Ector Joel Acosta, 21, author of The Rise of the Borderland Man. (Valori K. Corral-Nava/Borderzine.com)

Borderland Man – ebook conveys the hope that teens damaged by violence and desperation can heal

EL PASO – Ector Joel Acosta studies biochemistry and physics at the University of Texas at El Paso and plans to apply to medical school to become a dermatologist, but for now he has adopted a new identity – Borderland Man. In this new role, Acosta, 21, is now a published Latino writer and his first book Rise of the Borderland Man is for sale online. Acosta began writing the fictional account of a young man living in the borderland along the divide between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico a year ago. Frustrated by the long and tedious process of finding a publisher, he published the novel as an e-book this year. “I was always keeping my mind on something – chess, writing, and art,” said Acosta who is a junior at UTEP.

Ricardo Ainsle at a lecture at the University of Texas at El Paso October 22. (Patricia Acosta/Borderzine.com)

Author sees new hope for Ciudad Juarez, ground zero for violence in the drug war

EL PASO – Ciudad Juarez has been “ground zero” for the violence raging in Mexico over the past half decade according to Ricardo Ainsle, a psychologist-psychoanalyst and author of the book The Fight to Save Juarez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War. “Close to 60,000 lives have been claimed by this brutal drug war in Juarez and the future of Mexico’s drug war has gone global,” Ainsle said at a lecture at the University of Texas at El Paso October 22. To combat the drug cartels, the Mexican government sent 12,500 federal army police to the city, which represented 20 percent of all troops nationwide, he said. Ainsle added that the number of drug war-related causalities in Ciudad Juarez during the same period of time was 60,000 and represented 20 percent of the national casualties. “Nearly 20 percent of the country’s drug-related executions have taken place in Juarez, a city that can be as unforgiving as the hardest place on earth,” said Ainsle, who is known for using documentary films to depict subjects of cultural interest.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph Arabit (far right) confirm that violence in Juárez was down about 74 percent from its peak in 2010. (Anoushka Valodya/Borderzine.com)

Juárez violence down 74 percent from 2010 peak

EL PASO – The word “partnership” was frequently used at the round table discussion of “Security Along the U.S.-Mexico Border” to explain what it takes to counter terrorism. This event was one of the many sessions of the 9th annual International Association For Intelligence Education (IAFIE) conference at the University of Texas at El Paso Wednesday. Five government officials of various agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spoke in the panel. UTEP’s Vice-Provost Michael Smith began the session as the moderator. “This is a topic of keen interest obviously in El Paso and along the border region,” Smith said.

Sun City Music Festival 2011 at Cohen Stadium. (Iris Lopez/Borderzine.com)

The Sun City’s nightlife rocks with the electronic-dance music that left Juarez

EL PASO – This city on the U.S.- Mexico border known for the strong Mexican-American culture experienced a dramatic growth spurt in music and entertainment in the past two years as nightlife fizzled in violence-plagued Cd. Juarez. “Many people expected the Juarez violence to spill over the border, but the only thing that spilled over that border was the real electro nightlife,” said Silver IsReal, head of Estylow Junktion clothing design. Juarez’s nightclubs such as Hardpop and Morocos concert halls were host to many shows that attracted well-known DJ’s. When the violence in Juarez began to increase, many El Pasoans stopped crossing the border to see those shows and the nightlife followed them north.

Miguel Gómez, former president of La Red, talks to a group of members at their weekly meeting on September 30th. (Hecko Flores/Borderzine.com)

Businesses that migrated to El Paso still maintain their Juarez roots

EL PASO – The violence in Ciudad Juarez has had a huge impact in the cross-border area economy in recent years as businesses relocated here to become successful enterprises. The emigrating business owners, however, did not sever all ties to Juarez. The drug war and the climate of criminality it spawned took a huge toll on the Mexican economy, closing down businesses, chasing away clientele and most importantly stemming cash flow. This caused a large number of establishments to slash prices, cut jobs and eventually just close down. Many Mexican investors took a leap of faith and transferred their assets across the border to find a safe environment where their business would flourish.

Investigative reporters Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto receive the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award on Tuesday for their courageous work covering the violent crimes that have overtaken the city of Juarez, Mexico. (Hope Rurik/SHFWire)

Examples of courageous journalism are not so far from home

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 Centro Comercial San Lorenzo cerró su estacionamiento e instaló casetas para evitar los robos de autos y facilitar la detención de algún delincuente. (Gilda Moriel/Borderzine.com)

Surviving Juárez: Besieged residents and businesses devise strategies to stay safe in the violence-plagued city

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CIUDAD JUÁREZ – María, a mother of four children and business owner, says her family has had to adopt “survival” measures to protect itself from the crushing daily violence plaguing her city. “We had to install a system of cameras that we monitor from home through the Internet,” said María, 54, who requested that her last name, details of her family and name of her businesses not be disclosed. This was after her family had to pay a “quota” when several of its businesses were targets of extortion, one family member was victim of an “express kidnapping,” and they realized their businesses were under constant surveillance by criminals. Subsequently, the family has contracted a security guard and installed alarms. By early afternoon, they lock the doors of their businesses and, as soon it starts to get dark, open the door only for known customers. They also removed business ads from the telephone directory and switched business and private telephone numbers to unlisted numbers.

Juarez coach now trains long-distance runners at UTEP

EL PASO – The violence that overwhelms daily life in Ciudad Juarez didn’t stop Pedro Lopez from helping others pursue the dream of becoming world-class runners. But now he dreams of the American dream. “The violence in Juarez is crazy. It became a crazy city. I remember when I was young and I could go out at whatever time and come back home late and not have any problem.

Juarez violence pushes a pastor and his flock across the border

EL PASO – Because of a lawless environment in Juarez in which churches are forced to pay protection money to gangsters or else suffer terrible consequences, the congregation of the Centro Cristiano Familiar Vencedores church felt threatened. Gunshots would regularly disturb services and Pastor Ramiro Macias’ church didn’t know what to expect when strangers appeared at the church door. Macias recalled recently that family dinners would be interrupted by the sound of gunfire in the neighborhood and the doorbell of his house rang at 3 a.m. on a regular basis. Not knowing what they wanted or why, he wouldn’t open the door and his family endured the sleepless nights in fear. The murder of a church member was the dreadful, final act of violence that motivated him to move his family and his church to El Paso.