Photojournalist has unique view of border life as a non-Spanish-speaking child of immigrants

Briana Sanchez frowns at the images on her computer screen. 

“I need to add some happier photos in here,” she says. Sanchez, lead photojournalist at the El Paso Times, knows better than anyone the difficult times that the border has been through in the last two years. After spending eight years away, first in college in Georgia and Arizona and then working at newspapers in the Midwest, Sanchez returned home to El Paso in the spring of 2019. 

“As soon as I moved back here, we had those patriots at the border, protecting the border on their own volition,” she says. “And then we had the ‘We Build the Wall’ people. And then we had the mass shooting.

How the immigrant founder of a preschool builds community in Northern California through dance, diversity and determination

Mi Escuelita Maya is in a working class neighborhood at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Chico, California. A mural on the building depicts children from diverse backgrounds flying kites in open spaces. One of the founders, Maria Trenda, helped build the preschool in 2007, just before the Great Recession, on a corner lot just blocks from her home. Her first estudiantes are now entering college. 

Trenda’s school is an homage to her past. For 30 years, her mother ran a preschool in Mexico.

From borderlands of Brownsville and Tucson, Chicanx artist explores themes of barriers, belonging

Artist Alejandro Macias was born, raised and lived for more than three decades in Brownsville, Texas, communicating the borderlands experience through visual art as a second-generation Mexican American. 

In 2019, he moved hundreds of miles west to the borderlands city, Tucson, in Arizona, to continue working on his art and to teach at The University of Arizona in the School of Art. His work, which in part is inspired by Chicanx activist work, draws on artists who transformed the human figure, artistically.  His art reflects his and others’ lived experience, striving to find a sense of belonging in the borderlands region. His work also reflects social-political climates of the times. 

Macias’ paintings focus on identity, the Mexican American experience within U.S. society, migration, his own family history and the many other families struggling and who have witnessed barriers in the borderlands. He uses images of himself in some work as representative of others with visuals often related to physical and metaphorical barriers in the Mexico-U.S. borderland region, which embodies two nations, two cultures with different identities that often merge together. 

Danza cultural helps build important life skills in rural California community

Children wearing masks stomp their feet on concrete as they watch the new baile folklórico teacher nod her head and gesture the beats: right, left, right, left. The students are gathered on this Sunday evening in June at the local park in Humboldt County, California and show their excitement with this fun, social activity. 

The person leading this effort is Lucy Salazar, the president of Cumbre Humboldt — a local nonprofit celebrating its 2-year anniversary. “Music. Dancing. It’s math.

Today’s border reality: River hazards, refugee child trauma; an end to migrating wildlife

There are many perils for humans and wildlife crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, from the hazards of navigating challenging terrain to the trauma of being detained by law enforcement. As tensions rise with each newly erected section of border wall, the impact of hardline policies can be seen taking a toll on the mental, physical, and environmental health of the borderland. Rising waters threaten migrants crossing Rio Grande

Risks to migrants crossing into the U.S. near El Paso have increased with the annual release of Rio Grande water from upriver in New Mexico. The release replenishes the borderlands and allows its farmers to irrigate, but the surge of water and migrants is a potentially deadly combination. Migrants who bypass barriers at U.S. ports of entry to seek asylum by crossing the Rio Grande risk drowning in the high water of the borderland canals.

Like two exhausted boxers, Border Patrol and Central Americans seek respite

By Walt Baranger

SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico – Just feet away from a large freeway-like sign declaring “Boundary of the United States of America,” children play in the Anapra neighborhood of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. But this is not exactly true; they gambol in a narrow strip of the United States that lies between the Mexican state of Chihuahua and the American border fence, perhaps a dozen feet of disused territory between the invisible international border and the steel slats that soar up to 26 feet high, forming a rust-colored dotted line across the continent. Happily for the youngsters, the designers of the United States’ border fence failed to take them into consideration. A shoeless pre-teen can easily scramble nearly to the top of the barrier here, and later ask $1 of American passersby who are amazed to see the fence so easily scaled. Bemused U.S. Border Patrol agents occasionally hand out granola bars or other treats to the little hands that reach north through the bars.

Tired but determined volunteers sustain El Paso’s migrant relief services

As U.S. border officials detain thousands of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border every day, another group waits for the men, women and families who have often been walking for days: volunteers. In El Paso, where Border Patrol agents apprehended 136,922 migrants between October 2018 and May 2019, residents have responded to the influx of migrants with meals and shelter. But it’s been eight months since the latest surge of Central American migrants started. Volunteer coordinators have had to adapt their efforts to a timeline that has no end in sight. “The current volunteers are starting to get fatigued,” Christina Lamour, director of community impact for United Way of El Paso County, said.

U.S. border businesses feeling pain of fewer shoppers from Mexico and tariff threats

El Paso Street buzzes by 9 a.m. on a weekday. A shop owner with a front-row view of the Paso del Norte Bridge picks up a bedazzled pump and sets it on a box containing the mate. A jackhammer pulses two stores down, caution tape forcing walkers to the street. A steady stream of feet — some quick-paced, others leisurely — move past a Customs and Border Protection officer watching the scene unfold. Life moves, but not at the pace it once did.

The gradual rebirth of Downtown El Paso’s historic buildings

When people think of history in El Paso, Texas, they’re likely to dwell on the city’s unique relationship with Juarez, and rightly so. But it’s hard for folks to miss the real historical monuments sprinkled around this border town, even if they aren’t aware of them. They just have to look up. Henry Charles Trost died in 1933 but his legacy still proudly stands in the form of some of the 73 buildings he and his brothers designed in the borderland, dating back to 1903. Structures by Trost and Trost have housed the fabric of the community, including groceries, hotels, schools, houses of worship, department stores and more.

Borderland support builds for tech startups

El Paso – once known for its thriving garment industry which eventually crashed because of globalization – is on its way to becoming a smaller version of Silicon Valley, if some tech enthusiasts have their way. Tech accelerators and incubators – businesses that offer El Paso’s 20-plus start-ups a place to work, meet and sometimes funding – are being built to help new firms on their way to becoming the next high-tech success story. One area where the incubators – led by highly educated chief executives, some with doctoral degrees from prestigious universities and a wealth of experience garnered elsewhere – is helping entrepreneurs is in the medical field. Julio Rincon, principal owner of MipTek, based out of the facilities at the MCA Innovation Center, is a biomedical engineer and is working on finding remedies to medical maladies, taking science to the market place. “We find applications by making sure someone wants to buy this,” Rincon said.

Central El Paso’s Manhattan Heights and Five Points neighborhood revitalization fuels new vibe

Over the last five years, the Manhattan Heights neighborhood and Five Points business district have seen an influx of new businesses and young professionals, creating a new vibe in this historic Central El Paso area. Susie Byrd,a longtime Manhattan Heights resident and former District 2 City Council Representative, has lived in this historic area since she was in second grade. “These two city blocks were boarded up,” she reflected of the Five Points business district. “Maybe there was like a couple of salons. Not this kind of energy around the core of Five Points development.”

All that is changing as new businesses, such as bars, grills, a yoga studio and now an Ace Hardware Store, are opening in the area.

On the wake of Pancho Villa’s 140th birthday, three women wage a battle against gentrification in El Paso’s oldest neighborhood

In September of last year, Romelia Mendoza, one of the two remaining residents on Chihuahua Street, woke up to the sound of demolition crews tearing down the historic buildings next to her home in El Paso’s downtown. “For a second I thought it was an earthquake,” said Mendoza. Antonia “Toñita” Morales, 90, has lived in the neighborhood since 1965. She said she did not hear the bulldozers because she is hard of hearing, but finally awoke to the sound of Mendoza crying hysterically and banging on her door. The two panicked women rushed to try to stop the work, which had begun despite a court order prohibiting the teardown.

12 Journalism professors selected for Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy 2018

Twelve journalism instructors from U.S. Hispanic Serving Institutions will travel to the U.S., Mexico border region to participate in the ninth annual Dow Jones News Fund Multimedia Training Academy in June at the University of Texas in El Paso. Thanks to a grant provided by the Dow Jones News Fund, Borderzine organizes this annual workshop training geared to multimedia journalism instructors who teach in institutions with a large minority population. Here is a list of the 12 instructors who were chosen and their institutions:

Daniel Evans, Florida International University
Mary Jo Shafer, Northern Essex Community College
Lillian Agosto-Maldonado, Universidad del Sagrado Corazon
Julie Patel Liss, Fullerton College
Nicole Perez Morris, Texas A&M-Kingsville
Kelly Kauffhold, Texas State University
Sara V. Platt, University of Puerto Rico
Geoffrey Campbell, UT Arlington
Jesus Ayala, Cal State Fullerton
Lorena Figueroa, El Paso Community College
Darren Phillips, New Mexico State University
Dino Chiecchi, UT El Paso

The week-long multimedia-journalism academy has a proven track record of eight successful years helping journalism educators acquire a new skills in digital storytelling that they can use to help prepare prepare the next generation of Latino college journalists. “The trainers at the academy understand what educators need to learn about new and emerging technologies to better prepare their students for the fast-changing future” said Linda Shockley, Deputy Director of Dow Jones News Fund. “This quality of instruction at absolutely no cost to participants and their universities is priceless.”
The goal of this experience is to learn and practice news reporting using a variety of digital equipment, software programs and platforms. Participating instructors are expected to translate this learning into training for their students, making them more competitive in the media industry.

Sanctuary is in the fabric of El Paso, not the label

By John M. Gonzales and Alex Hinojosa
There are 118 so-called “sanctuary cities in the United States, but applying the term to El Paso is like calling Texas a little bit country. With one in four city residents living a bi-national life to manage and work in Mexican factories across the border, traffic snakes bumper-to-bumper every day through checkpoints from neighboring Ciudad Juarez. Twenty-five percent of residents are immigrants — with an estimated 3 percent of the state’s unauthorized immigrants Texas-wide residing in El Paso County. Yet, like other jurisdictions that inherited the sanctuary city tag originally used by immigration control groups to create an image of blanket refuge, El Paso is being told to uphold a law that strikes to the core of its identity. “We’re allowing D.C., and sometimes Austin, to dictate what border policy should be,” said David Saucedo, a mayoral candidate who is pitted against the more politically experienced Dee Margo in a June 10 runoff.

Border Patrol ride along gets real when migrant family appears

by Jennifer Thomas

On paper it sounded like the perfect assignment:  spend a day along the U.S. Mexican border with members of the El Paso sector of the U.S. Border Patrol as part of the Dow Jones News Fund Multimedia Journalism Training Academy at UT El Paso.  Off we went – cameras, notepads and audio equipment in hand.  It was hot. 100 degrees. Most of us, have in the least read about, if not reported in some way, the border between the two countries, and the migrants who try to cross illegally into the U.S.  What we were not prepared for, was to see an apprehension first hand. 

U.S. Border Patrol agent Oscar Cervantes and Joe Reyes served as our guides. Cervantes has been a border agent for more than eight years.  Reyes – more than fourteen.  

We visited a portion of the 16-foot steel, eight-mile-long fencing that separates Colonia Anapra in Mexico and the village of Sunland Park, New Mexico.  The structure has been in place since 2007. “It only takes seconds or minutes to blend into the community,” Cervantes explained.   

The El Paso Sector encompasses all of the state of New Mexico and the western tip of Texas, and is one of nine sectors along the Southwest Border of the country.  There are 19,000 agents covering more than 250 miles of international border.  The section of the border is covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but Cervantes insists the fence is not meant anyone out.

College grad in limbo after ICE roundup reveals secret, splits family

By Sylvia Ulloa

Jeff Taborda lives in a faded green trailer in an old but neatly kept motor home community in north Las Cruces. Taborda,23, graduated in December from New Mexico State University with a degree in criminal justice, with ambitions to go into law enforcement and eventually join the FBI. He is lean and muscular, working out regularly with his younger brother, Steven. The home Taborda shares with his girlfriend is sparsely furnished, clean dishes in a rack in the sink. “As soon as I eat, I do the dishes,” he told visitors on a recent hot afternoon.

Security, trade, family bind both sides of border

By Pam Frederick

From the roof of the commercial customs lanes at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, TX, a line of trucks four lanes wide stretches beyond sight into the Mexican city of Juárez. A similar line of cars inch along, idling for hours, towards the Bridge of the Americas, one of 10 border crossings in the region. The view makes one point perfectly clear: free trade between the US and Mexico is not ending anytime soon. And no one around these parts knows that better than local business owners. “We build everything together,” says Miriam Kotkowski, the owner of Omega Trucking located just three miles from the border crossing at Santa Teresa, N.M. Her father started his business in New Mexico 50 years ago, crossing cattle.

A newly arrived Cuban migrant fills out paperwork in El Paso.

El Paso social services respond to Cuban refugee surge

Cuban refugees continue to seek asylum in the U.S., traveling from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso for a third straight week, with many staying in El Paso longer than expected, which could strain local organizations that traditionally provide services such as food, shelter and legal advice to immigrants. Elizabeth O’Hara, communications director of Catholic Diocese of El Paso, said about 300 Cuban migrants have been arriving each day since May 9 for a total of about 3,000 in the last three weeks. “Some of them will stay 24-36 hours, but now we’re seeing some of them staying longer,” O’Hara said, adding that the first wave of refugees seemed to be better off financially. “Most of the first ones to arrive had money left so they could bounce out of El Paso faster.”

That seems to be the case as well at the Ysleta Lutheran Mission, which is housing up to 80 refugees at a time. Karla Gonzalez, Ysleta’s chief operating officer, said most immigrants will just pass through El Paso on the way to family or friends in other parts of the country.

Downtown El Paso set to ride streetcar revival

Beginning in 2018, El Paso residents will be riding the rails again. Streetcars, once a staple in El Paso, will return. A $97 million grant from the Texas Transportation Commission and $4.5 million from the City of El Paso is funding the 4.8-mile route. The revamped streetcar system is an example of art becoming reality. A graduate thesis by City Council Representative, Peter Svarzbein, was the impetus for the project.

El Paso becoming new frontier for space research, business ventures

Our lives are full of consumer products that can be traced back to NASA: invisible braces, infrared ear thermometers, memory foam and cordless drills. Now one El Paso-area organization has partnered with NASA to make this kind of technology transfer easier. The Space Race challenge offers business planning, networking, mentorship and support to teams who are competing for up to $1.2 million in funding from venture capital investors. The Center for Advancing Innovation, a global public-private nonprofit is facilitating the program with El Paso-based Medical Center of the Americas Foundation. “NASA has a very large number of researchers who are primarily dedicated to solving NASA’s problems, but once that technology has done its job for NASA, by and large, that’s the end of the road, said Jeff Fuchsberg, the director of intellectual property and innovation projects at the center.

Latino entrepreneurs make their mark through microbrewing

El Paso, TX – Carlos Guzmán opened his first bar while he was stationed in Iraq. Well, it was sort of a bar. And it sort of just happened. Guzmán was having a hard time buying liquor in Iraq, so he asked his friends and family to stash some little bottles in their care packages. “Little did I know that within a month we’d have over 50 bottles,” said Guzmán who was in the U.S. Army.

El Paso filmmakers explain why Texas is not Hollywood

El Paso — Lights, cameras, but not much action in this nascent filmmaking community far from Los Angeles, the epicenter of global entertainment. There is no filmmaking infrastructure in this high desert community to entice venture capitalists and support movie producers, directors, actors and ancillary businesses that contribute mightily to the economic engines driving film industry friendly states like New York, Georgia, Louisiana and neighboring New Mexico, local officials and filmmakers said. There are several reasons why Texas is not Hollywood, local industry insiders said. In the last decade, the state has slashed the financial incentives it offers to filmmakers who want to make movies here. Currently, Texas incentives range from 5 percent to 20 percent based on the amount of money a film company is projected to spend before it wraps production in the state.

Wetlands, retired professor offer refuge to wildlife

Emu eggs used to fetch $100 apiece. Now, they’re worthless. After people started

releasing the ostrich-like birds, Carol Miller adopted four at her wildlife rescue. The emus joined a menagerie of other abandoned, injured and abused animals at

Miller’s home in El Paso’s Upper Valley. People bring her baby rabbits, squirrels,

ducks, geese, songbirds and even snakes.

UT El Paso transforms heart of campus with plaza renovation

The University of Texas at El Paso unpaved parking lots, roads and walkways, and transformed the space into paradise, according to landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck. The Centennial Plaza project, which created a common area featuring native vegetation, arroyos and bubbling fountains in an amphitheater setting, was part of a $25 million renovation project timed to the university’s 100-year anniversary. University officials said the plaza, “will continue to contribute to a sense of community, and offer students greater opportunities to excel.”

A major feature of the plaza is a Bhutanese lhakhang, a temple that had been installed on the mall in Washington, D.C., in 2008 as part of a cultural exchange. It was transported beam by beam to El Paso, and opened in April. Artisans from Bhutan painted lush Buddhist scenes on the altar, walls and interior columns.

UTEP researchers developing water filter to help colonias

Maricela Reyna and her family pay property tax on their home, located in an

El Paso County colonia. Yet they lack access to municipal water and gas services. Instead,

they hire a tanker truck to deliver water each week, and buy propane for cooking. City trash trucks do not run down the unpaved road outside Reyna’s home, either. Instead, she shells out $80 a month for a private hauler to take the family’s waste.

El Paso group moves to save mountains

EL PASO — Although the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition can’t move mountains, they’re hoping a petition can move the boundaries that protect them. The coalition’s “We the People” petition aims to preserve the undeveloped land owned by the city of El Paso to the west and the east of Franklin Mountains State Park—making the land part of the park. The petition, said Jim Tolbert, member of the Franklin Mountain Coalition, garnered more than 6,000 signatures. He plans to present it to the Public Service Board next week. “Privately owned land is not part of the petition,” Tolbert said.

About 25 people participate in the Huerto Amistad garden on Beverly Ann in San Elizario. The garden was started in 2013. (Kirstie Hettinga/Borderzine.com)

Water, commitment are challenges for sustainable gardens in El Paso

EL PASO — San Elizario, Texas is a newborn city with a long history. The area was established in the mid-18th century as part of the Spanish colonial mission trail, but it’s only been officially incorporated since November 2013 and its first mayor took office on May 22, 2014. The rich history of San Elizario is largely agricultural and according to Mayor Maya Sanchez, honoring those roots and protecting the rural community is critical. “My family goes back five generations in San Elizario. It’s an agricultural community, historically has been.

A creamy heart enhances a cup of freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee from BLDG 6 Coffee Roasters in east El Paso.(Michael Marcotte/Borderzine.com)

New craft coffee culture brewing in El Paso

EL PASO — Wake up and smell the craft coffee, El Paso. The national craft coffee craze has slow-dripped its way into town, and three entrepreneurs hope locals perk up, take notice and embrace the new brew. Sales of craft or specialty coffees have given the U.S. industry a jolt, helping to drive up revenue 7.4 percent last year to $11 billion, according to the research firm IBISWorld. The trend of drinking a $3-$8 cup of java made from premium, exotic beans from around the world and lovingly roasted on the spot by certified artisans has been piping hot in cities such as Seattle, Portland and Dallas. In the last year, the trend has percolated into El Paso where it is slowly catching on.