine “I enjoy learning new music and music is my passion and after high school I want to study music and receive a degree from a four-year university.”

Alex Verdugo, a senior leader for the French horn section said, “I motivate students and assist the band directors in what needs to be done.” He became a section leader through a lot of practice and auditioning for the job, he said. Juan Palacios a junior leader for the trumpets section said, “It’s a lot of hard work, but it is worth it in the end.”

Christina Boatman a sophomore told Borderzine she thinks Del Valle is the best band and “…the feeling that you gave it your all on the field is indescribable.”

Cindy Cruz a senior said the band also helps students with academics and she will miss being in the band after she graduates.

Camerawomen of Video SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association), videotaped by Tavishi Alagh and Alexis Krasilovsky for "Women Behind the Camera" in Ahmedabad, India, January 2004. (Courtesy of Women Behind the Camera)

Women Behind The Camera: a film made by women, for women

EL PASO – The idea of getting slapped on the butt at work may make a woman’s jaw drop in 2011, but for beginning camerawomen in the 20th century this was an all too familiar event. This story of a female camera engineer in Hollywood who experienced sexual harassment by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before he entered politics is one of 50 cases documented by filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky. Krasilovsky traveled around the world to shoot the stories of women filmmakers in many countries for a documentary on women behind the camera. She suggests that film schools should teach women self-assertiveness to handle these situations in their future workplace. Filmmaker Krasilovsky screened the documentary Women Behind the Camera recently at the University of Texas at El Paso.

(Diana Carrillo/Borderzine.com)

The rave is all about music, but some seek Ecstacy to enhance the dance

EL PASO – The dancing crowd rides a wave of lights surging to electronic rhythms while neon colors waft the wall and the crowd becomes one with the massive electro-beats as the wave becomes tsunami, flooding the hall up to eight hours at a time. The ecstasy that drives hours of nonstop dancing, typical at music festivals and raves, is sometimes fed by Ecstasy – the illicit drug. “I wouldn’t have lasted dancing, or even standing for the whole seven hours that I was there. I rolled for seven hours straight,” said Robert, 21. For many years, people have combined the music scene with drug use to increase the energy and enhance euphoria.

Firefighters, ocal policeman, DPS workers, and the county sheriff department officers climbed the Wells Fargo building in full gear. (William Vega/Borderzine.com)

Local firefighters climb into history to remember 9/11

EL PASO – The El Paso Fire Department thundered into downtown in the waking moments of Sept. 11, 2011 in full turnout gear and 80-pound tanks on their backs. But there was no fire at the 21-story Wells Fargo building on Main Street. Instead, they reflected on the memory of the firefighters who lost their lives 10 years ago during the attacks on the World Trade Center. “Today is the first year that we’re hosting this memorial stair climb.

Illegal forms of the AK-47 can sell for as low as $30 US dollars to $125. (Christine Villegas/Borderzine.com)

The AK47 assault-rifle is a cheap way to overkill in Juárez’ narco-killings

EL PASO – Gunmen in four vehicles fired a barrage of more than 400 shots killing a Juárez police commander and wounding his bodyguard August 6, near an international bridge across the line from an El Paso school athletic field. Four-hundred-twenty 7.62×36 millimeter casings from AK-47 automatic assault rifles littered the crime scene at Cuatro Siglos Boulevard near the International Bridge. Commander Victor Nazario Moreno Ramirez had been the leader in a Delta tactical preventive team, a unit in charge of high-impact crime response and special operations. Later he was named commander of the downtown district, a district over run by drug dealers. “Shooting a man 400 times, is a statement, said Manny Serrano, a 20-year police officer turned instructor for the Law Enforcement-Training Academy.

Banda Guerra de la escuela secundaria Técnica 55 dirigida por el instructor Luis Raúl Aguirre. (Belinda Fernandez/Borderzine.com)

Miles celebran el Grito mexicano en la plaza central de El Paso

EL PASO – Miles celebraron el Grito de Independencia de México en la plaza central de El Paso por segundo año seguido después de que Juárez canceló la fiesta del bicentenario de la independencia mexicana el año pasado. Las calles de Juárez quedaron silenciadas y muchos mexicanos no pudieron celebrar la jornada de la Independencia de México como en años anteriores. Debido a la cancelación del evento del Grito en Ciudad Juárez el año pasado, la fiesta realizada por el Consulado General de México en la Plaza San Jacinto aquí se a convertido en un evento mas grande. “Hemos visto el evento crecer de los cientos a los miles. Como vieron hoy, definitivamente se notó el incremento de gente asistiendo el evento”, dijo Frank Núñez, encargado del estacionamiento Mills Plaza.

The Texas Veteran Commision offices in El Paso where veterans can look for jobs and education. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Local organizations help military veterans find work

EL PASO – Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come home to face physical and emotional problems, but their biggest challenge may be the transition from military service to a job in civilian life. Along with the trauma of war, they left behind the security of a monthly paycheck to face the new uncertainty of a stagnant economy with little job growth. Navy veteran Danny Macias who left the military in 1994 has been working in construction but was laid off from a job in June and hasn’t found new work.  “Finding a job is hard” he said. The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) at Fort Bliss was set up to help veterans transition to civilian life. Randy Stovall, Transition Services Manager, said the program’s main goal is to prepare soldiers to market themselves for employment.