EL PASO — Writing in his personal journal shortly before newsman Ruben Salazar was killed by cops during a 1970 Chicano Anti War march in Los Angeles, the now legendary Mexican-American journalists asks: “Why do I always have to apologize to Americans for Mexicans and to Mexicans for Americans?”
His question sounds almost innocent against the turbulent anti-establishment tone of the times. Yet it still resonates for most U.S. journalists with hyphenated identities, myself included. As I watched the PBS documentary, “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle,” a few weeks ago at a packed auditorium on the University of Texas El Paso campus, it felt like I was looking into a mirror and witnessing my own ambiguity about my Cuban and U.S. identities. It seems to me that ambiguity about identity frames the existential experience of most immigrants to this country. Where do we belong?
EL PASO – While viewing the special screening here of the new documentary on the life and death of Mexican-American journalist Ruben Salazar, Man in the Middle, I experienced a mix of emotions. The documentary by Phillip Rodriguez address the duality of his life as a journalist, but, it felt to me that it lacked a wider explanation of Salazar’s private life. Salazar came from a Mexican background and grew up in El Paso, but the documentary portrayed him as identifying more with American culture. Salazar was an outstanding journalist who took risks and was not afraid to take assignments other journalists avoided. I felt that that my image of Salazar had changed after watching this documentary, as it explained that his death might not have been an accident, but rather an intentional attack.
EL PASO – Five unique and experienced voices were heard at the University of Texas at El Paso this week discussing the seemingly eternal drug war and the government policies that fuel it that has plagued the U.S.-Mexico border region in recent years. The participants included UTEP professor and author Dr. Howard Campbell, former DEA agent Gilberto Gonzalez, UTEP Communication professor Andrew Kennis, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke (D., El Paso). The event, called “Drug Policy on the Border and Beyond: Dangers Facing Journalists, Obstacles Facing Policy Makers” organized by Kennis, added to the growing discussion by policy makers, law enforcement, public officials and journalists on how to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico and led to increased anti-drug enforcement along the U.S. side of the border. Hernandez, an investigative journalist in Mexico who has done some of the best coverage of the drug war and published a book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, in English and Spanish, drew upon her extensive research to discuss the strong connections between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. She also spoke of the importance of the drug economy to the people of Mexico.
EL PASO – Sitting on the cold hard cement the man was able to remove part of his blindfold and focusing his sight, the dim light revealed a small dirty room covered in blood. Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, 42, had been kidnapped in Torreon, Mexico, and one of the few who survived to tell the story. He worked as a cameraman for the television station, Televisa, in Torreon. On July 26, 2010 during a regular day of work, Pacheco was sent to cover a news story about killings connected to a prison in his city. Hernandez and two fellow reporters were sent to the prison in Gomez Palacio, Durango, were several murders of guards had taken place that same month.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Everyday journalists from all over the world make a pilgrimage to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Ciudad Juárez, to try to document the city’s daily terror on its people. I have gone into Juárez before to try to document that for myself, but this time I wanted to tell the stories of the journalists. Journalists who risk their lives to cover the thousands of murders that happen every year. This was my attempt to try to get a small glimpse into what it takes to cover Juárez in a day’s shift. For one day this past summer, I rode along with two fixers, and met a news crew from Sydney, Australia, a couple of photographers from El Norte newspaper, and visited the local state bureau of investigation.
WASHINGTON – I strongly believe in the common phrase “everything happens for a reason,” and entering the fall internship at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire fits the expression perfectly. Not only did I arrive here during Hispanic Heritage Month, making the transition from El Paso to Washington a little easier, but I also got the opportunity to witness two brave female reporters from El Diario de Juarez receive the Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists. Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto earned master’s degrees in journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso, my hometown university where I am majoring in multimedia journalism. We also happen to share a mentor, Zita Arocha, senior lecturer and director of the university’s online magazine, Borderzine.com. Gallegos and Nieto’s passion for journalism has led them to risk their lives every day, living and reporting in Juarez, a city ruled by corruption and impunity.
EL PASO – Juárez journalists, Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, were awarded the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award last week for their investigative work on El Diario De Juárez, in the world’s most violent city. The award symbolizes a “valuable recognition” of the work of journalists in Ciudad Juárez, Rodríguez said. She hopes that it also will change the commonly believed notion that Mexican reporters on the border have been silenced by the lawlessness in the embattled city. Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalism said, “These extraordinary journalists dare to tell stories that few have the courage to address. Because of them, we have an essential understanding of the tragedies faced by citizens in México.”
Rodríguez’ and Gallegos’ investigative reporting has done much to expose corrupt government officials and the ruthless drug cartels battling for control in Juárez and other parts of México.
EL PASO — The June 20 shooting deaths of a journalist, his wife, and their 21-year-old son in their home in Veracruz, México, underscore the assessment by a Washington human rights organization that México no longer has a free press. Freedom House dropped México’s ranking to a “partly free” country citing the innumerable threats to the country’s media independence in the current climate of drug-war violence. México was listed as “partly free” in large part because of the self-censorship, violent and deadly attacks on journalists, and a feeling of fear that has taken over the nation. The murders of Miguel Ángel López Velasco, 55, a columnist for the daily newspaper Notiver and his son Misael López, a photographer for Notiver are more atrocities in an unrelenting series of criminal actions against Mexican journalists. Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights estimates that in the past 10 years 83 Mexican journalists have been killed or have disappeared.
Dos vehículos utilitarios interceptaron el automóvil de Valentín Valdés Espinosa en el centro de Saltillo, México. Unos matones armados obligaron al reportero de asignaciones generales de 29 años de edad a entrar en uno de los autos. Sucedió poco antes de la medianoche del 7 de enero de 2010. En los días precedentes, Valdés Espinosa había informado agresivamente sobre el arresto de varios narcotraficantes en esa ciudad norteña de México para su periódico, El Zócalo de Saltillo, y había cometido el pecado cardinal de identificarlos por nombre. En otro artículo, Valdés Espinosa había identificado a un agente policial que fue arrestado por estar en la nómina de los narcotraficantes.