For nearly two years, land borders between Mexico and the United States have been closed to all non-essential travel. Air borders between the countries, though, have fallen in a grey area — with private planes and chartered flights touching down every day in El Paso.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, Wilfrid Laurier University and Iván Francisco Porraz Gómez, ECOSUR
The day we arrive in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, the southern Mexican state that borders Guatemala, all is quiet. A violent confrontation had occurred just the day before: Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, had thrown rocks at Mexican migration officials who attempted to stop their entry into Mexico over the international bridge. Many of the migrants hope their final destination will be a better life in the United States. As we approach the town, we chance upon a small caravan of about 30 men, women and children walking along the road in the scorching sun. They are in rough shape and we decide not to take photos today.
Along the dry, rocky desert of El Paso, Texas–past all the food chains and shopping malls–a brown fence stretches for miles. The fence marks the southern U.S. border that separates El Paso from its Mexican sister city, Juarez. Antonio Villaseñor-Baca is 22-years-old and was born and raised in El Paso. His hometown is a huge “borderplex” that spans the Rio Grande River. Antonio has an uncle in Juarez, and while growing up, his dad would take him back and forth a lot.
Life in a border city can be like a relationship status on social media. It’s complicated. More than 1 million people live in the El Paso-southern New Mexico region. Another 1.3 million live across the border in Juarez, Mexico. We are separated by an international boundary set along the path of a formerly meandering river.
EL PASO – As a child at the beginning of the new millennium, Ana Carolina’s city was notorious as a place where hundreds of women went missing. Now a student at UT El Paso, the theme of empowering women is at the core of many of Carolina’s works. For Carolina and other young artists from Ciudad Juarez, art has become a way to process and escape from the ugly reality of the drug wars and other violence that surrounded them growing up. “The disappearance of so many young women is something that really characterized Ciudad Juarez, so I think that really influenced my art a lot,” Carolina said. “I draw women and something that represents them is that they are all facing forward and looking straight at you. My women are strong; we are not just a symbol of sexuality or sensuality in the arts.”
Carolina also uses her art to express the cultural beauty that characterizes this region where Mexico and Texas connect.
For years Casa del Migrante, a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, has been a haven and a crossing point for immigrants coming from the south, but the uncertainty of new immigration policies under the Trump presidency is convincing some of them to remain at the border indefinitely. In 2015 the shelter received 5,600 immigrants. Last year the number increased to more than 9,000, officials said. Ana Lizeth Bonilla, 28, sways back a stroller back and forth watching her two year-old son, Jose Luis, as he sleeps. “Now, we’re just waiting for her,” the pregnant woman says as her arm rests on her baby bump.
One El Pasoan who is super excited by Pope Francis’ visit this week to Juarez, is 19-year-old UTEP student Gilbert Lopez, a practicing Catholic who is gay. He credits this pope and his compassionate words and attitude toward homosexuals for motivating him to come out as a gay teenager. “When I was not accepting of my sexuality, when I would come in contact with homosexuals, it was either you’re religious or you’re not,” said Lopez, who considers himself a devout Catholic and is a member of his church choir. “A lot of times people who are homosexual aren’t religious because of the way people talk about it. They get discouraged,” he said.
EL PASO — La dedicación y el esfuerzo es una de las muchas características que como comunidad, el Segundo Barrio posee. Un claro ejemplo de esto es Adriana Sifuentes, que como muchos otros latinos, decidió superarse a base de una entrega total para alcanzar una de sus principales metas en la vida, que era abrir un salón de belleza. Después de vivir en una rutina diaria por largos años y de sentir como si el tiempo se escapara, Sifuentes sin buscarlo, recibió la oferta que cambio gran parte de su vida. Abrir su propio negocio en 600 Park dentro de la comunidad del Segundo Barrio. ‘’La experiencia ha sido muy diferente a la anterior que trabajaba para alguien, estamos muy contentas la gente es muy linda, es muy sencilla y muy amable, se han portado muy bien aquí con nosotros…gracias a Dios nos ha ido muy bien y esperemos que así siga‘’, dijo Sifuentes, quien esta contenta en donde trabaja.
EL PASO — Searching all over the northern parts of Mexico in 1976 for the origin of some pottery he found at a second hand store in Deming, NM, Spencer MacCallum came to a town just about three blocks long, on the verge of extinction. The anthropologist found Juan Quezada, the artisan who made the pots, there in Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, and together they would help not only revive the town, but the art form as well. El Paso got a taste of what has been called the miracle of Mata Ortiz when the Consulate General of Mexico here honored MacCallum with the Ohtli Award on May 5 in recognition of his role in helping gain international recognition for the Mata Ortiz artisans and their work. The reception marked the opening of an exhibit of Mata Ortiz pottery at the consulate at 910 E. San Antonio Ave. “The Miracle of Mata Ortiz has been something special, enormous, grand.
EL PASO — Blanca Luz Nava Vélez gripped the tissue with both hands as if it were about to float away from the tears forming in her eyes as she forced herself to speak through the shake in her voice to say that even if the world were to end she will find her missing son Jorge and the 42 other students kidnapped in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, on September 26. “When I am at home, I want to die,” she said. “I feel like dying because I see the items that belong to my son, his guitar and I would go mad. That’s why I am doing something about what happened.”
Speaking at a forum at the University of Texas at El Paso, March 17, she said she finds comfort and consolation when she gathers with the other families who are trying to find their missing sons. Being with the families and staying at her son’s school is better than being home, she said.
SAN FRANCISO – In a night full of online journalism superstars, Borderzine’s bilingual Mexodus project won the Online Journalism Award for Non-English Small/Medium projects at the ONA conference here September 22. Mario Tedeschini-Lali, deputy director for innovation and development at Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso in Rome, and Rosenthal Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at The University of Texas in Austin, presented the awards for Non-English projects. Alves declared Mexodus the winner by reading one of the judges’ comments – “It gives a broad and deep look at life and death issues and amazing collaborative efforts by student journalists and their teachers,” Alves said. For months, students and professors from universities across the U.S. and México requested public records, reported and created multimedia stories that exposed the journey of thousands of middle class families who fled Mexico to escape the violent drug war. The project was led by the University of Texas at El Paso.
A student project that explored the migratory effects caused by drug violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and a comprehensive reporting package on the ongoing development of Paraná state in Brazil won the Online News Association’s 2012 awards for non-English projects during the ONA’s latest conference in San Francisco. “Mexodus,” published by Borderzine, a bilingual student publication of the University of Texas in El Paso, aimed to document the flight of families and businesses from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to its sister city of El Paso, Texas. The mass migration followed a surge in drug violence and petty crime in the Mexican border city. Students from four universities in Mexico and the U.S. contributed to the nine-month project and published around 20 stories in both Spanish and English. “Retratos Paraná,” published by the Curitiba-based daily Gazeta de Povo was a four-month project in which a team of journalists traveled across more than 6,200 miles in the Brazilian southern state of Paraná to paint a detailed picture of the developing region.
EL PASO – A new lifestyle is sprouting on the corner of Mesa and Rio Grande where the Sumatra Hookah Lounge weathered by a blend of cultures and creativity has become a point of origin for many talented artists in the area. “The culture is kind of growing into more of like a musical inclined thing,” said David Zubia (bass/vocalist) of Squids Ltd. “We have a lot of electric music scene, and it’s kind of cool to see these rock bands come out and then connect with the crowd, have a good time with the crowd, and involve them.”
The Genesis of this movement began with the ambitions of David Aver, owner of Sumatra Hookah Lounge, took over the tavern from its previous owner on December 2010. “With Sumatra it was primarily a hookah but there were so many young artists that would come and visit my establishment that I decided to kind of make it my mission to contribute to the community by providing an outlet for local musicians,” Aver said. “So as far as on the music side we’re having a lot of people and everyone’s welcomed.”
David Zubia, Stan Zubia and Manuel Hernandez have played a few shows at Sumatra and are an example of the local talent that use the venue as a starting platform.
La actual situación de México y la nostalgia por recobrar lo que era
Las calles de México tienen un encanto como ninguno. La antigüedad, la limpieza y hasta los ruidos como del taxista desesperado tocando el claxon porque un carro no se mueve, o los vendedores ambulantes diciendo: “Llévelo, llévelo, marchantita”, son únicos. Sin embargo, todas esas imágenes son empañadas con la violencia y la pérdida de muchas vidas inocentes, todo por el narcotráfico y la corrupción. El gobierno mexicano le declaró la guerra al crimen organizado en el 2006 y todo porque en ese año murieron aproximadamente 500 miembros de los diferentes carteles. El acontecimiento que fue primero en su clase—porque nunca se había visto algún atentado tan violento—fue un atentado ocurrido en Morelia, Michoacán, el día 15 de septiembre del 2008.
Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really very frightening. —Gertrude Stein
1. Es un número de tres cifras, tres números que suenan desorbitantes: 358. Trescientoscincuentayocho, 3-5-8 ese era (hasta ayer) el número de muertos en una cárcel de Honduras. De esos trescientoscincuentayocho sólo 25 han sido ya identificados y, de esos 25, sólo 16 han sido entregados a sus familias.
WASHINGTON – The United States isn’t the only country facing a contentious presidential election this year. Mexico will elect a new president in July, and some experts think the National Action Party (PAN) will be ousted from office by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power for 71 years before the PAN took over in 2000. Roderic Ai Camp, professor of the Pacific Rim at Claremont McKenna College, said Friday that two issues are likely to be important to voters: increasing family income and reducing violence. He spoke at a forum sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars Mexico Institute and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. “It will be interesting to see what PRI is really proposing that will be different from PAN on two major issues,” Camp said.
En menos de una semana la reputación de un político mexicano se vino abajo (aunque tampoco es que la tuviera muy alta). Y todo por un asunto literario. El precandidato a la Presidencia en México, Enrique Peña Nieto, asistió a la Feria Internacional del Libro en Guadalajara para presentar su libro México la Gran Esperanza una obra con la cual Peña Nieto pretende expresar: “hacia dónde creo que podemos transitar en los próximos años. Una obra que aborda los que, a título personal, considero los mayores desafíos, retos y oportunidades de México”. Pero el mayor desafío durante este evento ocurrió al final de la presentación.
Soy colombiano. Una nacionalidad que llama la atención de los guardias de seguridad en los aeropuertos del mundo, que despierta la envidia de los cocainómanos de todas partes. Crecí en medio de la violencia del narcotráfico. ¿Algunos recuerdos de mi niñez?: cadáveres destrozados por el bombazo del día; un avión de pasajeros incinerado como si fuera de papel; cuatro candidatos presidenciales eliminados uno tras otro, en un dominó que nadie sabía donde iba a acabar. En determinado momento decidieron ponerle precio a la cabeza de los policías: mil dólares por muerto.
EL PASO — This Sunday Borderzine goes to press with Mexodus, an unprecedented bilingual student-reporting project that documents the flight of middle class families, professionals and businesses to the U.S. and safer areas of México because of soaring drug cartel violence and widespread petty crime in cities such as Ciudad Juárez. We believe Mexodus sets the bar for future collaborate investigative journalism that builds bridges across academic, national and language borders, in this case English and Spanish, the U.S. and Mexico. The web and digital technology facilitated the collaboration, as well as expertise from professional trainers from Investigative Reporters and Editors and research by Fundación MEPI in México City. The project received funding from Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The result is more than 20 stories in two languages, videos, slideshows, photos, info graphics and charts produced by participation from nearly 100 student journalists from four universities, University of Texas El Paso, California State University Northridge, and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Chihuahua and México City. Although it was difficult for students to quantify the dislocation of México’s middle class due to the violence –– researchers and demographers estimate the Mexodus at about 125,000 –– more empirical studies will likely reveal a larger number of refugees pushed out by growing violence, perhaps twice as many, according to some.
CIUDAD DE MÉXICO — Edgar N. era un exitoso hombre de negocios del estado de Michoacán. Habiendo vivido en la entidad buena parte de su vida adulta, Edgar disfrutaba de la tranquilidad y ganancias que le generaba su empresa; al menos hasta hace 5 años, cuando se vio obligado por el crimen organizado a mudarse hacia el estado de Querétaro. Luego de ser víctima de extorsión por parte del narcotráfico, su negocio de exportación fue desmantelado; él, su esposa y su hijo, tuvieron que rehacer su vida entera en otra parte. “El negocio iba bien, facturaba 500 mil pesos mensuales; yo era de los competidores más fuertes en mi rubro en la región”, comenta el empresario. Michoacán nunca estuvo libre del crimen organizado, diferentes bandas criminales operaron el negocio de narcotráfico en el territorio, pero los traficantes de antes operaban como negociantes, explica Edgar.
EL PASO — A young policewoman feels trapped living in abysmal despair after fleeing a Mexican town near the border. She attempted to uphold the law in a society fed by narco-violence, but faced insurmountable opposition. Now, her only escape hinges on the uncertainty of the U.S. legal system. “You have to run away like a rat because you don’t know who to be careful from,” she said in resigned desperation. “You feel like everyone wants to kill you.”
This woman, who refused to provide her name because her life is in danger, has seen the worst of her society from the known criminals and those who are supposed to uphold justice.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ — Rodolfo Rubio Salas es profesor e investigador de la Dirección Regional Noroeste del Colegio de la Frontera Norte de Ciudad Juárez. Con un postgrado en demografía y 16 años de experiencia en esta institución, Rubio Salas se especializa en cuestiones migratorias en zonas fronterizas y asegura que detrás de las diversas cifras que se han dado a conocer sobre el éxodo de personas de Ciudad Juarez a El Paso hay mucha política y poca investigación. Pregunta: ¿Qué piensa de lo que se dice acerca de la migración fronteriza en esta región? Respuesta: “Mira yo aquí en algunos sectores me convertí en persona non grata. Hubo un momento a principios del 2009 donde se hicieron muchísimas reuniones a las que venía el gobierno federal y uno se sentaba muy seriamente, pues las investigaciones son serias.
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.
MEXICALI, Mexico–When the sun rises Edgar Mayoral’s hammer strikes the iron on the anvil, creating an ear-piercing clanging sound that resonates throughout the neighborhood in this border city. The 23-year-old El Centro, Calif. resident has a talent to shape cold, lifeless sheets of iron into fantastical and vibrant wearable armor that would make you believe Mayoral has been transformed into a live-action Japanese anime character. A skill that cosplayers—short for “costume play”—and non-cosplayers alike marvel at. “This character has a higher fan base in Mexico than in the U.S.,” says Jerry Travis, 21, an anime scholar from Brawley, Calif.
EL PASO – The Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has created a resource that provides background information on the major criminal groups battling for control of territory and lucrative drug trafficking routes in Mexico. Casualties have escalated to more than 30,000 people killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began to crackdown on cartels. More than 50 U.S. citizens were killed in Ciudad Juarez in the past two years. “Given the extreme violence in Mexico, the United States in particular is looking at ways to support Mexican efforts against organized crimes,” said Eric L. Olson, author of A Profile of Mexico’s Major Organized Crime Groups and senior associate at The Mexico Institute. Olson said that President Barack Obama favors U.S. support of anti-drug Mexican efforts and that the U.S. has acknowledged partial responsibility for the situation in Mexico because of U.S. consumption of illicit drugs.
Spending two hours at the school to see the challenges faced by rural schools in Mexico opened my eyes to reflect on my own teaching experience. What I saw was that education as the great equalizer is often unequal in the resources available to a school, but poor schools often equal equal academic success.
An innovative use of wireless technology allows underserved communities improve diabetes care and prevention on the Tijuana border. Using 3G mobile technologies, the Dulce Wireless Tijuana project will help patients in remote areas monitor and treat their diabetic condition.
El Paso, Texas –– A team of UTEP student reporters working with an experienced bilingual journalist will develop and publish a multimedia project for Borderzine.com 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.