El Paso, a border city considered by some as part of Mexico. (Raymundo Aguirre/Borderzine.com)

Learning journalism in El Paso opened my window to the world

EL PASO – Every time I’ve gone on vacation with my friends, people ask us where we are from. The conversation usually goes something like this: “We’re from Texas.” “I love Texas! What part?” “El Paso.” “Oh, so like, Mexico?” Yes, that’s right, at least once in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, and even in Europe, people thought we were basically from Mexico. This used to bother me because I will always pride myself on being a patriotic American citizen; however, I started to see how it would be easy for people outside of Texas to think that El Paso was just this forgotten part of the United States that somehow belonged to Mexico also. If you look at reports about border violence in Mexico, El Paso is almost always mentioned as the sister city to Ciudad Juarez.

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.

Ambassador of Mexico Arturo Sarukhan, left, and Carlos Chavira, president of the new initiative “Juarez Competitiva” introduce the project in Washington on Monday. They hope to unite the border region against drug wars and improve the economy.(Danya Hernandez/SHFWire)

Border leaders unveil plan to restore reputation of Ciudad Juarez

WASHINGTON – The violence and crime that have stained the name of the U.S.-Mexico border region is uniting its residents, who want to regain a clean status. The innumerable reports of murder, kidnappings and extortions brought by drug trafficking to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, are the main factor contributing to the exodus of about 230,000 middle class families and more than 10,000 businesses since 2006. Residents of the region created a new initiative called “Juárez Competitiva” to advertize the city’s assets and cultural value to create economic growth. Officials at the Embassy of Mexico announced the project’s launch at a news conference Monday. “It’s an effort to understand that not only by confronting organized crime will you be able to push back.