In the leadup to the Nov. 3 election and in its aftermath, there’s been a lot of talk about how Latinos aren’t a monolith, and the messiness of trying to lump so many different people into one group. It’s also something Brandy Ruiz has been thinking about. She’s a journalism student at the University of Texas at El Paso. What, she wondered, does it even mean to be Latino or Hispanic?
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.
EL PASO – Dressed in a bright orange jacket adorned with a necklace and a crucifix pendant, Rosa Guerrero flashes a warm smile, projecting the trademark youthful spirit and upbeat stamina that belie her approaching 80th birthday. “Age is just a matter of the mind,” Guerrero said as she sipped her cranberry and orange juice drink, a mix she concocted herself. “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.”
Guerrero’s long resume in the professional dance world has not weighed her down. An avid dancer in all types of genres, a dance teacher of students that range in age from two-year- olds to 100-year-olds, and an ambassador for Mexican folkloric dance, her love for dance is evident in the rhythm of her hand gestures and expressive nature. “I started dancing in my mother’s womb,” Guerrero exclaimed as she sculpted a simple dance move with her hands.
Yesenia Cruz Pascual only knew about three other Hispanics on campus before joining the Hispanic American Student Community Alliance. She felt that not being able to interact with other Latino students was affecting her ability to keep in touch with her Spanish heritage. “Since I only get to go home every three months or so, and I call my mom like once a week, I didn’t get to practice my Spanish very often,” said Pascual, president of HASCA at East Tennessee State University. Anai Saucedo experienced the same lack of diversity. She said that before joining HASCA, she only knew one other person who spoke Spanish.
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.