Listen up Ms. Napolitano: more enforcement doesn’t equal border safety

EL PASO—Two Hispanic students stood up in protest as the rest of the audience in the auditorium clapped during Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s recent speech at the University of Texas at El Paso. The female students held up signs that read “Education not Militarization” and “Security to Whom?” but only for a few seconds before they were escorted out of the auditorium. As this occurred, I wondered if their removal from a public forum is a violation of their freedom of speech.  So I asked the question during my next Communication Law class and found out that what had happened is like screaming fire in a crowded theater: “You can say anything you like as long as you don’t put anyone in danger; Napolitano could claim she was in danger,” said Dr. Barthy Byrd, associate professor in the Department of Communication and an expert on media law. Napolitano barely looked up from the paper she read during her speech to acknowledge what had just happened in the audience.  Afterward, she answered a few pre-selected questions that only demonstrated she really does think we owe her our gratitude for protecting the U.S. Southern border. “Some of the safest communities in America are right here on the border,” said Napolitano, claiming that she was not here doing a victory lap.

Severe winter storm paralyzes the Sun City

EL PASO — The Sun City came to a complete standstill for a week when it was blind-sided by the worst winter storm in a decade, which cut off electricity and shut down the water systems.

The bitter wintry weather hit this high-desert city of nearly a million persons Feb. 1, a Tuesday night, as El Pasoans were going to bed. They woke up to three inches of snow in some areas of the city and temperatures well below freezing. What looked at first like a snow-day turned out to be a snow-week, leaving El Paso schools and businesses closed for several days. Freezing weather led to a voluntary curfew in the first few days of the wintry blast for safety reasons.

Sun City thaws for the Super Bowl

El Pasoans celebrate the Super Bowl

EL PASO, Texas — The frigid cold from the worst winter blizzard to hit the Sun City in a decade didn’t stop Super Bowl fans here from overheating. Record low temperatures in El Paso that caused citywide blackouts and water restrictions didn’t stop fans from celebrating one last Sunday of football. While over 100,000 spectators watched the Green Bay Packers drub the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL’s 45th Super Bowl game February 6 at Dallas Stadium in Arlington, Texas, millions celebrated at home and bars across the country. El Paso predominantly a Dallas Cowboys fan-base, voiced a share of cheers for both teams.

Local sporting goods stores took advantage of the popularity of the teams, Sports Xplosion manager Oscar Moreno noticed an increase in sales this year compared to last year’s Super Bowl, which featured the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, “It’s been real busy. We’re up about 30 percent compared to last year at this time,” Moreno said in the days leading up to the game.

Southwest Anime lovers flower at festival

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Hundreds of people dressed in brightly colored costumes, wielding plastic weapons ranging from the largest Styrofoam swords to the smallest light-up magic wands, telling heroic tales of giant robots, ninjas, death gods, magical girls and samurai flocked to New Mexico State University’s Corbett Center. Las Cruces Anime Days, the region’s premiere Anime and Japanese culture festival now in its second year of celebration drew the motley crowd on a Saturday in late January. Crossing the halls between the Artist Alley, Dealer’s Room, event rooms, karaoke, video gaming rooms and panels, the images that surround the crowd couldn’t be more different from one another. At one table, original volume of manga, depicts the semi-realistic lives of students in high school. At another you could find an independent artist selling uniquely styled glassware and embroidery.

Compassion undermines the border-wall of separation

And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But oh if I were young again
And held her in my arms
– William Butler Yeats, Politics

When Ghandi decided to protest the salt tax (unfair because it affected the poor more than the rich – they’d lose salt from sweat, and need to consume more) he walked 240 miles to the ocean. He would get his own salt. It was on the beaches, already his, part of the eternal harmony between humans and the earth. I imagine him on the coast, overwhelmed by the radiance of the light bouncing between the water, sky, and shore. He picks up a tiny lump of salt.

This Saturday, people from Juarez, El Paso, or elsewhere (myself an east-coaster, studying at UTEP) joined together in solidarity at the border fence, just off Sunland Park Drive. Gandhi’s march and the event at the fence are both expressions of a solidarity that underlies our species.

Border residents demand an end to drug-war violence

SUNDLAND PARK, N.M. — Without crossing the U.S.–Mexico line, demonstrators from the two nations gathered January 29 on both sides of the border fence at Anapra on the Mexican side and Sunland Park on the U.S. side to rail against the violence in Juarez that has killed thousands in the past four years. The drug-spawned violence has moved the El Paso community to take a stand along their neighbors to show that the city under siege is not alone. “No more spattered blood. No más sangre,” they shouted. The chants for peace and justice on each side of the border pervaded the atmosphere that Saturday morning.

Day Two Live Blogging the American Society of News Editors Inter American Press Association Border Newspapers Editors Summit

8:37 A.M.: Day two of the ASNE/IAPA Summit has started. First panel is entitled The Role of the Mexican Government. The panelists are Gustavo Salas Chavez, Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, Mexican Attorney General’s Office and Raul Plascencia Villanueva with the Human Rights Commission. The moderator is Eric Olson, Senior Associate for Security Policy. 8:41 A.M.: Villanueva is not present.

Live blogging: The American Society of News Editors/Inter American Press Association Border Newspapers Editors Summit

EL PASO, Texas —

2:09 P.M.: Conference has started. Andres Gyllenhall, Vice President of News and Washington for McClatchy Newspapers and Alfredo Carbajal, Managing editor of Al Dia, Dallas Morning News welcoming attendees. 2:11 P.M.:  There are about 40 people in attendance. 2:12 P.M.: Angela Kocherga, Border Bureau Chief will now present a video from the El Paso/Juarez region. 2:13 P.M.: The video is a feature on journalists who report from the violence-stricken city.

El Día de los Muertos es para que los vivos recuerden

EL PASO, Texas — Mientras el olor de incienso llenaba el aire, familiares de los difuntos adornaban altares en su honor con papel picado, flor de cempazuchitl, veladoras y su comida favorita. El Día de los Muertos no pasó desapercibido para cientos de personas de El Paso, quienes entre bailables, antojitos, poesía, música y artesanías, aprovecharon la oportunidad para aprender más detalles de esta antigua tradición en distintos eventos realizados por  El Mercado Mayapán y El Rincón Bohemio. “En la cultura latina creemos que el espíritu de esa persona que se fue está a nuestro alrededor y esta es una manera de celebrar su vida y nuestra vida”, dijo María Miranda Maloney coordinadora de Rincón Bohemio. “Es poder pensar en ellos, compartir sus historias, su comida favorita, se trata de el ciclo de la vida y aunque es triste este es su día”. Como es costumbre en México, el  Día de los Muertos se celebra el 1 y 2 de Noviembre empezando el primer día con la celebración para los niños difuntos o “Día de los Angelitos” y se conmemora a los adultos el segundo día.

UTEP offers solace to its Mexican students

EL PASO, Texas — The office of the vice president for student affairs at the University of Texas at El Paso has issued a letter addressed to students commuting to class from Mexico, encouraging those who may be experiencing difficulty coping with the recent murders in Juarez of two UTEP students to utilize the services the university provides. “The recent loss of students, Manuel A. Acosta and Eder A. Diaz, has been a difficult situation for the entire UTEP community. I am aware that for those of you who live in Juarez and other parts of Mexico or those of you who have immediate family there may be experiencing that loss more acutely,” said Dr. Richard Padilla, Vice President for Student Affairs. Padilla encouraged the UTEP student body to watch for students who may be struggling with the recent tragic events. “Let them know that there are people on campus who may be able to help.

More reaction to the killing of two UTEP students

EL PASO, Texas — The murder of two University of Texas at El Paso students continues to reverberate on campus, eliciting reactions from students, faculty and administration. “It really pains me,” said Dr. Gina Nunez-Mchiri, professor of Anthropology and Sociology at UTEP. “They’re our students… We know people who are losing family members to the violence and it affects us. It takes our sleep away.

El Paso goes orange for a day

EL PASO, Texas — A proclamation by the city of El Paso named Friday, November 12 as El Paso “Miner Orangeville” day to mark the basketball season opener against Pacific with Coach Tim Floyd. Coach Floyd was assistant to Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins from 1978-1986.  The team will wear Texas Western uniforms for the first game.  The University of Texas at El Paso was formerly Texas Western College, from 1949 to 1967. It was in 1966, under Coach Haskins, that Texas Western College fielded the first-ever all black starting team in a NCAA Championship game and then won the championship. Just as Coach Haskins broke barriers with the 1966 team, breaks through borders of all kinds with journalism.  Join us in the celebration by wearing UTEP orange on that day and in continuing to overcome barriers. Go Miners!

Ciudad en cenizas, o cómo vivir una vida a lo gringa movie

I suspect our city
will soon be laid to ashes
Our island city
Rowing out over the river in the dark
They have divided. Eleni Sikelianos
EL PASO, Texas — Una sabe que las cosas no andan bien del otro lado cuando lee el periódico, lee las notas en Internet, escucha los helicópteros por las noches o los comentarios de queja, enojo o lamento en redes sociales como Twitter o Facebook. Una sabe que Ciudad Juárez lo está pasando realmente mal. Una, además, tiene el descaro de enterarse de todo esto desde la comodidad de su hogar en el otro lado, en El Paso. No es lo mismo, en efecto, que Una se duela de lo que ocurre más allá de la línea cuando se está aquí.

Sidewalk spectacle takes art to the people

EL PASO, Texas — The metal giant’s arm reached out and grabbed a blue, two-door sedan with its six-foot long hydraulic metal fingers, raised it up as high as the street lights and then dropped it letting it crash on the asphalt below. Half a dozen junked cars waited for destruction inside a circle of steel barriers blocking off a section of downtown at Oregon and Mills St. at this year’s Chalk the Block art festival, The cleverly named Hand of Man was one of the main attractions, stopping crowds in their tracks as pieces of broken plastic and car hoses shot out at the feet of on-lookers. Crew-member Nathan Oswald explained that artist and creator Christian Ristow, “…wanted to be able to build something participatory.” Unlike many art pieces, the idea behind this installation, Oswald said, is to be something fun for the crowd to become a part of. Mario Castillo won a chance to control and set the sculpture in motion, through a local radio station’s call-in contest.

Being bicultural and bilingual propelled Mike Martinez to success

EL PASO, Texas — Stepping out of a business meeting to negotiate his transfer from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, Mike Martinez looked out into a violent Chicago blizzard. “It was snowing horizontally,” he recalled. He had been promised a move to Spain — a dream job for him — but the company decided they needed his skills at a national office. It was Christmas Day. He called his wife in San Juan telling her about the storm and asked her, “So, how would you like to move to Chicago?”

Life’s little things carry loads of meaning for Dagoberto Gilb

EL PASO, Texas – Dagoberto Gilb creates colorful images with a few words, drawing scenes in an audience’s imagination like a skilled painter. The El Pasoans present at a recent lecture here are his canvas and also his inspiration. This border city in the Chihuahuan desert is the main setting for many of the stories written by this internationally published author. “I have written 72 short stories and all of them except for three are set either in El Paso, or L.A.,” Gilb said. For the first time since he wrote Pride a feature in the Texas observer in 2001, Gilb, read it here, where it originated.

Farah company veterans relive the garment maker’s rise and fall

EL PASO, Texas. — A purple box of tissues was passed around a table by former staffers of the family-owned Farah Manufacturing Company as they grew emotional remembering the glory days of the world’s largest manufacturer of men’s slacks. The panelists told stories of their experiences and the family dynamic of El Paso’s 20th century garment-industry giant at the El Paso Museum of History on Saturday, October 9th.  “It was a culture built around more of a personality of a family member, as opposed to a general family culture,” said former Farah vice-president of human resources, Dan Cruse. The Department of History at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and the El Paso Museum of History combined their efforts to bring together former employees, close family friends and members of the Farah family, to tell stories of the time they spent with the Farah family and company.

Reservado – Un Juárez sutil

EL PASO, Texas — Seis actores locales y un número considerable de extras podrán formar parte del elenco de un cortometraje que se comenzará a rodar en El Paso el 15 de noviembre y cuyo casting comienza este viernes, informaron sus realizadores. La pieza cinematográfica, titulada “Reservado”, cuenta las peripecias, viscisitudes, concesiones morales que vive un mesero de Ciudad Juárez para reunir suficiente dinero y comprar la sortija de matrimonio para su novia. Tras ese pretexto aflora una verdad excepcional: las ganas de vivir, la pobreza, el amor, el miedo, los riesgos de un submundo rico en matices, dudas, sueños, así como el caudal cultural único de México. “Juárez y El Paso son una misma comunidad, rodaremos aquí porque queremos ofrecer un producto netamente paseño, además aquí hay talento genuinamente mexicano que podemos aprovechar”, dijo, el productor, Christian Moldes. Y agregó: “Nos resultará más cómodo por cuestiones propias de la producción, todo el equipo de trabajo vive aquí, así que optimizaremos tiempo, gastos, locaciones, todo”.

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.

Bordering on Acceptance: Growing Up Gay on the Border

EL PASO, Texas — To live in a border city is to live between contrasting jurisdictions and beliefs. It is to delicately walk the line that divides cultures – never falling to either side – balanced by an ability to sustain contradictions. For the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Bisexual community of El Paso, the city they call home is riddled both in tradition and progressive thought. The line the GLBT community walks is an interminable border that hovers between acceptance and condemnation. “People from both sides of the border … all we’re doing is just tolerating each other, coping with each other, instead of mastering our differences,” said Rosio De Leon, student at the University of Texas at El Paso. launches “Mexodus” – a multimedia-reporting project on the exodus of Mexicans fleeing violence – with a $25,000 journalism grant

El Paso, Texas –– A team of UTEP student reporters working with an experienced bilingual journalist will develop and publish a multimedia project for examining the exodus of middle-class Mexicans and businesses from the northern border and other parts of Mexico because of increasing levels of crime and drug violence. The project, called “Mexodus” and funded by a $25,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, examines the economic, education and cultural impact of the growing out migration from Mexico to El Paso and other areas. According to one estimate, more than 400,000 Mexican citizens have fled the country in the last three years. Mexico recently reported more than 28,000 drug war-related deaths since 2006. “We are proud to support projects like this one at UTEP which reinforce best practices in investigative journalism and multimedia in a university classroom setting and set a high standard for similar student projects elsewhere,” said Bob Ross, President and CEO of Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Juarenses cross the border to celebrate “16 de Septiembre”

EL PASO, Texas — Thousands, including many who crossed the border from Juarez, gathered to celebrate “16 de Septiembre” — 200 years of Mexican independence from Spain — at San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso. Festivities here drew more people than usual because public events in Juarez were curtailed due to the current drug-related violence there. Juarez residents were asked to celebrate at home with a televised ceremony. Others opted to celebrate in El Paso at Mexican Consulate sponsored festivities. “We came to celebrate because we heard a big party was going to take place,” said Juarez high school student Diana Mojarro, 17.

Pat Mora loves a place

EL PASO, Texas — Durante la presentación de Pat Mora, una de las escritoras más queridas por la comunidad mexico-americana, especialmente la de Texas, el público pudo escuchar de la voz de la escritora algunos fragmentos de su obra, sus ideas sobre la importancia de leer y de enseñar, pero quizá lo más importante fue saber lo que ella siente por esa ciudad. En un auditorio lleno, Pat Mora inició diciendo que para ella era muy especial estar ahí, este es el lugar al que su padre llegó cuando dejó Chihuahua, el lugar donde nació su madre, donde nació ella y donde nacieron sus hijos. “En Mesita se acababa la ciudad”, dijo. Ofreció diversos y ricos detalles sobre una ciudad de El Paso muy lejana a la actual. Pero lo más importante fue cuando Pat dijo: “Love a place, one is full when one loves a place.”

¿Cuántos de los que estaban en ese auditorio aman un lugar?

Elio Leturia (far right) and his group of reporters, photojournalist John Freeman and multimedia professor Elizabeth Marsh, interviewing Kate Bonasinga, director of the Rubin Center. (Lourdes Cueva Chacón/

Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy

Twelve journalism professors were welcomed in early June in El Paso where the temperature hit 110 degrees. “Summer started earlier for me,” I thought. We all had been selected to participate in a multimedia training geared to journalism professors who teach in cities with a large Hispanic population. The chosen states? California, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

Juarez Violence Changing Lives: UTEP Students Affected

EL PASO, Texas — In May, 2010, UTEP student Alejandro Ruiz Salazar, 19—also an employee of the Graduate School—was the first known UTEP student slain in Juarez since the beginning of the current drug war. The same day, former UTEP student Jorge Pedro Gonzalez Quintero, 21, was murdered. According to Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the situation in Mexico is worse now than the Colombian drug war of the 1980s and 1990s ever was. “Colombia was never threatened like the government of Mexico is with the level of violence,” McCraw stated at a Capitol hearing. “At first, we all saw the violence and murders as something that would never happen to us but now so many families have been torn apart, and a once prosperous, to some extent happy city, has been destroyed,” Acosta commented.

Protesters demand the changes Obama promised

EL PASO, Texas — As President Barack Obama addressed the troops in Ft. Bliss Tuesday morning, protest groups gathered here to voice disappointment with the lack of change they say was promised by candidate Obama. “I’m out here because we were promised immigration reform,” said Delia Barra, a member of Red Fronteriza, the organization that headed the protest. Some 100 protesters lined up on Airway Boulevard between Montana and Boeing, just across from the airport Marriott at 11 a.m. just as heat waves began to rise from the sidewalk.  As the Sun City blazed down on their heads, bottled water was distributed down the long line of protest posters and US flags. “I joined for the reason that I don’t want families to be separated [due to deportation].