For nearly two years, land borders between Mexico and the United States have been closed to all non-essential travel. Air borders between the countries, though, have fallen in a grey area — with private planes and chartered flights touching down every day in El Paso.
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Dianna Williams-Hefley grew up with one foot on each side of the border. She spent her early years living in the United States, but due to job opportunities for her parents who were teachers, her family moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. That’s where she went to high school. Williams-Hefley recalls being mesmorized by the art culture she experienced while living in Mexico. Enchanted by the vibrant colors of folk art and the traditional methods used in each handcrafted piece, Williams-Hefley’s appreciation for Mexican artisan work stayed with her even after returning to the U.S.
“I was always trying to figure out someway to get back to Mexico,” Williams-Hefley said.
Nathaly Gonzalez crosses from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez a couple times a week. She brings groceries to her grandparents — they prefer the bulk foods sold on the U.S. side. She visits her brother and takes her dog to the vet.
Gonzalez and her mother are dual U.S.-Mexican citizens and live in El Paso; her brother and grandparents are Mexican citizens and live in Ciudad Juárez.
Things have changed significantly for Gonzalez and her family since the COVID-19 travel restrictions went into effect on March 21, 2020, but she still crosses with ease, regardless of whether her reasons for crossing could be defined as “essential.”
A unique binational news collaboration will begin publishing stories this week about significant issues facing El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. The partnership, called Puente News Collaborative, will begin with a two-week series of stories that look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our region. This month is the first anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 in our region, as well as the resulting restrictions on border crossings that disrupted life in our region. The Puente News Collaborative includes news organizations from both sides of the border: La Verdad in Ciudad Juárez; and ABC 7, El Paso Inc., El Paso Matters, El Paso Times, Univision 26, KTEP public radio and Borderzine as part of the UTEP multimedia journalism program in El Paso. The collaboration is made possible by financial support from Microsoft as part of its efforts to preserve and protect journalism and local newsrooms. In December, partners in the collaboration shared an El Paso Times story about the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program that was published in both English and Spanish.