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.
EL PASO – Carefully placing her deceased father’s framed portrait on a round table covered with a Spanish style tablecloth, Lorena Andrade neatly arranged his favorite things such as the sugar cane, bananas, tunas and lemons, a pack of L&M cigarettes and a Coca Cola glass bottle. “With the candles and the scent of the flowers they can find you,” she said. “You put food that they like to eat that way they would want to come back and, you know, sit down and talk and eat together. It’s a way for them to come back to visit.”
Like Lorena many people gather at Mercado Mayapán to celebrate Day of the Dead, known to Latinos as Día de Los Muertos. It’s a day and a month when mourners remember their lost loved ones and place ofrendas (offerings) on altars in remembrance and to welcome the departed.
EL PASO – It’s a tale of one city with three different stories. There are three contrasting viewpoints on the placement of El Paso at the top the list of “Can-do Capitals” published by Newsweek Magazine last month. Based on data from the federal government and Moody’s (an economic research company), the border city was named America’s Can-do capital, first on a list of 200 U.S. cities. The recent Moody’s study rated the cities in four different categories –sustainability, transportation & infrastructure, business development and livability. Each index was graded on a scale of 0-25 points, with all four aspects totaling 100 points.
EL PASO – As it rains, explorations begin in a cave big enough for persons to stand. Darkness in the middle of the cave eventually leads to light at the other end. Outside, huge boulders loom. Climbing the rocks and crawling through crevasses in the caves that tunnel through the boulders leads to open spaces and the discovery of new caves at Hueco Tanks State Park. When it rains, the holes fill up to create little waterfalls that flow into one another and create babbling brooks around the area.
EL PASO – New businesses and professionals resettling here from México have assimilated almost seamlessly into the local culture and economy in the last two years with the help and oversight of a close-knit network they formed to orient and advise them. Known as La Red, the organization with 300-plus members aims to assist its new immigrant middle-class membership with business and legal advice. La Red includes business entrepreneurs, laywers, architects and other professionals. They help empresarios from Juárez transfer their businesses to El Paso using L1A visas. In 2010 L1A visas were issued to 5,000 Mexican business professionals, according to the U.S. state department statistics. The L1A visa is a quicker way for professionals to establish residency for up to seven years and it allows them to bring children under the age of 21. La Red retains lawyers who can help with the proper documentation. Once issued the visa, they must prove that the business is succesful. The visa can be renewed every two years.
EL PASO – The El Paso Fire Department thundered into downtown in the waking moments of Sept. 11, 2011 in full turnout gear and 80-pound tanks on their backs. But there was no fire at the 21-story Wells Fargo building on Main Street. Instead, they reflected on the memory of the firefighters who lost their lives 10 years ago during the attacks on the World Trade Center. “Today is the first year that we’re hosting this memorial stair climb.
EL PASO – Many years ago, one of our graduate students, Elea, wrote in her thesis: “the color of El Paso is brown.” I argued with her vehemently. She saw brown everywhere. I saw color everywhere: purple sunsets, yellow sunflowers, blue sky, green chiles, all the colors…even in the desert. Color was vibrant and alive…in nature, in murals, in clothing, architecture and food. ‘ Yes, there were brown people; they weren’t invisible, but some of them were Chinese, Korean, Lebanese.
EL PASO – Miles celebraron el Grito de Independencia de México en la plaza central de El Paso por segundo año seguido después de que Juárez canceló la fiesta del bicentenario de la independencia mexicana el año pasado. Las calles de Juárez quedaron silenciadas y muchos mexicanos no pudieron celebrar la jornada de la Independencia de México como en años anteriores. Debido a la cancelación del evento del Grito en Ciudad Juárez el año pasado, la fiesta realizada por el Consulado General de México en la Plaza San Jacinto aquí se a convertido en un evento mas grande. “Hemos visto el evento crecer de los cientos a los miles. Como vieron hoy, definitivamente se notó el incremento de gente asistiendo el evento”, dijo Frank Núñez, encargado del estacionamiento Mills Plaza.
EL PASO — Downtown El Paso could soon lose one of its most beloved landmarks, created by one of the city’s most famous artists if a plan to renovate San Jacinto Plaza is approved and funded by the city council. Luis Jimenez’s fiberglass sculpture, “Los Lagartos” has stood at the center of the plaza since 1995, would be replaced by shrubbery trimmed in the shape of alligators in the renovation plans donated by Mills Plaza Properties, owned by prominent El Paso businessman Paul Foster. El Paso art historian Miguel Juarez is spearheading the movement to keep the statue in the city’s plans. “The alligators are the soul of El Paso,” Juarez said. “Historically the plaza was a meeting place.
BEATRIZ CASTAÑEDA (Reporter): It’s not often that you see cyclists in the car-centric city of El Paso. That’s not to say that El Pasoans haven’t tried to nurture different cycling groups. Groups like the Cycling Club of El Paso and the Miner Cycling Club. But that’s about to change. The city of El Paso recently passed an ordinance allowing the addition of bike lanes.
EL PASO — With more than 20 liquor stores, over 100 convenience stores and the many supermarkets and restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages, it is little wonder that El Pasoans are facing an obesity epidemic. Manuel Colorado, a local exercise specialist and nutritionist, works with overweight clients. “It is easy for people in El Paso to gain weight because of their alcohol consumption,” says Colorado. “With nothing else to do in our city; alcohol seems to fill the void of boredom and too much time on the hands.”
While Colorado’s clients are reducing their prospect of obesity by limiting their alcohol intake and exercising, some El Pasoans are doing nothing to better their chances of dodging obesity. “We see obese people walking around El Paso everyday and not doing anything about it,” says Colorado.
EL PASO — For the most part fashion design has a reputation for superficiality and a lack of concern for the planet, but this year designers in the technology program at El Paso Community College (EPCC) decided to change that perception with a Trashion Show. “In a way it’s like helping the world and it’s not only about the fashion but about having satisfaction of helping out,” said one of the designers, Zayra Estrada. Students and other collaborators said this is a way to help spread consciousness about recycling. “You can be fashionable without being abusive and use resources wisely,” said Fashion Technology coordinator, Trish Winstead. Five talented students from the Fashion Promotion class displayed their pieces made of recyclable materials at this year’s Trashion Show in commemoration of Earth Day.
EL PASO — Time to clear the water about El Paso’s water supply. The worst blizzard to hit the Southwest in recent memory raised many questions about sufficient water supplies in El Paso and its surrounding towns. Thousands of homes and businesses in the area suffered burst water pipes that caused floods and forced businesses and schools to close for several days. But as residents recover from the damage, they still are asking if El Paso is running out of water. “We estimated about 15,000 to 20,000 homes had leaks.
EL PASO — Owning a small business can bring minority women much success and many challenges, and in some cases just being a double minority is an advantage. Rosa Marin-Abdeljaber told the Women’s Business Border Center of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recently that she always knew she wanted to be successful. At one point her goal was to become a doctor and own her own practice. Well she didn’t become a doctor, but she is President and CEO of Russell Transport, an Hispanic female-owned and operated trucking company based in El Paso. She credits part of her success to being a minority.
EL PASO — If you are ever passing by Rim Road near Scenic Drive in West El Paso in the summer on an early Friday evening, you might hear a throbbing sound of tribal drums pulling you in closer to the infectious pulse that is Echos in the Park. What started out as a series of relaxing outdoor musical improv sessions by heads of the local jam band, Stanton Street Collective, has evolved into a weekly fluid gathering at Tom Lea Park of musicians and percussionists from all walks of life. “There is something special about having an impromptu jam session with a bunch of people that have never practiced and sharing that feeling of camaraderie,” said Roberto Santos, organizer for the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series. Since getting its start nearly four years ago, Echos in the Park has been gradually growing its circle of amateur percussionists up on top of one of the most beautiful and accessible scenic points overlooking the Downtown El Paso and Juarez area. Though the event’s lack of centralized ownership, formal structure, legitimate promotion and fixed schedule, it has some how managed to continue to thrive efficiently and effectively with word-of-mouth throughout intimate circles of music lovers across the city.
EL PASO — Lush alfalfa fields. Trees heavy with pecans. White cotton fields. Those sights may diminish next year if this year’s drought doesn’t let up soon. The Greater El Paso area has had more than 110 consecutive days without a trace of rain.
EL PASO — In the heart of El Paso is Segundo Barrio, a port of entry to the United States. It’s the first community people see when they cross the border from Juarez, Mexico. Located on the city’s south side, Segundo Barrio is home to more than 8,000 people, of whom 50.8 percent are U.S. citizens, 13.7 percent are naturalized citizens and 35.5 percent are non-citizens, according to City of El Paso statistics. Yolanda Chávez Leyva, chair of the University of Texas at El Paso history department, calls Segundo Barrio the “heart of the Mexican diaspora.”
“El Segundo Barrio is one of the most historic barrios in the United States,” Chávez Leyva said. “[It] grew out of the migration of mexicanos to the United States going back to the 1880s and it’s been the starting point for thousands of families across the United States.”
The neighborhood is “very important” to El Paso, she said, because it is where the urbanization of the city began.
EL PASO — The future of Segundo Barrio is not white or brown, but green. Such is the view of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, a health and human services organization that contends economic power will decide the fate of this historic neighborhood in south central El Paso. It is a decidedly pragmatic approach for a non-profit born in the grassroots movements of the 1960’s and grounded in social justice. A visit to the La Fe “campus” reveals an organization that appears to be thriving. In 1992, La Fe consisted of one health clinic, 65 employees and a budget of $3 million, mostly federal funds.
EL PASO — May 6th, the first Friday of the month, was the third time Raymundo and I loaded and unloaded photographs and earrings into the car and headed to the San Carlos Building at the corner of Texas and Campbell. We are old timers now; we know most of the vendors and we know what time to arrive so we aren’t stuck with a corner table. We bring a lamp so people can see our wares. We don’t sell very much but we keep going back for several reasons. I promise to tell you soon. The San Carlos Building is becoming a “happening” place.
EL PASO — For most El Paso residents recycling has become a part of their daily lives. City householders own a blue container used for recycling purposes only, but this differs from commercial recycling thus making the process more complex. “Business recycling is handled by each individual business hires a private hauler that will come and pick up their trash and recycling,” said City of El Paso, Recycling Program manager, Eloisa Portillo. The City of El Paso Environmental Services Department is responsible for residential recycling, but El Paso businesses must make an extra effort in order to have their paper and plastic material recycled. A business must personally call a private hauler to have a special truck pick up their recyclables.
EL PASO — President Barrack Obama embarked on a trip to Texas on Tuesday and paid a visit to El Paso to renew his push for immigration reform reminding us that America was built by immigrants and that we should welcome those who are willing to embrace our ideals. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. What matters is that you believe the ideals on which we were founded, that you believe all of us are equal,” said Obama. “In embracing America, you can become American. That is what makes this country so great.”
Immigration reform has been a long hot-button issue for both Democrats and Republicans and with the 2012 elections heating up, both parties are taking advantage of bringing the topic up to Congress and citizens all over the country. In his speech, Obama mentioned that there are 11 million people who are in the United States illegally and although he has sympathy for them stating that they are just trying to earn a living, what it comes down to is that they are breaking the law.
EL PASO – Cross over Water, the latest novel by Richard Yanez, captures the essence of the wayward El Pasoan – always feeling out of place outside of his home city and yet striving to achieve more than the city has to offer. “We’re survivors, resilient and proud in spite of our flaws.” Yanez spoke of El Pasoans. “You know El Pasoans because they are both glad they’re out but sad that they haven’t yet been back.”
Yanez, an El Paso native, uses this novel to bring the local creative writing landscape a tale of a young man named Raul who grows along the border, lives among relatives, loves women, and takes to his heart the sensations only this city could bring him. He often struggles with the sensation that he is stuck in place, or, as Yanez often metaphorically conjures, feels as though he’s drowning. “I nearly drowned when I was ten years old,” Yanez said “and I used that as a metaphor for the ways I could be drowned culturally, personally, and psychologically.”
El Paso — When Patricia Vega headed to work Thursday morning in her navy blue Ford Explorer, she never imagined she would be the stage for a ballerina dance spectacle in the middle of Interstate 10. “I saw traffic started slowing down near Hawkins, so I hit the brakes when all of a sudden what I thought was a woman came running towards my car with her hands extended out telling me to stop,” said Vega, who works at the University of Texas at El Paso. “All of a sudden the person jumps on my windshield and I can hear her walking around on the top of my car.”
The person was actually a man, dressed in a tutu and tights. “I just thought, ‘my God what is this person doing,’” Vega said. “He was dancing around like Shakira.”
Worried that she would run the man over, Vega slowed down.
El Paso — Even as beer drinkers around the U.S. are still suffering from a recession hangover that has hurt major brewers, craft brewed beer is continuing to please more palates and this trend is finally showing positive signs in El Paso. “This trend has been increasing in the past four years [in El Paso], where as before it was almost non-existent,” said Adrian Perez, craft and imported beer specialist at L&F Distributors in El Paso. “Our craft beer selections have increased at 30-40% each month for the past year.”
Craft beers are defined typically as unique beer styles made by small independent brewers that are free from corporate large brewer ownership, such as Anheuser-Busch which produce more than 6,000,000 barrels a year. According to the Brewers Association based out of Boulder, Colorado, in the first half of 2010 the craft brew industry grew by 9% in volume and 12% by retail dollars, while overall beer sales dropped 2.7% by volume. Perez, also an active beer enthusiast, spends his spare time sponsoring craft and domestic beer tasting events at local restaurants and supermarkets to increase beer appreciation in the city.
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.
EL PASO – Antonio Santos’ office is loaded with nearly every Mexican cultural artifact imaginable. Bright blankets and border souvenirs adorn the walls while a virtually endless army of trinkets dance around a band of wrinkly papier-mâché mariachis who sing silently on the desk. In the far back of the room a giant cloth mural of an Aztec warrior drapes down behind a traditional Mexican altar piece dedicated to his father who died some years ago. Photos of Mexican film stars and portraits of Chicano activists such as Dolores Huerta and Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales cover the rest of the wall. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Raza,” Santos administers a wide variety of community programs for children and adults at La Fe’s Cultural and Technology Center, a local satellite in the larger network of community resource centers owned by the private non-profit company, Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, Inc.
“I like it when kids wander in here with curiosity.
EL PASO—Last month El Paso experienced freezing temperatures that led the city to understand that it is not prepared for this kind of weather. On February 3rd, temperatures in the Sun City went below zero for the first time since 1990. For over twenty years El Paso had not had to worry about any snowstorms or freeze complications, but this year the cold blasted the city leaving unprepared El Pasoans freezing and disappointed and unhappy suffering from rolling power outages, broken water pipes, and loss of school and workdays. “The weather situation has been unbearable. Not only can I not stay in my own home, but I have to rely on the graciousness of others to help me while this issue is being resolved.