Culture Shift: Looking at Identity in the Borderland Bubble

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.

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.

Filmmaker Galán honors Willie Velasquez’s Legacy in Latest PBS documentary in run up to Election 2016

Chicano filmmaker, Hector Galán documents the legacy of Willie Velasquez, the Mexican-American activist, who launched a grassroots movement that forever changed the political landscape in the United States in his Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice.” The film breaks cultural barriers highlighting the importance of the Latino vote and was recently presented at The University of Texas at El Paso’s Union Cinema and was accompanied by a voter registration effort to honor Velasquez’s legacy. A production of Galan Incorporated and Latino Public Broadcasting, “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice,” showcases the life of the man who led the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project and launched 1,000 voter registration drives in 200 cities. Velasquez paved the way for Latinos to have a voice in government and underscored the growing power of the Latino vote. Chicano independent filmmaker, Hector Galan directed the documentary shedding light on the Latino voting revolution.

Borderzine multimedia experience leads to journalism career opportunities

It’s been five years since my wife Danya and I first walked into the Cotton Memorial building for our introduction to journalism class at the University of Texas at El Paso. This is where we met our mentors David Smith Soto, Zita Arocha, and Lourdes Cueva Chacon. And where we learned the countless lessons we referenced every day at our internships and now at our jobs working for a daily newspaper. I was a creative writer at heart and felt comfortable with my storytelling abilities. Danya was an artistic photographer and felt comfortable telling visual stories.

Borderzine redesign reaches out to Border Life readers across all platforms

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 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.

At 80, El Paso folklorico pioneer Rosa Guerrero still lets faith guide her steps

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.

The Mextasy of William Nericcio dashes stereotypes and builds ‘mexicanidad’

EL PASO— The Mexican experience in America, presented with verve as a celebration of the culture and and as a bulwark against negative stereotypes in popular art and media was dubbed Mextasy by Dr. William Anthony Nericcio. “This anti-Mexican fervor needs to be met with a kind of invocation of mexicanidad that needs to be equally strong,” Nericcio says. “You got to attack it with the same power with the same fervor, with the same dynamic focus.”

Nericcio captivated a room of faculty members and students when he came to the University of Texas at El Paso recently to discuss and present his travelling art show,

TheMextasypop-up exposition contains objects that Nericcio has collected over the years, Ranging from dolls to posters that harken back to the 1950’s representing and satirizing the Mexican experience in the United States, representing an analysis of Hollywood’s contribution to perceptions of Mexican ethnic identities. Nericcio gets serious when addressing how consumers should fight the negative commentary on Mexicans that some commentators in media like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter advocate. Ectasy healing

For Nericcio, Mextasy can be seen as a form of defense and cure against those Mexican stereotypes and tropes.

Mexican flag inside an American flag

Remembering my bully and the wounds to my ethnic pride

Editor’s note: This blog is part of a series of first person essays about identity written by UTEP Liberal Arts Honors students during the spring 2013 semester. EL PASO – I still remember the name of my middle school bully and what he looked like. I might have been an insignificant part of his life but for me he was not. His behavior when I was a teenager produced fear, self-hate and an identity crisis that haunts me to this day. A native of Ciudad Juarez, I have always considered myself Mexican and I have been proud of my background.

I am not a “coconut” and proud of my Mexican American heritage

Editor’s note: This blog is part of a series of first person essays about identity written by UTEP honors students during the spring 2013 semester. EL PASO – All my life I have had problems with identity. I identified as a Mexican-American, but was always wondering what makes me Mexican-American. Is it because I am dark-skinned, or because I eat Mexican food? What constitutes Mexican food anyway – Taco Bell or Chico’s Taco’s?

Children at Rayito de Sol celebrate the daycare’s 12th anniversary. (Danya Hernandez/

A Rayito de Sol reaching bicultural children

Rayito de Sol – Radio story


DANYA HERNANDEZ (Reporter): Living in a border city, such as El Paso, Texas, can make many realize the benefits of cultivating both cultures. Some residents consider themselves not American enough to call themselves Americans and not Mexican enough to call themselves Mexicans. But they want their children to be able to embrace biculturalism and bilingualism, so they search for places where their children can be exposed to it at a young age. [Natural Sounds: Ambience music]

Marianne DiPasqualie, a mother of 3, expressed the importance of having her children immersed in the different cultures surrounding them. She said that being an Anglo family she wants her kids to be acceptant of other cultures and languages.

No, my papa is not Korean!

El Paso – I would be lying if I said I was a suave city girl. The truth is downtown still scares me. With all the shady characters walking up and down the streets and the shopkeepers peering at you with their hawk like eyes, downtown is not my vision of a shopper’s paradise. What I loathe most is that some stores require customers to leave their shopping bags at the front counter. Because I can’t be sure that my bag will be returned simply because my name is taped to it, when I leave something at the counter naturally I am apprehensive.

Pachuco Zoot: A Tale of Identity by coreographer Lisa Smith. (Ezra Rodriguez/

The Pachuco’s zoot suit established cultural identity, challenging prejudice

EL PASO – He stood tall and proud next to his newly polished red 1937 Chevy Deluxe Coupe, the feather on his wool felt tonda gliding through the cold spring breeze, his lisa and drapes crisp without fail. The two toned calcos on his feet shined as a star on dark cloudless day. No one in the barrio had trapos as suaves as this vato. He is part of the Pachuco subculture of young Mexican-American males that developed in the Southwest during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. They wore brightly colored zoot suits and spoke in a lyrical blend of Spanish and English called Caló.

El Paso, a border city considered by some as part of Mexico. (Raymundo Aguirre/

Learning journalism in El Paso opened my window to the world

EL PASO – Every time I’ve gone on vacation with my friends, people ask us where we are from. The conversation usually goes something like this: “We’re from Texas.” “I love Texas! What part?” “El Paso.” “Oh, so like, Mexico?” Yes, that’s right, at least once in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, and even in Europe, people thought we were basically from Mexico. This used to bother me because I will always pride myself on being a patriotic American citizen; however, I started to see how it would be easy for people outside of Texas to think that El Paso was just this forgotten part of the United States that somehow belonged to Mexico also. If you look at reports about border violence in Mexico, El Paso is almost always mentioned as the sister city to Ciudad Juarez.

When sicarios threatened to kill her, the muralist brought her art to El Paso

EL PASO – Her art name means magician and just like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, muralist Margarita “Mago” Gandara pulls creativity and rebellion from deep within her soul to produce intricate murals, sculptures and bronze pieces that mirror the Mexican-American culture that she fell in love with as a young child. The lively 82 year-old artist spins her story of survival in Juárez like a skilled story teller. After living in Juárez for nearly 40 years, Gandara was threatened by “sicarios” or assassins, who targeted her after seeing her truck with Texas license plates outside of her adobe home studio in a southern Juárez colonia. Immediately after being threatened, Gandara, with the help of her son, fled from her home taking as many pieces of art as she could, while still leaving some behind. Many of the pieces, along with additional new works will be displayed at an exhibit she calls, “Peregrinas Immigrantes” at UTEP on October 13th.

A mural with the most important character of Segundo Barrio can be found at E. Father Rahm Ave. (Azenett Cornejo/

Segundo Barrio: a ‘living history’ lesson

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.

Mom and daughter graduate together into a new awareness

EL PASO – Ambar Calvillo told her mother over dinner she was madly in love with another woman. Although Irma Calvillo was shocked, she accepted her daughter to the fullest and then had to suffer through strong criticism from her family for that acceptance. “Nobody is going to tell me how to raise them,” she said. Irma, 46, majoring in human resources and Ambar, 22, majoring in public relations will graduate together with BA degrees in May from the University of Texas at El Paso. “College has given me that confidence I never had, and I think I have become more humble and open to this generation now than before” said Irma.

18 years after his death, Cesar Chavez still battles in the Texas Legislature

EL PASO – The after-effects of UTEP’s decision to preserve César Chávez Day as a holiday still continue to be felt both across the campus and frontiers beyond. The decision, which was officially passed on February 8th, ensures that the holiday, held in honor of the Mexican-American champion of fair labor, will be celebrated by the students this year, despite the fact the campus will remain open to faculty and staff. The decision comes as a result of a massive organizational effort by the UTEP student body, and is considered a decisive victory by its supporters. Yet very few people outside the campus might be aware of the enormous impact this decision makes in this state’s political arena. The reason César Chávez Day was originally threatened with cancellation was due to a proposed decision by the state of Texas to re-define and eliminate the basic elements of the holiday.

The Chicano Movement — alive and evolving

EL PASO, Texas — El Movimiento, also known as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, was the empowerment of Mexican Americans in the 60s and 70s. Almost a half century later, Chicanos, Latinos and Hispanics continue to fight a struggle, but at times it does not have the same clout as it once did. “There were several arenas that took on a voice back in the late 60’s and early 70’s,” said Benjamín Sáenz, department chair for Creative Writing. “There was a literary movement that involved many writers, mostly poets…and then there was a purely political movement.”

Sáenz, a writer and professor at UTEP, said he was very much involved in the fight and highly political during those times. “We move forward all these years—after the civil rights movement and we talk about the Chicano Movement, but there is no movement per se.

Chicanos march again against war and racism

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “The workingman gives up his dreams and slaves for all his life,” the impassioned marcher shouted, her voice blaring Chicanoism out of a bullhorn that echoed down the streets of East Los Angeles. Hundreds of sign-wielding activists marched in the streets to mark the 40th anniversary of the National Chicano Moratorium of the Vietnam War August 27. The Moratorium, which was implemented by the Chicano movement back in 1970, protested the exploitation of minorities, especially Latinos in the Vietnam War. The march followed the original 1970 route, in East L.A., down Whittier Boulevard, passing the Silver Dollar, the bar where Ruben Salazar, a Juarez-El Paso native and acclaimed war and human rights journalist was killed 40 years ago during the first moratorium march.

Raised in Two Cultures, But Uncomfortable in Both

EL PASO, Texas — “Can I have the rosa-pink sticker instead?” I would ask Miss Pat, my teacher at St. Mark’s when I was three years old. “I don’t like the amarillo-yellow one,” I would say. Growing up as a three year old, I distinctively remember my obsession with “rosa-pink.” I wanted everything —from my Barbie’s dress to the color of my room— to be “rosa-pink.” My aunts and uncles knew me as “rosa-pink” because everything I owned was “rosa-pink.”

Strangely enough, I never really thought of the term “rosa-pink” to be an odd way to refer to the color pink. It was just the way my mother taught me how to say pink in both Spanish and English.

Roses and Thorns — Painter Gaspar Enriquez’ Students Are His Inspiration

EL PASO, Texas — Seeing no future in art, legendary El Paso artist Gaspar Enriquez abandoned the idea of pursuing an artistic career during his high school years. Little did he know where the potential of his talent would take him. “I liked art since I was a kid, but knew there was little or no pay in the field,” said Enriquez. Having grown up in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Segundo Barrio, Enriquez found himself growing up at a faster rate than most teenage kids. Moving to East Los Angeles right after graduating from Bowie High School, Enriquez began working as a dishwasher, then at a defense plant lab, and eventually as a machinist as he continued working his way up until he graduated in 1970 from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a degree in Art Education.

Marchers Demand That Congress Reform Unfair Immigration Laws

EL PASO, Texas – Now that the historic health care reform bill has been pushed through Capitol Hill, hundreds of thousands of immigration reform supporters expect to see their comprehensive plan in the congressional forefront this year. “It’s been needed. It’s been needed for a while now,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, who organized a march in El Paso, Texas. “We have people being separated. We have people being deported.

¡Andele! — the Latin Press Has 200 Years of History in the U.S.

EL PASO, Texas — The Latin press in the United States, currently one of the bright spots in the changing world of media in the Internet age, has been around for 202 years. From the moment the first press in the Americas started printing in México City during Spanish colonial times to the newspapers of the Mexican revolution, to the papers helping ease the transition of immigrant life in the U.S., the Latin press has always given a voice to those who could not speak or would not be heard. Dr. Felix Gutierrez told an audience a the University of Texas at El Paso, April 8, that for more than 200 years the Latin press has been pumping out news important to the immigrant and to the first generation Latinos looking for a way to fit in an Anglo world without losing their culture. Gutierrez, a Visiting Professor of Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Southern California, has co-authored five books and more than 50 articles in academic journals professional publications and books mostly focusing on media diversity. Gutierrez, who holds a PhD from Stanford University, showed a demo reel of a movie he is helping research entitled, Voices for Justice, a documentary chronicling the role the Spanish and bilingual press has played in certain movements in the Latin community here and abroad.

Ancient Traditions Refresh Aztec Pride

EL PASO ­ — Two elders lifted conch shells to their lips and bellows from these primal trumpets — primordial prayers aimed at the sky — signaled to a third man to kneel as smoky incense wafted from a clay cup in his left hand. The offering ceremony, repeated three times as the heuy tecuhtlis, or elder leaders, paid tribute to mother earth in a rite that has been performed for thousands of years, long before European settlers set foot in the new world. This is how the Danza Azteca, or Aztec Dance, began at the Mercado Mayapan, a local marketplace and community center. “The dances that we do are thousands of years old. They’ve been passed down from generation to generation,” said Ramón Arroyos, 60.

The Valley’s Confused Souls — A teen confronts cultural borderlines

EDINBURG, Tex. — Has a stranger ever come up to you and asked you if you were a freak? As you can probably guess, it’s happened to me. As a naïve 8th grader, I didn’t know what to make of a question like that. Two months earlier I had relocated from Topeka, Kansas to Hidalgo, Texas; a really big change at a difficult time in a child’s life.

Life Lessons From my Mexican Mom

EDINBURG, Tex. — My mom is very close minded. I don’t know where she got it from but I’m more than sure she passed it on to me. I can’t imagine same-sex marriages are happening. I know that’s something that might sound arrogant to some but to me, it’s who I am.

Mexicanos, Viva Mexico

El PASO — The aroma of churros filled the air at San Jacinto Plaza along with the mariachis blasting away at their tunes and then el grito, “Mexicanos, viva Mexico!” rang out. Hundreds of El Paso citizens gathered at the downtown plaza, September 15, for “Viva Mexico!” the 199th Anniversary to celebrate the anniversary of independence of Mexico from Spain in 1810. “Just being here reminds me of how far we’ve come since that day and the struggle they must’ve gone through for us, it makes me extremely humble yet full of pride,” said Alejandra Acosta, an El Paso resident who attended the celebration. Mexican Independence Day celebrates the events leading up to the day in which after centuries of oppression, Mexico or New Spain as it was then called, won its freedom from Spain.

UTEP features alumnus Alfredo Corchado

EL PASO — Alfredo Corchado’s fellow alumni, family and friends, gathered at University of Texas at El Paso recently to listen the award-winning Mexico Bureau Chief of the Dallas Morning News and this year’s Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Since his graduation from UTEP in 1987, Corchado has focused his writing on border issues and he continues to mentor and inspire young journalists who show a similar passion for investigative reporting. His family has supported his hard work and dedication and benefited from his example, said Linda Corchado, Alfredo’s youngest sibling, a Swarthmore graduate. “I’m very proud of my brother. He really opened up the world to me and made it accessible.