Bad City and Good City — The Border Twins are Conjoined at the Hip

EL PASO, Texas — Many consider them sister cities.  With a combined population of more than 2 million persons, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez form one of the largest international metropolitan areas in the world. El Paso is the 6th largest city in Texas while Ciudad Juárez has experienced a higher population growth rate than the country as a whole. Together they interact and even share citizens. Recently though, most of what is heard about this urban area has to do with the Mexican drug cartels. Still, while Ciudad Juárez is ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world, El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the United States.  In my curiosity to find how it is that this city is viewed, I talked to five students living here but originating from different cities, states, and countries to see what they think of the Sun City.

Raised in Two Cultures, But Uncomfortable in Both

EL PASO, Texas — “Can I have the rosa-pink sticker instead?” I would ask Miss Pat, my teacher at St. Mark’s when I was three years old. “I don’t like the amarillo-yellow one,” I would say. Growing up as a three year old, I distinctively remember my obsession with “rosa-pink.” I wanted everything —from my Barbie’s dress to the color of my room— to be “rosa-pink.” My aunts and uncles knew me as “rosa-pink” because everything I owned was “rosa-pink.”

Strangely enough, I never really thought of the term “rosa-pink” to be an odd way to refer to the color pink. It was just the way my mother taught me how to say pink in both Spanish and English.

Thousands Relive the Passion of Christ on Mount Cristo Rey

EL PASO, Texas — Andre Karam carried the six-foot wooden cross  for more than four miles up Mount Cristo Rey on Good Friday to relive the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He had trudged up this mountain every year for the past 35 years, but this was the first time he carried a cross on his back. It took him five weeks to finish it in faint white brushstrokes covering the ornamental details.  A rope and round metal plates ran down the longest plank of the cross. “They represent the five continents. One, two, three, four, five,” he said as he touched each plate.

Bilingual city can be an obstacle to learning English

EL PASO, Texas — It’s a beautiful thing that a majority of El Paso is bilingual.  I don’t think I have ever been anywhere else in the United States where so many people can speak more than one language. Only a minority of the population is monolingual. For those readers who are bilingual, being bilingual can open a lot of doors in other cities, but you can also be very problematic for a person trying to learn English. I realized this while I was tutoring an adult ESL class.

Marchers Demand That Congress Reform Unfair Immigration Laws

EL PASO, Texas – Now that the historic health care reform bill has been pushed through Capitol Hill, hundreds of thousands of immigration reform supporters expect to see their comprehensive plan in the congressional forefront this year. “It’s been needed. It’s been needed for a while now,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, who organized a march in El Paso, Texas. “We have people being separated. We have people being deported.

Filmmaker Guillermo Arriaga Portraits ‘Other’ Realities of the Border

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Whether it’s a giant fence separating Mexico and the United States or a less tangible barrier like language between people, borders are evident in most of director Guillermo Arriaga’s films. His latest, The Burning Plain, is set in the city of  Las Cruces, New Mexico near the U.S.-Mexico border. “We’re tired that this is just a place of drugs and immigration. It’s also a place of love stories,” said Arriaga, at a press conference for a screening of his new film in Las Cruces. “Of course, there are also tensions because of it, but they are not the only reality.”

Arriaga has made a career telling the stories of ordinary people whose lives are intertwined in ways they never realized. The Burning Plain is no different and follows the story of several different people in different parts of the country.

En la frontera

EL PASO — Mucha gente me pregunta si me gusta vivir en El Paso. Lo hacen ya convencidos de que voy a decir que no. Piensan que me gustaría estar en otra ciudad, pero que bueh… caí acá. Después se sorprenden cuando digo que me encanta vivir en El Paso.

Film Depicts College Life on the Border

EL PASO — Having to wake up every morning to get ready for school and get to class is something most American college students do not think twice about. But for Mexican students who live across the U.S./Mexico border, this simple task can become a challenging chore, which transports them into a more complex Americanized version of their own culture. Award winning director Maru Buendía-Senties wrote and directed a 29-minute short film based on how students tend to compare their situations and cultures to one another when they come from opposites sides of the border and attend the same university. “Entre Líneas” was filmed on the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus and on the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez border. Buendía-Senties is also a UTEP alumnus.