EL PASO, Texas – CNN reported that more than 80 million people tuned in to watch the Clinton-Trump debate on September 26, making it the most-watched presidential debate in history. It will also remain a day which will live long in my memory as my first real taste of a U.S. presidential debate watch. When I first arrived at the El Paso County Republican Party offices I was greeted with a man carrying a 12 gauge shotgun and a .44. Magnum marching Hilary Clinton around the offices. No, not the real Hillary, a masked version of the candidate.
El Paso – Alexi Cruz may not have realized he had friends in this border community until he was on the verge of being deported. Cruz, 24, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the U.S. since he was 14 years old, was detained in early November by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after his car broke down on the way to Arizona. He was on his way from his home in San Antonio to see his mother in Arizona because authorities had apprehended his sister. His wife, Anayanse Garza, said that Cruz sought help after his car broke down in New Mexico near the Arizona border and was questioned by law enforcement officers about his residential status. The Border Patrol was called to pick him up.
BROOKS COUNTY — For the first time, an aid group is deploying water stations in the Brooks County brush in an effort to prevent migrant deaths, and finding creative ways to work with private ranchers who don’t usually fling the gates wide for outsiders. It’s a fledgling movement — only two stations are in place so far — but the rising interest from human rights groups is another indicator of the mounting death toll. It is also a sign of Brooks County’s emergence as a kind of new Sonoran Desert, where water stations have long been a fixture in southern Arizona. As migration patterns and U.S. border enforcement strategies have changed, the migrant trail has shifted, too, leading them on foot through the county’s barren, 944 square miles of private ranches to avoid the Border Patrol checkpoint south of Falfurrias. Nearly 80 bodies have been recovered in the county in 2013, approaching the record 129 in 2012.
Mine and Lupita’s trip continued west into Starr County. With only 62,000 inhabitants, Starr County is nicknamed the “Hill Country of the Rio Grande Valley.” It’s easy to understand why. The four counties of the Rio Grande Valley are flat, with rich soil created from the Rio Grande River floodplain. But Starr County is more arid, hilly and rocky.
BROWNSVILLE-MATAMOROS – Our nine-day journey started in the southernmost tip of Texas just east of where the Rio Grande River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Cameron County is home to more than 406,000 people and is one of four counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley. It’s a beautiful part of the border, one filled with great natural beauty. But there are also bleak industrial landscapes mixed in with rich farmland and neighborhoods both rich and poor. Mexico’s bloody drug war and kidnappings have definitely taken its toll on American tourism south of the border in Mexico’s State of Tamaulipas.
It was a trip that only lasted nine days but one that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I was born in raised in Texas and have lived for many years along the border. But I’ve never seen the entire Texas side of the border until I took a trip with my friend Lupita. I’m a journalist working for KGBT-TV in Harlingen and she’s a government professor at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Our work using social media to cover and research Mexico’s drug war overlapped in many areas.
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.
In Ambos Nogales the narco-violence prevalent in most U.S. – Mexican border cities is less; the lower level of violence is a direct result of the community connection that existed before and since the “Battle of Ambos Nogales” on Tuesday, August 27, 1918.