Heinz Duerkop filled our neighborhood with happiness

EL PASO, Texas — One year and five months ago—on Fathers Day—Heinz Duerkop was riding his bike on George Dieter and Pocahontas in El Paso, Texas. He was struck from behind and killed. The police conducted an investigation, but to this point no arrest has been made. According to the police report, white paint chips were recovered from the scene. One witness, Nora Hodges was about to drink her morning cup of coffee when she heard a loud thump and, out her window, saw dust swirling in the air.

Standardized Descansos

EL PASO, Texas — On Dec. 29, it’ll be three years since Grace Talamantes last saw her daughter. However, each time she passes by the intersection of Montana and Hawkins, where a blue-tinted aluminum panel sign imprinted with a message “Please Don’t Drink and Drive In Memory of Valerie Talamantes” marks her daughter’s last moments, she is reminded of Valerie. “The timing was right,” Talamantes said. “It’s a constant reminder for me just knowing that was her last place that she was at and, at the same token, letting people know where ever they see them that it’s something that can happen to anybody everywhere.”

The sign is used to remember Valerie, who passed away after a drunk driver barreled into the back of her sitting-vehicle in 2007, and to raise awareness and deter drunk driving.

Martin Cano – Living too fast

Martin Cano

December 1989 – March 2008

EL PASO, Texas —When driving, we often come across roadside memorials in remembrance of someone whose life was lost in a car accident. A descanso, meaning “to rest,” is a cross or other memorial left by the family or friends of the deceased marking the last place on earth where their loved one was alive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death in teens, and one out of three is alcohol-related. Such was the case of Martin Cano, a Santa Teresa High School senior who along with his friend Adrian Navarro passed away the night of March 23rd, 2008. “I didn’t think it was correct for Martin to drink at such a young age and I would tell him ‘mijo, calm down, you’re living your life too fast,’” Carolina Cano, Martin’s mother recalls.

Premiados periodistas de Juárez — escriben sobre la violencia pese a los riesgos

EL PASO, Texas — Sandra Rodríguez reportera de investigación de El Diario de Juárez describe su profesión con la sabiduría que le otorgan los 20 años de esfuerzo y dedicación. “Un periodista es un profesional de la información cuya responsabilidad es reflejar con técnicas específicas los hechos que ocurren en cada comunidad, tratando siempre de acercarse lo más posible a lo que se puede considerar como la verdad de lo sucedido”. A través de su carrera, Rodríguez ha sido testigo de cómo el crimen organizado acapara la nota del día. Simplemente en el año 2010 Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua fue invadido con más de tres mil muertes, donde reporteros formaron parte de esa cifra. Día a día se ve en la redacción de los reporteros cómo la sangre envuelve los casquillos percutidos del victimario.

The Robert Marquez saga — from starving cebollero eating out of trashcans to Hispano Triunfador

DEMING, N.M. — “One of the things that happens when you pick onions is that when you’re done, you still reek of onions,” said Robert O. Marquez, PhD as we drove from a little coffee shop in Las Cruces, New Mexico to explore his hometown of Deming one clear afternoon. “You can’t take enough baths to get the smell out!” Marquez, 52, is one of the recipients of the 11th Annual McDonald’s Hispanos Triunfadores award for his accomplishments in science. He enthusiastically shared the story of his scant upbringing, starting as a poor ranch boy in the deserts of Deming to his professional success and philanthropy in the fields of science and engineering during our trip. Marquez sported a black cowboy hat on top of his long salt-and-pepper Apache hair, jeans and boots that echoed his working-class upbringing and a long-sleeve button-down shirt that was equal parts business and ranchero.

Border Angels: Help for deportees changed my perspective

MEXICALI, Mexico—While waiting in line at the U.S-Mexico border in Calexico, CA, a person can see on the other side of the border fence people with backpacks looking frightened and lost, some even dirty, asking others for help or money. Many, including myself, just turn away or just say no, not thinking of what they have gone through and automatically judge the person as a bad person, and steer away from them.  These people are deportees a long, long way from their homes and families. After spending 12 hours at a Mexicali refugee camp, Angeles sin Fronteras, a few blocks away from the international border, my perspective towards deportees completely changed. Not only are they good people, but the backbone of America. They do the jobs that many Americans would not even consider doing.

More reaction to the killing of two UTEP students

EL PASO, Texas — The murder of two University of Texas at El Paso students continues to reverberate on campus, eliciting reactions from students, faculty and administration. “It really pains me,” said Dr. Gina Nunez-Mchiri, professor of Anthropology and Sociology at UTEP. “They’re our students… We know people who are losing family members to the violence and it affects us. It takes our sleep away.

Hundreds of Juarez students commute daily to class at UTEP

EL PASO, Texas — A young man catches a ride with his friend and they make their half hour trip home from school across the international port of entry into the streets of the most dangerous city on the U.S.-Mexico border. Manuel Acosta, 22, drove his red Nissan Sentra from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to the Colonia Rincones de Santa Rita where his friend Eder Diaz, 23, lived with his parents in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The trip home was routine to both students. Chihuahua State Police reported that a group of masked men armed with .223 caliber rifles similar to the NATO military rifles intercepted them at the intersection of De La Arbolada and Manglares streets in near of Diaz’s house. The assailants fired 36 shots killing Acosta at the scene and fatally injuring Diaz, who died in the early morning hours of November 3 at a hospital in Juarez.

Hundreds mourn slain students at UTEP memorial

El PASO, Texas — Sobbing students and family members held each other as the sound of Amazing Grace filled the open air of the campus plaza. Every hand gripped a tissue ready to dab the tears flowing from behind dark sunglasses. The College of Business Administration at the University of Texas at El Paso, hosted a memorial on November 8, for students Eder A. Diaz, 23, and Manuel A. Acosta, 22, who were shot to death in Cd. Juarez, Mexico on November 2. “Manny and Eder came to this University to study at our College of Business Administration,” said Dr. Robert Nachtmann, dean of the COBA.

Remembering Eder on a breezy autumn afternoon

EL PASO, Texas — It was a beautiful autumn day on the UTEP campus on Monday November 8, one that would have been great for just sitting out in the sun and enjoying the weather with Eder Diaz and Manuel Acosta. But instead, this cool breezy afternoon served to gather some 400 friends and family in an unplanned memorial for them.  Both were shot to death in Juarez on November 2. Eder was the one I knew. The first day I met him we were sophomores at Cathedral High School on lunch break. He came up to me and asked if I remembered him.

Los Pistoleros de Texas’ Music Straddles Two Texas Borders

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Texas has no shortage of musical groups influenced by the norteño and conjunto music that evolved along the U.S.-Mexico border. Los Pistoleros de Texas one-ups those groups by throwing another border into the mix: the Texas-Louisiana border. The band stirs up a spicy, accordion-driven gumbo that combines the border’s traditional Tex-Mex sounds with the Gulf Coast zydeco, country and blues prevalent in its hometown of Houston. That diverse musical approach drew enthusiastic applause at the recent 2010 San Antonio International Accordion Festival, where Los Pistoleros performed in October.  It’s also helped the band attract fans from across musical genres, leader Roberto Rodriguez explained.

Immigrant high school graduates seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship

EL PASO, Texas — Many of the 65,000 illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S. every year live under the entrapment radar, risking deportation at any time as they attempt to attend college or serve in the U.S. military services. According to statistics from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), most of these students in all grade levels have been raised in America, in American public school systems, American cities. Many only speak English and the American culture is what they know.  They have little left of their culture of origin. “It’s a very sad experience to forget where you came from because you’re accustomed to life here.  You could hardly remember that you came here from another country,” said a student who wishes to remain anonymous.  The student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is an illegal immigrant because, like the thousands of illegal high school students who graduate every year in the U.S., this student was not brought to America by choice.  The parents made that choice. “It’s a difficult situation.

Students and educators find ways to cope with rising costs

El PASO, Texas — Economic woes in Texas are forcing public universities to raise tuition fees, but educators are struggling to keep higher education affordable. “We are working to provide the accessibility needed for those who do not have the financial freedom to pay for school,” said Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D –TX), speaking at the University of Texas at El Paso, September 8. There are already programs in place to help students who cannot afford to go to college, such as the Health Care and Higher Education Reconciliation program that was signed into law in March. “It is good for students, taxpayers, and American jobs. The result of this law will be more college graduates,” Hinojosa said.

Bordering on Acceptance: Growing Up Gay on the Border

EL PASO, Texas — To live in a border city is to live between contrasting jurisdictions and beliefs. It is to delicately walk the line that divides cultures – never falling to either side – balanced by an ability to sustain contradictions. For the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Bisexual community of El Paso, the city they call home is riddled both in tradition and progressive thought. The line the GLBT community walks is an interminable border that hovers between acceptance and condemnation. “People from both sides of the border … all we’re doing is just tolerating each other, coping with each other, instead of mastering our differences,” said Rosio De Leon, student at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Chicanos march again against war and racism

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “The workingman gives up his dreams and slaves for all his life,” the impassioned marcher shouted, her voice blaring Chicanoism out of a bullhorn that echoed down the streets of East Los Angeles. Hundreds of sign-wielding activists marched in the streets to mark the 40th anniversary of the National Chicano Moratorium of the Vietnam War August 27. The Moratorium, which was implemented by the Chicano movement back in 1970, protested the exploitation of minorities, especially Latinos in the Vietnam War. The march followed the original 1970 route, in East L.A., down Whittier Boulevard, passing the Silver Dollar, the bar where Ruben Salazar, a Juarez-El Paso native and acclaimed war and human rights journalist was killed 40 years ago during the first moratorium march.

Juarez Violence Changing Lives: UTEP Students Affected

EL PASO, Texas — In May, 2010, UTEP student Alejandro Ruiz Salazar, 19—also an employee of the Graduate School—was the first known UTEP student slain in Juarez since the beginning of the current drug war. The same day, former UTEP student Jorge Pedro Gonzalez Quintero, 21, was murdered. According to Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the situation in Mexico is worse now than the Colombian drug war of the 1980s and 1990s ever was. “Colombia was never threatened like the government of Mexico is with the level of violence,” McCraw stated at a Capitol hearing. “At first, we all saw the violence and murders as something that would never happen to us but now so many families have been torn apart, and a once prosperous, to some extent happy city, has been destroyed,” Acosta commented.

Economic Growth in El Paso Debatable

EL PASO — The city of El Paso is home to hundreds of thousands of people, and its economy is smaller compared to other cities in Texas such as San Antonio and Dallas. University of Texas at El Paso Economics professor Tom Fullerton believes that El Paso has a much smaller economy compared to Houston or Dallas because, “In part that’s simply because population base here is a lot smaller,” he said. Fullerton believes that a larger economy is not an impossible goal for El Paso.  “El Paso has very good economic potential. It has a young demographic here it has a labor force that’s ready, willing and available for working. What needs to be done however is to increase investment in infrastructure and convince young people to stay in school.”

As part of that mission to spark the economy of El Paso, Jorge Vazquez, is trying to bring in more entertainment to the city.

Beware of ED: Eating Disorder Awareness

EL PASO, Texas — Sergio Guerra is not a person one would think is the typical sufferer of an eating disorder. When you see him, he is much bigger than your average-sized friend. But just because he is not thin, does not mean he does not suffer from this disease. “It was one of my step-sisters. She got angry at me for taking one of her donuts.

Juarez residents continue to have faith in future

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Last January the state of Chihuahua claimed through a statewide press release with different statistics of seizures and arrests to be working hard to fight the “war against organized crime.”

Yet the 6,022 killings (645 this July, 2010 and rising) have led the people, the press and other media outlets to a different conclusion—that the Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua is a failure and the people have lost faith in the political and judiciary system in Mexico. But even in these dire circumstances, there is still a sense of hope that lingers deep within the fibers of the Mexican population. To many, these extreme circumstances have been a vehicle in the search for truth and reason and understanding, and it has been a way to grow in faith and to reconnect with family and friends. The people want to make things better from within the country, which usually means that the private sector steps in to help. For example, the Iniciativa México project is a joint effort between the private sector and the two biggest media outlets form México: Televisa and TV Azteca.

Diagnosing crime: The failures of rehabilitation in the justice system

EL PASO, Texas — “When you’re through changing, that’s when you’re through” reads a motivational poster hanging in the main hall of the Education Building of the Rogelio Sanchez State Prison, El Paso’s largest state correctional facility. It is a sinister wink at the failing system of reform that classes taught in that building aim to provide. Crime rehabilitation has proven to be a failed objective of justice systems in America, experts say. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice lists “To provide for confinement, supervision, rehabilitation, and reintegration of adult felons” as one of its goals in its Annual Review. Like most government documents published for public viewing, it is carefully worded: They aim to provide for rehabilitation, not for the success of rehabilitation.

Juarez devastated by violence

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México.- Nearly every day,  news reports record at least two to three deaths in Juarez. “In 2007 we counted 353 deaths, in 2008 1067, in 2009 2620 and in 2010 until Monday 19, 1611” says Fernando Quintana, a broadcast journalist with Channel 44 TV. “El Norte, every night reports eight to fifteen deaths on its website” adds Ismael Ruvalcaba, a reporter with El Norte newspaper. President Calderón arrived in Juárez on March 16, 2010, to attend a conference entitled Todos somos Juárez. Reconstruyamos nuestra ciudad.

The rights of animals in captivity

EL PASO, Texas — According to www.Iamscruelty.com between 2002 and early 2003, in a lab hired by cat and dog food producers, it was discovered that dogs had gone crazy because of the terrible conditions they were living in. Small steel cages and cement cells, sick dogs and cats did not have any veterinary attention and were left suffering. In this webpage one can see different videos of these animals being tortured. After a complaint by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iams reported that about 70 percent of the animals used for testing now reside with loving families. According to Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, a professor in the UTEP Biological Science Department it is possible to work in biology without using animals.

Border students practice multimedia in Journalism in July workshop at UTEP

EL PASO, Texas – Journalism in July is a one-week summer workshop that brought high school students and future journalists from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to the UTEP campus to learn how to be multimedia journalists. The workshop, which began July 9, and ended a week later, is in its eighth year and has evolved from a print media program into a multimedia program. In this transition, it has emulated what has happened in the real world of media where journalists had to develop multimedia skills to keep their work modern and more available to readers. A total of 21 students attended the workshop sponsored by UTEP and the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. They came from the border region and included two students from Preparatoria El Chamizal in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Downtown El Paso as seen from the Paseo del Norte International Bridge. (Sergio Chapa/Borderzine.com)

Downtowners Express Their Hopes for El Paso

EL PASO— A taxi driver, a shopper and merchants from downtown El Paso share their perspectives of the city’s history and their hopes for its future. The following video, audio and slideshow presentations were produced by the following participants in of the Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy held recently at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP): Jessica Retis, Bradford Owen, Mark Albertson and instructor Doug Mitchell. Downtown El Paso Merchants Tell Their Story

flee market at downtown El Paso

El Paso’s Voices on the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution

EL PASO — The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. In the following video, audio and slideshow presentations, El Pasoans give their views on the impact of the Revolution and the lasting meaning it still holds. Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy students, Elio Leturia, Elizabeth Marsh and John Freeman and instructor Lourdes Cueva Chacón, thank Mr. Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Cónsul General of México in El Paso, the consulate staff, Dr. Kate Bonansinga, Director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, and the citizens of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez who shared their voices. Voices from El Paso