Along the dry, rocky desert of El Paso, Texas–past all the food chains and shopping malls–a brown fence stretches for miles. The fence marks the southern U.S. border that separates El Paso from its Mexican sister city, Juarez. Antonio Villaseñor-Baca is 22-years-old and was born and raised in El Paso. His hometown is a huge “borderplex” that spans the Rio Grande River. Antonio has an uncle in Juarez, and while growing up, his dad would take him back and forth a lot.
The new year starts soon with a bang as a new unpredictable Republican president, downright antagonistic toward news media, the border and immigrants, takes office. And Borderzine’s editors and student journalists are ready for the challenge of reporting the non-headline-making reality of the border region and share it with the wider public, the politicians and decision makers in Washington. Among new ventures in the works for 2017 are a journalism partnership with a major Spanish/English news outlet with increased focus on in-depth reporting by our students and professional staff about the economy, business, education, immigration (yes, the wall!) and the environmental needs of the U.S.-Mexico border region, as well as our signature storytelling – relating the unique culture and contributions of 20 million border residents to the rest of the nation. During 2016, Borderzine student reporters dove into story coverage of Pope Francis’ first-ever visit to Ciudad Juarez and the border, reported thoroughly on the effects of cross-border air contamination in a multimedia package that was presented at a national Communication conference in Philadelphia, and a collaborative effort with the New Mexico In Depth news site and NMSU students to report the local impact of the historic and histrionic presidential race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and billionaire Donald Trump for the White House. Next year we hope to continue two long-standing and successful on-going projects – Journalism in July, a multimedia journalism camp for the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez/Las Cruces area’s best and brightest high school journalists, and an annual summer Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy for journalism professors from Hispanic-Serving Institutions as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
JUAREZ — El Paso resident Rafael Sañedo, 21, drove cautiously down several Juarez city streets on a recent Sunday as he headed toward San Lorenzo Plaza to rehearse his part in the 25-mile-long human chain that will greet Pope Frances when he arrives in Juarez Wednesday to deliver a historic Mass at the old Juarez Fairgrounds, called El Punto. “Juarez has changed a lot throughout the years,” said Sañedo, a pet store employee, who has not crossed an international bridge from his home in El Paso into Ciudad Juarez for the last decade. The last time he visited Juarez was to see his grandmother before she died. “She was the only reason why we even came, so after she passed away there was no reason for me to come back,” he said. Several weeks ago Sañedo had a change of heart when, after attending Mass at Saint Mark Catholic Church in east El Paso, he heard an announcement asking for volunteers to help form a human wall, referred to as lLa Valla.
EL PASO – The old man is color blind, but as he converses with the younger man he brings to life the contrasts and dilemmas they must go through in order to understand la vida. A person’s rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is a powerful theme in Roberto Perezdíaz’ writing. He describes how maturity makes people more adept at walking the paths to life and he places them in the desert of the borderland. With the release of his new book Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz has assembled a collection of short stories that explore themes of innocence and maturity through a collection of funny, insightful stories. “Every story with the exception of El papalote and Tomasito are independent ideas. But I noticed that one of the themes bubbling through the surface of the stories is that of oneself and the more you mature, the more knowledgeable you become,” Perezdíaz said.
I drove up to Albuquerque for Thanksgiving. My college roommate, Suz, was flying in from Portland, Oregon, and we were both staying with our friend Nancy who we had known for forty years. Nancy loves to give parties, extravagant ones, so between sighs and giggles over our youthful memories, we handled a lot of food, plates, silverware, and glasses. After all 20 guests had left and the dishes cleared, leftovers put away, we sat, just us’ns, and watched the Playing for Change video, Stand By Me, in our pajamas. Then we blew out the candles that took so long to set up and went to bed. There aren’t many things better than old friends, maybe a room full of cousins. Nothing begs an explanation or an apology.
EL PASO – Deseo escribir sobre la frontera. Deseo escribir sobre ella sin llorar, pero eso no parece posible. Si todas nuestras lágrimas juntas cayeran sobre el Río Grande/Bravo irrigarían de nuevo su torrente. La edición «Mexodus» de Borderzine justo acaba de salir, y yo deseo leer y escribir acerca de todo esto sin llorar, pero no es posible. Mi amiga Georgina publicó un enlace hacia un artículo de El Diario que dice que 300 mil viviendas en Ciudad Juárez han sido abandonadas.
I want to write about the border. I want to write about it without crying, but that doesn’t seem possible. If all our collective tears fell into the Rio Grande/Bravo, it would be a raging torrent again. The Mexodus edition of Borderzine just came out, and I want to read and write about it without crying, but that doesn’t seem possible. My friend Georgina posted a link to an article from El Diario that says 300 thousand dwellings in Cd.
RIO RICO, Ariz. — When I returned to my Rio Rico, Arizona home from a second visit to my dentist who works twenty minutes away in Nogales, Sonora, I reflected on what a fine dentist Dr. Emilia Sáenz is. But her assistant, José, a gracious young man, is even finer. My spoken Spanish is decent, but my level of understanding sometimes lags – especially with Dr. Sáenz, an immigrant from Colombia, whose rapid Spanish confused me, which made José even more crucial as I endured another root canal. I marveled at José’s skill at anticipating Dr. Sáenz’s demanding needs and at anticipating any discomfort I might feel.
EL PASO, Texas — About a century ago, El Pasoans lined themselves up near the border for a good view of the revolutionary war raging just across the river as gunshots and war cries echoed from the brush and dirty water. A hundred yeas later, El Paso once more holds a ringside seat to the bloodshed of Mexican souls. Last week, shots fired from Mexico hit the windows of El Paso’s City Hall. Although no one can be sure how or when the bulk of the violence will die down, many students at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have their opinions. “A lot of people have told me that maybe if they legalize marijuana in Juárez it would be better because then the drug lords would loose some of their power,” said Lindsy Gutierrez, a music major. She sat in the shade outside the Fox Fine Arts building of UTEP reading a book on poetry.