In this episode of Our Border Life we talk about those moments when people realize they’re in a culture shift – that something fundamentally has changed about their identity. Specifically, the growing awareness of the multi-layered identities among people living in the U.S-Mexico borderland region of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. https://soundcloud.com/borderzine-reporting-across-fronteras/looking-at-identity-through-the-borderland-bubble
We meet with Gustavo Reveles, who was born in El Paso and spent the first 15 years of his life living on both sides of the border. In a conversation with a friend, Martin Bartlett, Reveles talks about how he didn’t realize he lived in a culture bubble until he moved away for a job after college.
“You grew up thinking you’re both Mexican and American.
The Trejo family has been careful about handwashing and using hand-sanitizer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but when it came time to part ways near the Paso del Norte international bridge, they hugged each other. “As we were hugging, I thought, ‘Oh no, we should have given each other a little elbow tap,’” said Blanca Trejo, the 65-year-old grandmother and matriarch of the family. Her 15-year-old granddaughter Ruby Lerma Trejo said she tried not to hug too tightly but said of keeping her distance with family, “oh that’s hard.” Her grandmother, aunt and young cousins were headed back to Ciudad Juárez. She and her mother and sisters were going back to Horizon City. The Trejo family said goodbye after a recent visit as part of the family headed to Horizon City and the rest stayed in Ciudad Juárez.
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.
By Billy Cruz, Youth Radio
EL PASO – When I arrived at Casa Vides, a migrant shelter in El Paso Texas, I found a two-story brick building close enough to the border that I could walk to it. The building was almost a perfect cube shape, and as I knocked on the heavy wooden door, I wondered to myself, “Is this really where undocumented migrants are being housed?”
But I wasn’t there to interview migrants this time — Casa Vides wouldn’t permit me to talk to any of them in order to protect their privacy. I was there to talk to two college students who live and work with the migrants for the summer. https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.youthradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/27123940/YOUTH-RADIO-MIGRANT-SHELTER-VISIT-FINAL.mp3
Casa Vides is a place that provides refuge for two types of people: those who evaded border patrol, and those who were caught — handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and then released while their cases are still pending. Casa Vides provides food, shelter, and legal support to around 40 residents at a time and is run by the faith-based non-profit organization, Annunciation House.
Confusion has reigned in the days since the Trump administration ended its controversial practice of taking children away from parents arrested at the Border. One El Paso nonprofit group has taken the lead on efforts to reunify parents and children, and to make sure the world knows their stories. At 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, a Department of Homeland Security bus pulled up outside Casa Vides, a shelter run by Annunciation House, and disgorged 32 people who had been held on misdemeanor immigration charges until the charges were dropped Thursday and Friday. Annunciation House, which provides shelter and legal services for migrants and refugees, would help them begin what promises to be an arduous process of reunifying them with their children. Annunciation House Executive Director Ruben Garcia said he believed this was the first large-group release of parents who had been jailed under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. The group of migrants were connected with legal help, focused on getting their children back.
EL PASO – Lower Valley resident Daniela Caro struggles to breathe some days. “On bad days my asthma gets really bad, my throat closes up, even walking to class is a little bit hard,” she said. The 23-year-old El Pasoan lives near Riverside where trucks spew toxic fumes as they transport goods across the El Paso-Juarez border. The American Lung Association ranks El Paso’s pollution in the top 20 among U.S. metropolitan areas for both particles and ozone. Poor air quality has been linked to health issues, particularly for at-risk groups like children, older adults and anyone with respiratory problems like asthma.
EL PASO – This border city’s downtown shopping district has become a flourishing quinceñera Mecca as girls turning 15 and their families flock to buy lavish party dresses and accessories to celebrate their transition into womanhood. Outfitting quinceañeras, one of the most important celebrations among Hispanics, has become a booming business here where 82 percent of the population is Hispanic. “Customers are very faithful to this location. There’s a lot of traffic coming from everywhere. There are even people coming from outside of Texas,” said Yuridia Villagran, co-owner of Imperial Real Boutique.
Garnachas y restaurantes Juárez y El Paso is a Facebook group that has been gaining popularity among border residents. It began as a hobby two years ago and now is an online community with more than 50,000 members. The driving motivation for the group is to stimulate Juarez business and entertainment activity following a half decade of a declining economy and business closings sparked by high crime and violence. Group members rate Juarez restaurants and cafes on a scale of one to 10, using colloquial Juarez personalities such as superstar “divo” Juan Gabriel and the well-known clown Niko Lico, and others. For example, ten “Juangas” means the establishment is super good and one Niko Lico, means it is awful.
For more than 100 years the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, loomed large on the El Paso landscape. From its purchase of a copper refining plant in Smeltertown in 1910 until its massive towers were demolished in 2013, ASARCO was a major icon of El Paso’s role in the history of the mining industry. In this video, Borderzine multimedia reporter Ariadne Venegas walks us through the UT El Paso library exhibit on the history and impact of El Paso’s metal ore processing operations with ASARCO. Former employees share their memories of working at the plant.
Pedicab owner Cesar Martinez’ favorite fare was not a movie star nor a local politician. It was revered Father Harold Rahm, who had recently returned to his former parish in Segundo Barrio as person of the year at a cycling parade. “When I was there the public who were seeing Father Rahm again or meeting him for the first time were very respectful of him riding through the neighborhood again. He used to ride his bike though Segundo Barrio to do mission work,” said Martinez, who owns Mesilla Pedicab Company. Martinez, 42, gives rides to local school children, the elderly and visiting tourists for $1 per person, per city block.
Local muralist Francisco Rodriguez remembers arriving in El Paso as a teenager with only a middle school education, no job skills, a pregnant wife and no money. Desperate to provide for his family, he took a job in construction to help build the Spaghetti Bowl. “They gave me a construction helmet and a shovel and they asked me ‘can you do this?’ and I thought to myself, ‘well, what else can I do’. I didn’t have an actual job,” recalls 61-year-old Rodriguez, who is now an artist in residence at Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, a nonprofit community health service center in Segundo Barrio. He had been working on the Spaghetti Bowl project for about one year when a visit to Ciudad Juarez where some family members lived changed his life.
EL PASO — San Ignacio Loyola la segunda parroquia católica fundada aquí hace 111 años ubicada en el Segundo Barrio, una de las comunidades más tradicionales de esta ciudad fronteriza, comenzó una serie anual de kermes – ferias para recaudar fondos — hace 20 años para que la parroquia continúe su labor de apoyo a los más necesitados. “La kermes empieza el viernes 31 de julio y termina el dos de agosto con un horario de cinco de la tarde a 12 de la noche, es parte de una tradición y es capaz de unir familias”, dijo Martha Payales, organizadora de esta kermes. El principal motivo de esta fiesta que une a la comunidad de Segundo Barrio es la celebración del santo San Ignacio de Loyola, además de tener como objetivo la recolección de fondos para ayudar con el mantenimiento de la iglesia, ya que tiene varias partes deterioradas por ser originales y tener más de 100 años. La iglesia se ubica en 408 Park St. Pero también con los fondos recaudados ayudan a personas que necesitan sustento económico.
From running after a soccer ball to running on a track, the kids and adults in Segundo barrio have been given the feel of getting a fast break off the starting line of a track. Former Guillen Middle School student Angel Luna made a vow to himself. He promised to run everyday of the year after work to be fit and healthy. “I had made a goal for the year. I made a promise for myself to come everyday, for the whole year now,” Luna said.
It began with a simple dream of a small group of resolute mothers discussing community problems in a one-room apartment in the Segundo Barrio during the 1960s. Through stiff determination and unflinching courage, the “Mothers of La Fe” cobbled together a non-profit organization to empower families immersed in poverty, unemployment, lack of health care and gang violence. Since that day more than four decades ago, Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe has helped countless families, many of them recent immigrants to El Paso, resulting in the empowerment of a predominantly Latino community. Segundo Barrio, located south of downtown El Paso near the U.S.-Mexico border, is the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood, housing a community deeply rooted in Mexican culture. “I have always said that all the people in La Fe are my second home,” said Esperanza Tijerina, who attends citizenship classes and English at the La Fe Culture and Technology community center and is preparing to apply for U.S. citizenship.
El Paso is unlike any other city in the nation with its unique cultural dynamic. The city’s arts and events bring thousands of visitors every year and more than $2 million in direct spending. In this TV-style news magazine, journalism students at the University of Texas at El Paso take a closer look at some of El Paso’s artists and how economic efforts are affecting the creative community. The show aired live on Google Hangouts on Air on May 29, 2015. The program was made possible by support from the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, the UTEP Department of Communication and Borderzine.com
See the complete special report and featured stories here.
El Paso’s arts district continues to grow, with a variety of attractions and experiences for all. However, the city’s museums still face challenges in building on community involvement. Borderzine reporters Yazmin Garcia and Tanya Carbajal produced this story.
The 6-year-old online Border Life magazine, Borderzine, crosses another milestone this month with a redesign, enhanced digital features and visuals to better reflect its mission to publish rich relevant content about the borderlands by multicultural student journalists. A few of the exciting changes include a responsive design that allows readers to easily navigate across computer platforms and mobile devices, an updated logo, new story categories covering “Immigration and Fronteras” and “Diversity and Ideas” as well as a snazzier portfolio page to showcase the multimedia journalism of our student reporters. Here are some highlights of what we’ve added:
At the core of the new Borderzine.com is the responsive web design, which makes the site look good across computer platforms and on mobile devices. We’ve updated our look with a fresh, new logo inspired by the sunrise over a Southwest landscape – the vibrant glow of a new dawn in multicultural America. New category sections on the home page showcase our unique and varied content.
When I ask people around the city what is holding them back from working out, the answer often deals with not feeling comfortable in the gym environment or not wanting to pay for pricy gym memberships. I can relate. I don’t have a gym membership either. However, that is not stopping me from trying to maintain a healthy life. I have found much comfort and peace in the beautiful and free outdoor workout areas my hometown of El Paso, Texas, has to offer.
EL PASO — Beer bottles clink in the hands of burly men as ACDC pounds on the speakers. Under the sound of televisions playing football games, a faint chatter can be heard on the second floor of the Pershing Inn bar—“Welcome to Rios Online Radio…”
Since January 2013, Joseph Brooks and Gabriel Acuña, producers for Rios Online Radio, have met every Sunday at the Pershing Inn, 2909 Pershing Dr., to host a podcast aimed at promoting El Paso, its residents and the local music scene. Rios has produced about 40 shows in two seasons, under Chuco Talks, Rio Sports, and Rio Pod Co. “I used to do podcasts with my friends a couple years ago in my garage, using a cell phone in a can hanging in the middle of the room. We just shared it among friends,” Brooks said.
EL PASO — Walking through a dark hall and swinging open the pair of steel gates, museum guests are thrown into a room with walls exquisitely decorated with the memories of this city’s most history-rich neighborhoods.Bright and colorful murals at the El Paso History Museum exhibit surround the viewer with quotes and representations of two of El Paso’s first neighborhoods.Neighborhoods and Shared Memories is an exhibit that shows what life was like in the Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita neighborhoods as children grew up in the area. El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods continue to thrive in the southern part of the city with an extensive history as a place of refuge and social and economic struggle. Today, vivid murals on aged structures along the two-way streets give an insight into the cultural influences once existed.”We wanted to reach out to all the folks who had not had a voice, who were not represented in the history. The original exhibit plans for this building was that this gallery was designated from the begining to be the headquarters for the neighborhoods exhibit” says senior curator Barbara Angus.”The concept was that even from the beginning the exhibits that were created were directly by the people from the neighborhoods,” said Angus. Each wall represents one neighborhood with phrases from people who lived in the area and their memories of life there.
EL PASO — San Elizario, Texas is a newborn city with a long history. The area was established in the mid-18th century as part of the Spanish colonial mission trail, but it’s only been officially incorporated since November 2013 and its first mayor took office on May 22, 2014. The rich history of San Elizario is largely agricultural and according to Mayor Maya Sanchez, honoring those roots and protecting the rural community is critical. “My family goes back five generations in San Elizario. It’s an agricultural community, historically has been.
EL PASO — Wake up and smell the craft coffee, El Paso. The national craft coffee craze has slow-dripped its way into town, and three entrepreneurs hope locals perk up, take notice and embrace the new brew. Sales of craft or specialty coffees have given the U.S. industry a jolt, helping to drive up revenue 7.4 percent last year to $11 billion, according to the research firm IBISWorld. The trend of drinking a $3-$8 cup of java made from premium, exotic beans from around the world and lovingly roasted on the spot by certified artisans has been piping hot in cities such as Seattle, Portland and Dallas. In the last year, the trend has percolated into El Paso where it is slowly catching on.
EL PASO – Everyone always enjoys a good laugh and at Coconuts Bar and Grill the staff invites amateur comedians to gather around every Tuesday to perform in the Underground Comedy Show. Comedians from El Paso differ from comics in other places, because the culture here nourishes a different type of humor, merging American and Mexican culture into an authentic border type of humor. Jerry Karnes who is known by his stand up name “El Malkreado” founded the show in April 2005 after a road trip to Austin where he visited a bar on 6th street called the Velveeta room. A comedy show was going on and the comedians were so bad, he said, that he started making fun of them. One of them told Karnes to do a better job if he could.
Editor’s note: Proper Printshop reopened. Follow up story here
EL PASO – Beneath fluorescent lights Inside a noisy concrete room that smells of paint, Stephen Escarzaga, 24, works a computer mouse to rapidly transform the pictures inside his clients’ heads into a graphic logo, a print or a shirt. For six years, Escarzaga and his partner Jonathan Childress, 24, worked in a unique lifestyle that included screen printing, making music, shooting video and running the show at their printshop. But the Central El Paso business, Proper Printshop, will come to an end as they move on to pursue other career goals. The partnership began in May 2008 as they shared a Westside apartment.
EL PASO— On a recent Saturday afternoon, some 50 pro-cannabis legalization and decriminalization supporters and enthusiasts of all ages packed a stuffy bar here to rally for marijuana legalization in Texas.The crowd of mostly young people wearing Bob Marley T-shirts and Vans shoes stamped with marijuana leaves, crowded into the Soho Cocktail Lounge in downtown El Paso for the first formal meeting of the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML),which lobbies for marijuana legalization.The crowd also included casually dressed middle-aged persons as well as some dressed to the nines, along with a group of much older graying hippies. The assembly packed the bar with only standing room barely accessible. The organizers come from different professions but are joined by the same goal — “to achieve true individual liberty” by legally consuming marijuana. “If you feel that you are a free and beautiful individual human-being with inalienable rights, with self-ownership, you should be able to do whatever you want to do with yourself without having to harm anybody else… as long as you are not harming anyone else you should be free to do what you choose,” said Joshua Dagda, the organization’s communications director. Approximately 230 persons interested in the cause attended NORML’s inaugural organizational meeting January 11th at the Hilton Garden Inn on W. University Avenue.
EL PASO — Rene Delgado came home on a Saturday afternoon with a sore throat. The next day, his family noticed that he was becoming unresponsive so they took him to see a doctor in Juarez where he was diagnosed with the flu — the H1N1 strain. He was then taken by ambulance to Del Sol Hospital where he was admitted into the intensive care ward on January 11. He died there three days later. The civil engineering student at the University of Texas at El Paso was 22 years old.
EL PASO – A group of people gathered at the Union Plaza downtown on a recent Saturday morning to browse through and buy arts, crafts and food delicacies at the weekly Downtown Artists and Farmers Market. One vendor in particular stands out from the displays of original, unique hand-made art works because it doesn’t have a canopy overheard like the others. This stand belongs to Seok-Kiew Koay, 58, a designer and maker of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rosaries who has been a regular at the farmer’s market since 2011. “I’ve been doing this (jewelry) for 15 years and this hobby has become my job. I enjoy it,” said Koay as she held up one of her necklaces.