Johne at the gym on "leg day". (Cristina Quinones/

Lifting weights is the easy part of a body builder’s training

EL PASO – A young man in his early 20’s, wearing a tank top, earphones, and shorts puts down a pair of weights and sweating, calmly looks up at his own reflection in the gym mirror. He’s been lifting weights since he was 18 and today Johne Green is a competitive body builder.  On August 31st, he was awarded 1st Place in Novice Middleweight and 5th place in Light heavy weight open division at his first competition in the Sun City Regional Qualification trials. Green admits that when he was first introduced to lifting, he was not interested; “My father always worked out, so he tried to get me to work out too. I wasn’t really into it until I was about 17, and then I began really getting into lifting and keeping in shape.” Now just a few years later, Green is a fitness enthusiast and an amateur body builder.  After years of lifting, his colleagues and friends began asking him for advice to help them reach their fitness goals.  He offered his advice, and training free of cost to help out, and because he loved staying in shape.

The Lusitania

Resurfacing as a rock band, The Lusitania now sails from El Paso

EL PASO – A plain white-walled room in an everyday suburban house filled with amplifiers and microphone wires is the meeting ground and practice space for the El Paso-based band The Lusitania. The band begins to tune the instruments to start the first practice of the week. Even though they’re nestled in a traditional neighborhood, the vibrations shake the walls of guitarist Will Daugherty’s home. “My neighbors are really cool with what we do,” Daugherty said. “We haven’t gotten complaints about the noise.”

The Lusitania has been shaking walls since 2006 with an eclectic collection of music variously described as “a blend of folk rock and country” and as ranging from “waltz’s to brawling punk-rock anthems.”

The band originally started with brothers Michael and Blake Duncan but has since added members Daugherty, Charles Berry, and Adi Kanlic.

Boxer Amanda Ramirez poses next to his trainer, Herman Delgado. (Frankie Rodriguez/

Her will to win undefeated, Amanda Ramirez keeps on punching

EL PASO – With the sour taste of defeat still in her mouth from last year’s Golden Gloves tournament, Amanda Ramirez went on a tough yearlong training program hoping to win this year, but she lost the bout in a close decision. Her will to push until she wins, however, remains undefeated. The 23-year-old El Pasoan boxer, now a graduate of A&M, class of 2011, trained all year for the 71st annual Regional Golden Gloves tournament that took place on Feb. 15 at the El Paso County Coliseum but was defeated by Sasha Villalva in the Female Division, 135-pound class. “I felt disappointed.

Marfa, TX, a town of about 2,000 people is a hub for contemporary art in the Southwest. (Amber Watts/

Marfa – Tiny Texas town is a vibrant hub for contemporary art in the Southwest

MARFA, TX – An hour’s drive north of Ojinaga, Mexico, sits an isolated “little island of actors, writers, and artists of all kinds” as gallery owner, Ree Willaford, affectionately calls this west Texas town of 2,000 souls. Willaford is the owner, director and curator of Galleri Urbane, with locations here and in Dallas, specializing in contemporary art. In Marfa, the satellite exhibit lounge is located at the Thunderbird Hotel. Willaford and her family started in 1992 with “Contradiction,” an organic juice and coffee shop that also carried non-organic treats like tiramisu in historic Ybor City, the old Hispanic cigar-making district of Tampa, Florida. The Willaford family then moved to Silver City, New Mexico where Ree’s husband Jason, an artist, started open house showings with photographer Michael Burman.

Lisa Elliott, assistant professor at EPCC, and Bobby Gutierrez, senior lecturer at UTEP, present student work at the third annual Student Film Festival. (Alejandro Alba/

Film festival gives students a greater audience for their work

EL PASO – Film students from the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College yanked their movies out of their computers and projected them for everyone to view at the third annual Student Film Festival. “The biggest tragedy in filmmaking is for a film to stay in a hard drive. This is what you want, a venue where people can see your work,” said Robert Gutierrez, digital media production professor at UTEP. Gutierrez said the collaboration between the two schools worked as a pipeline so that EPCC students can see what to expect when they transfer to UTEP. “I think the students, before, used to produce for just their friends, but now they know that other people are watching, so that raises their quality of their work,” Gutierrez said.

Mexican-American family parked near a cotton field in Mississippi during the 1920s. (Courtesy of Dr. Manuel Ramirez)

A tale of unwritten Mexican-American history told on the Mississippi Delta Tamale Trail

EL PASO — Fresh steaming tamales are sold out of small shacks, directly from vans, and by “tamale ladies” from their homes all along the “Tamale Trail” on the good old Mississippi Delta. “There is a tradition among some African-Americans in Mississippi, Louisiana, little dots on a map going all the way up to Chicago. They make tamales and make up this trail,” said Dr. Roberto Avant-Mier Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), sitting in his office next to a poster of his book, Rock the Nation: Latin/o Identities and the Latin Rock Diaspora, which demonstrates how Latino music influenced early jazz music. Avant-Mier recently discovered the Tamale Trail on a website where Amy Evans Streeter, oral historian at the University of Mississippi Southern Foodways Alliance, published the discussions of the Tamale Trail. She interviewed over a dozen U.S. southerners, including African-Americans, along the Mississippi delta and recorded stories about their tamale tradition.

The 5th UTEP Queer Prom was sponsored by the Student Development Center, the Queer Student Alliance, the Rainbow Miner Initiative and the Campus Activities Board. (Andrea Castro/

UTEP’s Queer Prom relives the prom that should have been

EL PASO – Evening gowns sparkle and rented tuxedos shine in the fond memories of that special evening called prom night, but for Gabriel Romero the prom was just another high school event in which he couldn’t be himself. Many young adults who are a part of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community, struggle with the lack of meaningful memories they have of their prom because they were either too afraid of coming out, or were not allowed to bring the date of their choice. “I never went to my prom because at the moment I just couldn’t bring my boyfriend around,” said Romero. “I wasn’t ready to come out.”

As a fun way to support those who may have been excluded from their prom because of sexual preference, The University of Texas at El Paso’s Queer Student Alliance organized its 5th annual Queer Prom at UTEP on April 13th. About one fourth of all students from elementary age through high school are victims of bullying and harassment while on school property because of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation, according to the LGBTQ Community Website.

Senior Jecoa Ross plays the oud along with other students during Layali Al-Sham’s rehearsal. (Paul Reynoso/

Arab music ensemble brings the Middle East to the border

EL PASO – On Friday afternoons in the practice room of the Fox Fine Arts building, a group of students rehearses for Layali Al-Sham, UTEP’s Arabic music ensemble. The ensemble primarily consists of UTEP students that sing and play Arabic music. The instrumentation of Layali Al-Sham includes a wide variety of Western Classical and Arab musical instruments such as the clarinet, electric guitar and the Egyptian flute called the ney. Dr. Andrea Shaheen, assistant professor of ethnomusicology at UTEP and director of the school’s World Music Ensembles, said that the formation of the Arabic music ensemble began in 2010. “It sort of fell into my lap in that there was this core group of three or four students that were really driven to learn,” Shaheen said.

Instructor Yasmine Ramirez (left) leads participants of the ForWord project at Glassbox, Crystal Acuna, Jasmine Flores and Perla Ramirez. (Yuritzy Ramos/

ForWord: A free creative writing workshop for El Paso teens

EL PASO – At noon on a recent Saturday, 16-year-old Jasmin Flores sits at a round table in a downtown storefront gallery and stares at a picture of a man wearing a tee shirt raising his two fists into the air. After thinking for a few minutes, she uses her imagination to write in longhand on a piece of paper a story about two boys playing together with a ball. These and many other activities are practiced each Saturday during a “ForWord” workshop that helps teenage students develop their creativity when writing from short stories to essays. Flores is been attending the workshops, sponsored by a local non profit organization, since the January sessions started. She said each workshop has been different.

This year's Senior Games have over 300 participants that will compete in over 15 events. (Luis Barrio/

El Paso’s senior athletes still compete to win after all these years

EL PASO – On a recent March morning, 76-year-old Armando Uranga sat on the gymnasium bleachers dripping sweat and catching his breath. He had just played a strenuous 20-minute game of basketball with three other competitors as part of this year’s El Paso Senior Games. After playing in the games for the last 12 years, Uranga considers them his fountain of youth. “I felt like I was in my backyard like when I was a kid, it was so much fun,” said Uranga, who has already competed in the 5K walk, the 3K walk and plans to participate in Saturday’s track and field event at Montwood High School. In its 31st year, the El Paso Senior Games are a beacon drawing residents to get out and be physically active or go watch the community’s senior athletes compete.  With a variety of events, the games are for persons 50 years of age and older who participate in activities ranging from swimming to cycling, basketball to track and field.

Estudian las comunidades judías, musulmanas y cristianas de la Edad Media en Andalucía

EL PASO – Un grupo de 29 estudiantes y tres instructores de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso viajaron a España en mayo para explorar de manera directa la historia y la cultura españolas. Educadores y estudiantes desarrollaron un proyecto interdisciplinario original que evalúa la importancia de la tolerancia religiosa en la construcción de una sociedad líder en Europa en los campos de arte y ciencia durante la Edad Media. El grupo viajó por Andalucía durante tres semanas, realizando investigaciones sobre la historia de las comunidades judías, musulmanas, y cristianas en el sur de España. Los resultados de este viaje e investigaciones están cristalizadas en el documental, antología, y exhibición fotográfica titulada Andalucía: Fusión de tres culturas. “Ha sido la más hermosa experiencia de mi vida”, dijo Héctor Enríquez, director del proyecto, en la premier privada del documental en presentada en el Quinn Hall de UTEP aquí el 17 de abril.

Trevor Vittatoe former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback is now an independent corporate distributor for Direct TV. (Andrea Castro/

With pro leagues out of reach, many college athletes fall back on their education

EL PASO – Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, arguably two of the greatest athletes of all time, started their pro careers right after high school, skipping college. But for college athletes shooting their last basket or throwing their last touchdown, the end of a season means a transition from a life of organized athletics to a real world of hope and frustration. Although they have one advantage – a college education – in reality a lot of players who do exceptionally well on the college field or court struggle with the fact that they’re out of the limelight once their senior season is over. “It was a hard adjustment at first because you’re used to a routine of practicing and being with the guys,” said Trevor Vittatoe, former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback. “After trying for two years, I’ve fallen short of making an NFL roster.”

While Vittatoe waited to get picked by an NFL team, working to make ends meet slowly became a part of his life.

U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, at a recent visit to the University of Texas at El Paso. (David A. Reyes/

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine – A lifetime of giving a thundering voice to the voiceless

EL PASO – Poet Laureate Philip Levine, still as fit and funny at age 85 as he was as a young man working the night shift at a car factory, shared his special brand of earthy, poignant and insightful poetry – and a sizable measure of good humored repartee ­– with over 1000 fans at UTEP recently. The poet of the working class, who was born in Detroit to poor Russian Jewish immigrant parents, began writing professionally in the early 1950’s and has been giving “a voice to the voiceless” ever since. His message and poetry resonated with his El Paso audience in a city that is predominately Hispanic and working class. Asked by Sociologist Gina Nuñez what he thinks of the billions spent by the U.S. government erecting walls along the 2000-mile border, Levine responded: “The worst walls are the ones we can’t see because we are erecting interior walls. You say they’re dividing families.

Andrea Castro checks on five of her 13 non-human family members. (Azucena Santos/

Unlimited love expands two families into unrestricted animal menageries

EL PASO – For Stephanie Vazquez an ordinary day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a hot shower, then an egg and chorizo burrito and before she can leave for school, she has to start the day off properly for her unlikely family. The Vazquez family, living on the outskirts of the Eastside, consists of a fish, a gecko, two hamsters, three turtles, nine cats and 11 dogs. The pets are her companions while her soldier husband is in training in San Antonio. Vazquez also shares her home with three more conventional relatives – her father, mother and younger sister. Almost everyday a warm affectionate greeting is offered to the 27 non-human house members.

Is a pair of shoes really worth a life? (Ellisia Shaefer/

Some sneaker-heads think Air Jordans are to die for… others die for their sneakers

EL PASO – Winter cold is blowing and Christmas trees and lights are set up around the mall as a line stretches around the Cielo Vista Mall into the Foot Locker on the drop date for the latest Air Jordan 11 “Playoff” sneakers. Worn by the National Basketball Association’s phenomenon Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. The Jordan Brand has remained a popular and growing one-billion-dollar investment even after Jordan retired. The release of a new model Air Jordan still causes a shopping frenzy among the so-called sneaker-heads – consumers who will go to any extremes to buy a pair of the shoes at an average price of $185 every month. The fascination sneaker heads have with these shoes goes beyond just the Air Jordans, says Bryan Polk a sneaker-head living in Baltimore.

Actresses (from left), Andrea De Anda, Lluvia Almanza and Paloma Pelayo are las vecinas, three characters that represent Chicano culture familiar to El Pasoans. (Kimberly Garcia/

Electra is a vieja from ancient Greece, suffering like a Chicana in East LA

EL PASO – Las vecinas walk in, brooms in hand, gossiping about neighborhood happenings like a scene straight out of a novela, only this time the situation comes not from television but from ancient Greek drama. This rendition of the Greek classic tragedy Electra, opened at the Theatre and Dance Department at the University of Texas at El Paso March 13 for a four-day run with a twist. According to director Rebecca Rivas, playwright Luis Alfaro used the Greek tragedy as a skeleton for Electricidad, his Chicano rendition of the classic, by placing it in an East L.A. barrio and infusing Chicano culture into his work. “He allows our culture to bleed in,” said Rivas, “and it forms it’s own really funny and heartbreaking play.”

The plot of Electricidad is the same as its ancient counterpart. The themes of revenge and family are there, but there are a few differences.

“This whole area I thought was just kind of mysterious for me. I liked the culture. I liked the desert. I found it fascinating,” said Welsh. (David A. Reyes/

Lawrence Welsh – Digging for verse in the deserts of the Southwest

EL PASO – The watercolor on the wall in Lawrence Welsh’s office gleams with warm sun spilling across the panorama, as if light lived inside every leaf, every strand of grass, every inch of wood and tin. The Associate Professor of English at El Paso Community College said it reminds him of his own deep “digging” for art, poetry and history in the desert lands of the Southwest. In his new collection of poems written from 1994 to 2009, Begging for Vultures, Welsh sweeps readers through voices and landscapes of the Southwest. His personal excavation began in Los Angeles where he was raised, and where he began uncovering his love for words and music, co-founding the punk rock band, The Alcoholics in the late 1970’s, then writing and editing on newspapers, and writing fiction and poetry. Now, he teaches at the community college.

The Dead Bolts is one of only three other men’s roller derby teams in Texas. (Amber Watts/

The renegade Sun City Roller Girls shoved the Dead Bolts into El Paso men’s roller derby

EL PASO – Glares from overhanging lights reflect off of a sprawling shiny concrete floor, as the skaters whizz by poles and stay within the “white invisible lines” of the flat track where they practice. Wobbly players wear their helmets for safety and insignia. One marked with a yellow star struggles to pass the pack, and fumbles through a wall of men who will either block or assist him. Ivy Ashley Marie Ruiz, or as the derby world knows her, Miss Prettie Poison, is a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She coaches fellow veteran roller-derby players and the “fresh meat,” which is the six-week derby 101 program for women, and now men, who are trying out for the five-year-old Sun City Roller Girls league.

Magnificent Warning Monument by Máximo González. (Jaqueline Armijo/

Ordinary objects challenge perception in Maximo Gonzalez’ art exhibit

EL PASO – Spectators are entangled in an intertwined mess of black cords connected to a red piggy bank, red back scratchers and other red knick-knacks that transforms the entrance of a conventional public building into a world of obsessive red. Maximo Gonzalez’s exhibit “Magnificent Warning” is one of the three current art exhibits featured at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center at the University of Texas at El Paso. The exhibit will be showcased until March 15.  Gonzalez is a recognized Argentine artist who has left a profound mark in the art world. “The mission of the Rubin Center is to bring world class contemporary art to the El Paso region, and Maximo is certainly at the top end kind of the artists we bring. He’s got a really fantastic trajectory.

“A Molly is pure. It’s a powder." says a local drug dealer.

Molly sings a siren song on the path to perdition

EL PASO – When musicians such as Kanye West, Juicy J, or Rick Ross rap about Molly, they’re referring to something much different than the beautiful woman or stripper they typically incorporate into their lyrics. Molly, short for molecule, is the slang term for MDMA. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Molly is the powder or crystal form of MDMA, a chemical used in Ecstasy. Although MDMA is considered to be a purer form of Ecstasy, it isn’t uncommon for Molly to be combined with other dangerous chemicals such as methylone, a main ingredient in “bath salts” or a much less harmful chemical such as caffeine, states the DEA. The rising popularity of the drug makes it inevitable that it will be corrupted and laced with other ingredients, which can be fatal.

La nueva franquicia de los Indios, ahora auspiciados por la UACJ, espera que los aficionados abracen sus nuevos colores, blanco y azul. (Iliana Estrada/

Los Indios de la Universidad Autónoma presentan una nueva oportunidad en el fútbol profesional de Juárez

CIUDAD JUAREZ – La desafiliación del equipo de fútbol Indios de Ciudad Juárez del máximo circuito del balompié nacional, ocurrida en diciembre de 2011, causó sorpresa y desolación entre los miles de aficionados y seguidores que en ambos lados de la frontera jamás dejaron de apoyar a su equipo del alma. “Era increíble que apenas hace dos años antes estábamos en semifinales de la Liguilla y ahora el equipo estaba desapareciendo”, recuerda con nostalgia Jesús García, un fanático del club quien en ese entonces siguió de cerca la noticia de la repentina disolución de su equipo de fútbol preferido. Jesús, al igual que miles de simpatizantes de la oncena juarense, quedó de pronto sin la oportunidad de poder disfrutar del fútbol profesional en una ciudad que durante el último lustro fue castigada por la ola de violencia y crimen. La causa de esa repentina culminación, según se informó, fueron los adeudos económicos que la directiva mantenía con sus jugadores. Parecía que todo llegaba a su fin.

Instructor de salsa, Miguel Méndez, y estudiante, Elsa Artega, practican nuevos pasos. (Karen M. Herrejon/

Salsa se baila con un poco de gracia y muchísimo esfuerzo

CHICAGO – La salsa trae felicidad pero mucha gente encuentra que la salsa es el baile tropical más difícil de aprender. “Los mejores bailarines no son necesariamente latinos”, dice Miguel Méndez, instructor de baile en Dance Academy of Salsa en Wicker Park. Estela Cohen de Lake View, estudiante en Latin Street Dancing desde el 2008, dice que la salsa fue su primer baile y le llevó un año en aprender. Fue “muy difícil…me tomó mucho tiempo pero me encanta”, explicó Estela. Otra estudiante de salsa y otros bailes caribeños, Marina Coras, de Chicago, dice que la salsa para ella “sigue siendo la más difícil”.

Juliana Jimenez started her relationship with scissors at five. (Lucia Quinonez/

A childhood dream of becoming a hairstylist led to a lifelong career in cosmetology

EL  PASO – Juliana Jimenez was shaved bald after giving herself a terrible haircut when she was five years old. At 17 she sprouted gray hair, which prompted her to start applying color. After that, she regularly cut, colored and styled her own hair. The youngest of eight children, she says she was just trying to distinguish herself from her siblings. Her interest in cosmetology grew during the seven years she worked at J.C. Penney in downtown El Paso.

The Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso working on "Winter wonderland" at Fourth St. (Iris Lopez/

Local artists intend to beautify downtown El Paso one alley at a time

El PASO – Sun City artists are showcasing their art in the sun. The main goal of the Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso is to beautify the streets of downtown El Paso, one alley at a time.  Their theme is to “make love not war.”

After a tragic car accident took the lives of Jeannette Lazaro and Evalynn Rose, both close friends of Silver IsReal, he found a way to deal with the grief and keep the spirit of both girls alive. With this concept in mind, he and Carlo Mendo cofounded the Urban Art-Fitters Street Gallery project. “Make love not war was the last thing that Jeanette wrote on her mirror before she passed away, and it is something that I keep really close to my heart. I wanted to keep her and Evalynn’s spirit alive so I started the ‘Make love not war’ project” IsReal said.

El Paso Art Association organized the first annual "International Eye of the Camera". (Ernie Chacon/

The International Eye of the Camera focuses on El Paso photography

EL PASO – Photographs ranging from the beautiful scenery of the El Paso Mountains to the simplicity of a self-portrait dazzled spectators at the first annual “International Eye of the Camera” event at the Crossland Gallery. “We were most pleased for a first exhibit like this, with the number of entries and the quality of entries,” said Joyce Ewald, office administrator of the El Paso Art Association. The Art Association hosted the event November 30, which featured photographers from El Paso, Las Cruces, and Juarez.  The idea for the “International Eye of the Camera” came after the recent “Arts International” event, which excluded photographs because of limited space at the Crossland gallery. Ewald and a committee of four other members, decided to create an event solely for photographers.  “I felt that there were a lot of members who were photographers and I felt that they deserved a show too,” said Ewald. A total of 97 photographs were sent in, but the Art Association is hoping to see that number continue to grow at next year’s event.  “We need more photographers to get involved with the association.  If you want these events to happen you have to raise money” said Ernest L. Salazar, owner of ELS Photography, who also handed out one of the awards for the event.

Venerable Losang Samten. (Luisana Duarte/

UTEP’s sand mandala elicits eternity through impermanence

EL PASO – Dressed in brown robes and a white dust mask covering his mouth, a Buddhist monk hunches over and inspects the mandala – a circle decorated with multi-colored sand he is in the process of constructing on a wooden scaffold. The monk then straightens up, takes a deep breath and hunches back down. He meditates about peace in the borderland while scraping a few grains of colored sand off a metal tube and depositing them on the forming artwork. The monk creating the mandala, the Venerable Losang Samten, is a retired professor and spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia and has been visiting El Paso for over 20 years, almost since he first came to the United States. “I was born in Tibet, but when it was attacked I moved to India with my family, I was 11 years old,” Samten said.

“People call me the one-eyed bandit. I don’t mind", says Perez.

For Isaac Perez the football may be out of sight, but not out of mind

EL PASO — It’s third down and eight and wide receiver Isaac Perez needs to make a play for the Burges High School football team. He just hopes he can see the ball. For Perez, the play won’t be just pitch-and-catch like it is for any other player. Catching the ball and running for the touchdown is a process of complex decisions that are made from the moment of the snap, to the instant the ball leaves the quarterbacks’ hand. Perez has to twist his body so that his right side faces the incoming pass.

A devout yogi for 3 years, Garza's flexibility and balance has increased considerably. (Jessica Alvarez/

Yoga practice stretches to new heights in El Paso

EL PASO — Yoga –the fastest growing form of exercise in America–  is connecting the body, the mind and spirit of El Pasoans in greater numbers than ever. Currently over 20 million Americans practice yoga on a regular basis and five new yoga studios emerged here in the past year, drawing as many new practitioners to bend and stretch as there are different reasons to join. “Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 5,000 years. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means ‘to unite or integrate,” according to the website the a-b-c of yoga. Yoga then, is about uniting a person’s consciousness with the universal consciousness.

(Graphic Design by Raul R. Saenz)

My personal Fever Chart perspective on the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict

EL PASO – I am extremely content to have been part of this risky play, The Fever Chart. It changed my perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict and I hope the production taught other young minds to not be oblivious to a continuing war that is happening this very second. The Arabs and the Israelis have been ripping each other to threads ever since I can remember. War kills love and joy, along with piles of people. And the only question I ask myself is this.