Ice rinks top attractions in desert holiday outings

Ice skating and festive lights mark the start of the holiday season in El Paso in two popular locations. WinterFest is an ongoing event in the Downtown Arts Festival Plaza and surrounding areas featuring lights, food, holiday shopping, festivities and  an new outdoor ice skating rink located near the Plaza Theatre. “As San Jacinto Plaza once again lights up for the winter season, we wanted to enhance the downtown visitor’s experience and create a new holiday tradition,” said Bryan Crowe, General Manager of Destination El Paso. WinterFest runs until Jan. 8.

Cafe Central thrives as El Paso’s downtown regenerates

Downtown revitalization has brought many changes to the central part of the city. The construction has brought street closures, orange barrels and headaches for businesses, visitors and motorists. But the renovations and demolitions haven’t kept one local business from flourishing. “We definitely increased in business,” said Café Central Assistant Manager Juan Franco. “ The last two years, business has gone up 45 percent.”

The restaurant is open six days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s busiest days are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and their busiest time of day is after 5 in the afternoon.

Food truck park growing clientele in Downtown El Paso but still facing challenges

EL PASO — Until recently, Lydia Palacios could not remember the last time she had been downtown. A lifelong El Paso resident, Palacios said downtown was more a childhood memory than a current event. “My father would take us on the bus downtown and take us to Kress to eat lunch,” said Palacios referring to S.H. Kress & Co., the five-and-dime with a lunch counter on the northwest corner of North Oregon Street and Mills Avenue. On her way to a doctor’s appointment on a recent Monday in June, Palacios said she and her husband, Sergio, were doing something they had not done in many years – lunching together downtown. The two sat at an umbrella-covered table waiting for the fish tacos they had ordered from The Reef Mobile Kitchen, a food truck on Mills Street that serves seafood Mexican fare.

Mural at the Stanton Street Bridge in downtown El Paso. (Sergio Chapa/

Last stop, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez

I’m going to admit now. There is no way to describe El Paso in a single blog but I’ll try my best. With close to one million residents, El Paso is the biggest city on the Texas side of the border. But it’s also filled with many contrasts making it one of the most complex and intriguing. The border city is home to four international bridges and one international railroad crossing.

Giving a voice to immigration reform

EL PASO – Downtown vendors stood motionless at the doorways of their stores and shoppers stopped in their tracks on an early afternoon in April. Only the faint protest of marchers could be heard heading up El Paso street, but with each step closer their voices became strong and loud. “Sí se puede. Yes we can!” they shouted, “Obama, escucha, estamos en la lucha (Listen Obama, we are in a struggle).”

BNHR, based in El Paso, is a human rights advocacy organization that is primarily active in immigration and border policy. The group which represents 700 families, helped organize this event, in addition to several others around the city.

The total cost of demolition, construction, and relocation of City Hall is expected to between 85 and 100 million dollars. (Paul Reynoso/

The demolition of City Hall and the rise of a new ballpark are already giving downtown El Paso a new identity

EL PASO – In the coming months, downtown El Paso’s skyline will change dramatically as the City Hall building is expected to be demolished to make way for a new Triple-A ballpark that will open next year. But once demolition commences on City Hall and construction of the ballpark begins, the effects will be felt by downtown local businesses and streets that are adjacent to the City Hall area. The Insights Museum on N. Santa Fe St. is just one of many businesses that has already been greatly affected by the major changes. The museum, which first opened in 1980, has cleared out and has been closed for several weeks now.

The Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso working on "Winter wonderland" at Fourth St. (Iris Lopez/

Local artists intend to beautify downtown El Paso one alley at a time

El PASO – Sun City artists are showcasing their art in the sun. The main goal of the Urban Art-Fitters League of El Paso is to beautify the streets of downtown El Paso, one alley at a time.  Their theme is to “make love not war.”

After a tragic car accident took the lives of Jeannette Lazaro and Evalynn Rose, both close friends of Silver IsReal, he found a way to deal with the grief and keep the spirit of both girls alive. With this concept in mind, he and Carlo Mendo cofounded the Urban Art-Fitters Street Gallery project. “Make love not war was the last thing that Jeanette wrote on her mirror before she passed away, and it is something that I keep really close to my heart. I wanted to keep her and Evalynn’s spirit alive so I started the ‘Make love not war’ project” IsReal said.

Visitors to the Mirazozo Luminarium compared the experience to walking into a kaleidoscope. (Francis Regalado/

Visiting the Mirazozo Luminarium is like floating inside a giant kaleidoscope

EL PASO – Inside a structure shaped like a spaceship, a world of bright luminous red, green and blue stripes of light form bouncing patterns of color on the walls of five metallic domes like fireworks in outer space. The structure, called a Mirazozo Luminarium, a creation of the British company Architects of Air was brought to El Paso as part of this year’s Chalk the Block event from October 12 to 14 and was displayed on Cleveland Square Park, next to the El Paso Museum of History. “I think it was awesome, “ said Esmeralda Quintana. 29. “I carry a kaleidoscope in my car and being inside the Luminarium was a dream come true.”

Residents approaching the event could see the 158 ft.

Aeialists performing on stills were the delight of kids. (Krytle Holguin/

‘Chalk the Block’ draws thousands to downtown El Paso

EL PASO – On his hands and knees, local artist Matthew Kohls chalked the sidewalk and described the portrait of a man he was creating on the grainy concrete as art in search of the truth. Kohls says that although he is new to the art world, he developed a passion for art and photography at a young age and was encouraged to pursue his dream by his cousin Diego Martinez, who also participated in the art event. Some 200 artists participated in the 5th annual Chalk the Block in downtown El Paso. Kohls said that he concentrates on composition more than anything else using the “rule of thirds” as a core principle to inject life into his work. Organizers said that more than 37,000 persons attended the event October 12-14, which included the sidewalk chalk art, live music, food, art vendors, and some aerialists performing on stilts.

The Plaza Theatre reopened as the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center on March 17, 2006. (Oscar Garza/

The Classic Film Festival to welcome Al Pacino at El Paso’s historic Plaza Theatre

EL PASO – Nostalgia is a wonderful thing when you are well along in life. The memories of youth many times built around classic films are resurrected during the very rare film festivals held from time to time. Well, more than 80 classic films will be shown in El Paso in August. The Plaza Classic Film Festival will be held August 2 – 12 at the historic Plaza Theater. The festival was created in 2008 to celebrate this country’s rich cinema history and rekindle the joy of going to the movies.

A street car service was present in the El Paso/Juarez area from 1881 until 1974. (Amanda Duran/

Posters brought to life the idea of a cross-border trolley line

EL PASO – In an effort to explain the longstanding and sometimes complicated ties between border city El Paso, Texas and its Mexican sister city Juarez to fellow classmates at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Peter Svarzbein decided to create a fictional advertising campaign for the revival of a trolley system that would connect the two municipalities. But he never expected his hometown to incorporate his graduate thesis art project into an actual city planning proposal that could possibly stimulate the economy in both countries, and reduce the risk of drunk driving accidents. “I wanted to challenge the negative media representation about the border by using the media itself,” said Svarzbein. Svarzbein, who now lives here, hosted a presentation on the El Paso Transitional Trolley Project recently at the University of Texas at El Paso. His talk, entitled Bridging Borders, was sponsored by UTEP as a part of the school’s DYNAMIC Communication Lecture Series.

The landmark building went up in flames shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19. (Ken Hudnall/

Fire snatches another chapter of western history from El Paso

EL PASO – As these words were written the once white gleaming walls of the building where legendary western fast gun and attorney John Wesley Hardin had his apartment and office were collapsing. The second and third floors of one of the most historic buildings in El Paso are a burned-out ruin. In minutes, a large chunk of El Paso history became ashes

The well-known building, located at the intersection of San Antonio Ave. and S. El Paso St. and directly across the street from the Camino Real Hotel, went up in flames shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19.

El Paso Art Market at Union Plaza. (William Vega/

New downtown market gives local artists a weekly sales venue

EL PASO – Local artist Carlos Rodriguez has been painting for decades, but up until late October he had never placed his art on sale in a weekly market. With the inception of the El Paso Downtown Art Market, hosted by the City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD), artists can now display and sell their handcrafted art in a large exhibit area. The art market started Oct. 29 and is currently open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Union Plaza District in downtown El Paso. The market was requested by the City Council based on similar art markets in Los Angeles and Las Cruces.

People from different walks of life are demanding change. (Luis Hernández/

Occupy El Paso movement decries economic and social injustice in America – Video

EL PASO – Occupy El Paso demonstrators set up tents in the usually vacant San Jacinto Plaza in downtown as part of a national protest against perceived economic inequality and corporate control of government. Students, college graduates, homeless persons, professors, the unemployed and employed are few examples of individuals displaying their frustration about unemployment, the nation’s economic despair and the federal government’s bailout of banks. Fabiola Martinez, a young, courageous, and jovial woman was one of the many individuals expressing her feelings on how the government has treated its people. “The government is not paying attention to what the people want and need. They are oblivious to what we need; our school systems and health care are failing,” said Martinez.

The need for repair is evident on the Aztec Calendar. But, how should the City go about doing the repairs? (Kristopher Rivera/

Montezuma’s revenge – Tower of Babel replaces the Aztec Calendar

EL PASO – After 58 years of exposure to the sandblasting winds rolling off the Franklin mountains, cracks have appeared on the Aztec Calendar in downtown El Paso as if a hard-riding Juan de Oñate had used it for jousting practice. But repairing the artifact that the Mexican consulate gave El Paso in 1953 as a symbol of friendship and respect is problem as complex as the ancient designs on the calendar itself. The calendar must be removed from its location in order for the Mexican consulate to agree to repair it but moving it could result in further, perhaps irreparable, damage. The city fathers want to relocate it to an indoor facility but activists want none of that. “We were all appalled so we did our research…and it is in fact, there’s contracts to remove it and give it to the Consulate,” activist Cemelli De Aztlán said.

Caravan for Peace demands an end to the wave of Mexican violence

EL PASO — The beat of drums and shakers echoed off the buildings of downtown El Paso’s San Jacinto Plaza Saturday as matachines danced and a few hundred persons chanted “¡Juárez, Juárez, no es cuartel! Fuera ejército de él.”

The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, led by poet and activist Javier Sicilia settled in at the plaza as the poet told a crowd of several hundred about his son’s killing and stressed once again that the drug-war murders in Mexico are non-discriminatory. If something isn’t done to stop the killings, anyone could be a victim, he said. “It’s a war that no longer distinguishes. Any Mexican can be assassinated, can be a victim of crime or repression,” Sicilia said.

Neon Desert Music Festival to light up the Sun City

EL PASO  – Skies will illuminate here and the Franklin Mountains will reverberate during the city’s first Neon Desert Music Festival that will take place Saturday, April 30 with international, national, regional and local talent. Zachariah W. Paul, one of the event’s organizers along with Gina Martinez and Brian Chavez came up with the idea in October, 2009. “We wanted to do a music festival in El Paso and we felt this is a market that doesn’t have anything like what we are trying to do,” Paul said. “We felt there is a demand here and the people would support us to do something like this.”

Paul said their vision is to create an event that is for the city of El Paso, by the city of El Paso. He said it will feature a combination of international, national, regional and local talent.

With poverty still a way of life, Segundo Barrio remembers Cesar Chavez

EL PASO – On a warm, windy March afternoon, the inhabitants of one of El Paso’s most rustic and historic neighborhoods gathered for a carnival held in honor of Cesar Chavez. Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe held a carnival for the famed social justice leader on the grounds of La Fe Preparatory School on Saturday the 26th of March. Hundreds were in attendance, many of them residents of the Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. “We need to keep the legacy of Cesar Chavez alive,” says John Estrada, who is a member of the board of directors at La Fe. “And this is one of the ways we do it, through Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.”

The board of directors of La Fe have supported this event for over 10 years, with the event taking place on the elementary school grounds for the past three years.

The Chalk the Block Art Festival decorates downtown El Paso

EL PASO, Texas — For the third consecutive year, the public art festival Chalk the Block, graced downtown El Paso with fun-filled street activities and treated thousands to the sight of sidewalks covered in art this past weekend. “It is a great way for the city to be exposed to so much art.  We don’t get many events like these, so the people should really take advantage,” said Elva Apodaca. “It really inspires me, and those who aren’t exposed to art to appreciate art and see what else is out there,” she said. The event, free to the public, was organized by the city’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department joined by the El Paso Community Foundation. Chalk art is basically painting and drawing with chalk as media and sidewalks for canvas.

Downtown El Paso as seen from the Paseo del Norte International Bridge. (Sergio Chapa/

Downtowners Express Their Hopes for El Paso

EL PASO— A taxi driver, a shopper and merchants from downtown El Paso share their perspectives of the city’s history and their hopes for its future. The following video, audio and slideshow presentations were produced by the following participants in of the Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy held recently at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP): Jessica Retis, Bradford Owen, Mark Albertson and instructor Doug Mitchell. Downtown El Paso Merchants Tell Their Story