Making ends meet in Nogales on $1 an hour

RIO RICO, Ariz. — When I returned to my Rio Rico, Arizona home from a second visit to my dentist who works twenty minutes away in Nogales, Sonora, I reflected on what a fine dentist Dr. Emilia Sáenz is. But her assistant, José, a gracious young man, is even finer. My spoken Spanish is decent, but my level of understanding sometimes lags – especially with Dr. Sáenz, an immigrant from Colombia, whose rapid Spanish confused me, which made José even more crucial as I endured another root canal. I marveled at José’s skill at anticipating Dr. Sáenz’s demanding needs and at anticipating any discomfort I might feel.

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.

La violencia ha robado el alma del pueblo

NOGALES, Ariz. — I remember what it was like all the days when I was ten, mi mama dijo, “Mijo vete a comprar unas tortillas.” So I walked out the door to the Morley Street garita, crossed the line and went to the tortillería. Regresé con una docena. One day, in 1973, mi tia Meli decided to get a job at department store right at the line on the American side. She went to the Morley Street garita and told the U.S. migra man, “I’m just going over to Bracker’s to ask for job.” He said, “OK, go ahead, they have all the papers you’ll need.”

In 1976 we walked from Nogales to Nogales from the movie theater at 12 o’clock at night.

Don’t miss the fun of driving Mexico!

RIO RICO, Ariz. — A couple of years back, I headed off on a 1,200 mile November trip to Michoacán, whereupon I had a minor accident near Imuris that caused what seemed to be minor damage to my car, a normally sturdy Honda CR-V. (But, in fact, it was an accident that ultimately ruined my engine.)

Friends drove down the 60 miles from Rio Rico to rescue me and my traveling companions (my two dogs) and I left my car in the hands of an incredibly resourceful Imuris mechanic. He managed to fix my car, at least enough for him to drive it to the border at Nogales, where I met him to drive it across for more repairs at Pep Boys. About a week or so later, I headed back down to Michoacán,  and the car performed well  – no problems at all.

El Paso has a front row seat on the unending killing in Juarez

EL PASO, Texas — About a century ago, El Pasoans lined themselves up near the border for a good view of the revolutionary war raging just across the river as gunshots and war cries echoed from the brush and dirty water. A hundred yeas later, El Paso once more holds a ringside seat to the bloodshed of Mexican souls. Last week, shots fired from Mexico hit the windows of El Paso’s City Hall. Although no one can be sure how or when the bulk of the violence will die down, many students at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have their opinions. “A lot of people have told me that maybe if they legalize marijuana in Juárez it would be better because then the drug lords would loose some of their power,” said Lindsy Gutierrez, a music major.  She sat in the shade outside the Fox Fine Arts building of UTEP reading a book on poetry.

The Virgin of Guadalupe

EL PASO, Texas — Ever since 1531 when the image of the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously on the cloth worn by Juan Diego, a humble peasant in Tepeyac, Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been a sacred symbol of Mexican faith. Today the image of the Virgin can be found almost everywhere on the Borderland, from churches to sidewalks, from candles to tattoos. The photography class at the University of Texas at El Paso was given the assignment to photograph the Virgin wherever she appeared. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Latin Americans Need Security to Enjoy Peace and Prosperity

EL PASO, Texas — Despite the decay of democratic institutions in Latin America, democracy is on the rise in the region because citizens are demanding better government. “Challenges are big for the Western Hemisphere, but the principal idea behind solving those challenges is that governments should act responsibly to resolve them,” said Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow president of Institute of the Americas in San Diego, California speaking in the Millennium Lecture Series at the University of Texas at El Paso. The maintenance of democracy is a pressing issue in many Latin American countries. Many promises that governments there have made to their citizens have been broken, but the most important failure is to provide security for their citizens. “Safety is a big issue in every country.