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Updated: 59 min 46 sec ago

Border pandemic travel restrictions create obstacles for patients who get dental care in Mexico

Sat, 02/20/2021 - 5:30pm

CIUDAD JUAREZ — El Pasoans and other U.S. citizens who rely on dentists in Mexico for lower cost dental care face obstacles as COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place nearly a year later.

The U.S. and Mexican governments in March 2020 limited cross border travel at land ports of entry to “essential reasons” including work, school or medical care. Though dental care is allowed, patients say they face long lines at the border when returning to the U.S. side.

“Before the restrictions that we’re facing now, I used to go like once a month, and they were pretty simple. I would go in come back in an hour, actually,” said Norma Perez, an El Paso patient who crosses into Ciudad Juarez.

“I just got my first appointment last week and it took me four hours to come back, ” said Perez. She’s been seeing a dentist in Mexico for seven years. “I don’t remember the last time the lines were this long” Perez said.

Fewer people are crossing the border, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection also has staffed fewer lanes at ports of entry leading to longer wait times. Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan has said the strategy is to discourage U.S. citizens and legal residents from making non-essential day trips across the border.

Dentists in Mexico have seen a sharp decline in patients from the U.S. who normally cross for lower cost care. “It has changed a lot. There has been a decrease of patients who are American,” Natalia Rivera, a dentist at the Dental Fun clinic in Ciudad Juarez.

Appointments at Dental Fun have dropped by as much as 60% since the pandemic border travel restrictions started according to Rivera.

Despite delays, for some patients the lower cost makes crossing the border for dental care in Mexico worth it.

“The pricing over there is about a quarter of what you pay here and for the same service. So yeah, it is worth it” describes El Paso resident Ana Villegas, who travels to Mexico every month to see Rivera.

Patients like Villegas, who rely on the lower cost care, are growing weary as the travel restrictions remain firmly in place. “I just don’t see like an endpoint to it,” she said.

 

Categories: Local Blogs

How I learned to cope when my family was separated by border pandemic restrictions

Tue, 02/16/2021 - 7:02pm

Ciudad Juarez — Since March, the international border has been closed, only allowing essential travel for work, school and medical reasons during the pandemic. The virtual border shutdown has been extended by both the U.S. and Mexican governments each month through February according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The border closure meant my mother, who works in El Paso, had to move to the U.S. side of the border since she didn’t want to have to deal with long lines at the international bridge and the possibility of being turned back even though she was crossing for her job. My mother is in El Paso with my 11-year-old brother while I and my 19-year-old brother live in Juárez.

She sends us money but we miss having her and our youngest brother around. We communicate via WhatsApp by text, calls and video chats. My mother sometimes crosses into Ciudad Juárez to visit and bring us groceries. She misses us as much as we miss her.

Filling the void with gaming

Right before the pandemic, I lost my job and haven’t been able to find another one. I’m a multimedia journalism student at UT El Paso, but because I’m not a U.S citizen, getting another job in El Paso is now harder. And some businesses, especially in Ciudad Juárez, have shut down. My struggle is not unique, Forbes reported that unemployment rates in Mexico were expected to reach 11.7% by the end of the year.

The economic downturn and family separation have been depressing. While quarantining, I turned to a new hobby: video games. I have mostly played The Last of Us and the Uncharted game series, but sometimes play other games such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, Flower and God of War.

A common concern that comes to mind when talking video games is the effect they, may have if there is violent or aggressive content. But research is not conclusive. In 2019, researchers from the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland, Yamaha J. Halbrook, Aisling T. O’Donnell and Rachel M. Msetfi published an article in the Perspectives on Psychological Science journal where they argued that the effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior depend on more variables, such as the social and family environments of the people playing.

During the social isolation created by the pandemic, gamers have found a sense of community. Not only have I been playing games with some history in them, but also other, more casual, games that have allowed to interact such as the Among Us game. As I started to become somewhat active on Discord, I connected with other people from other parts of the world and we would call everyone on the server as we played Among Us, sometimes also playing games such as Minecraft or Scribble.

In their 2019 review article, Halbrook, O’Donnell and Mstefi also found that games where social activity is involved, whether playing with other people or where non-player characters interact with the player, can also be beneficial for psychological health as long as the player participates in these games with moderation and for social reasons, not because they’re obsessed with the game (or winning) or because they’re looking for an escape from reality. That’s a relief considering the times we’re currently living in.

Having a pet helps

Samson, a pit bull mix is a devoted companion. Photo by Alexia Carmona Nava.

 

Video games are not the only way for me to cope with the pandemic and the lack of social interaction; My dog Samson, a cinnamon-colored rescued Pit Bull has been a great help too. My uncle trained my dog so he could stay inside the house with me more .

The benefits of companion animals are well documented by research. My dog, in some way, has been my savior, being a comfort during emotionally difficult moments when I felt as if nothing I did had any type of worth.

Gaming has been a way to distract myself from the harsh realities of the pandemic and connect virtually with others and my dog has been an emotional support when I’m feeling mentally vulnerable as I cope with the family separation and isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Categories: Local Blogs

Still clipping along, Estine Davis and her barber shop praised by El Paso’s Black community

Mon, 02/15/2021 - 6:25pm

Estine Davis has been cutting hair in El Paso for almost 70 years, most of it at her barber shop that is the last vestige of what was once a vibrant Black business district.

As she prepared to celebrate her 88th birthday in December, the woman known affectionately as Miss Estine told a reporter she has no plans to retire.

“As long as I make a living from it, I’m going to cut hair,” she said.

To celebrate Miss Estine, a group of friends organized a “Toot and Wave Car Parade” in her honor . The parade began at Shiloh Baptist Church, 3201 Frutas, then made its way to Estine Eastside Barber Shop at 104 N. Piedras.

A video of the birthday celebration for Estine Davis, courtesy of Shiloh Baptist Church.

Ron Stallworth, the author of the best-selling book “Black Klansman,” led the parade. Davis first cut his hair when he was a teenager.

Estine Davis arrives at her barber shop, where she has cut hair for more than 60 years. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Entering Estine Eastside Barber Shop is like stepping back in time. Four red barber chairs await customers, although Davis is the only one cutting hair. She’ll set up a television for customers waiting for their cut. A 1950s-era pay phone hangs on the wall.

“Her shop has been a rallying point over the years for people in the Black community,” Stallworth said. “She has customers from all over the country, people who have grown up with her, like I did, and left the city, went on with their careers. And they always come back whenever they have the opportunity.”

Making a life in El Paso

Davis was born in East Texas in 1932 and moved to El Paso when she was 6. Her mother died before the move and her father soon decided to move back to East Texas, leaving Davis and her siblings with family and friends.

Davis was the youngest child. Her family fudged her age so she could immediately go to Douglass School, the school for El Paso Black children during segregation.

“I was told my sister put her age up to 8 and you put your age up to 7. They finally found out, but they didn’t care,” Davis said.

After graduating from Douglass and turning 18, she went to barber school in Tyler, Texas. She returned to El Paso and began cutting hair at Fort Bliss.

What drew her to being a barber? “Nothing, baby. You understand, ain’t no job but money,” she said with a laugh.

Estine Davis’ barber shop on Piedras was considered “Eastside” in the 1950s. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Over the decades, Davis has cut the hair of men and women from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. To her, hair is hair. But her focus has been providing cuts and styling for Black men in a city where African-American barbers are scarce.

She worked for a few years at Fort Bliss, charging $1.50 for a haircut at first. Davis went to work in the mid-1950s for a barber named Sam McKenzie on Piedras Street near Alameda Avenue, in the heart of a thriving commercial area for Black-owned businesses.

“We did real good then until me and him fell out. He called me something and I must have called him another something,” Davis said.

In 1959, she went to work at another barber shop on Piedras near Alameda, which was owned by her godfather, Roscoe Marlin. He and his wife had paid for Davis to go to barber school.

At some point in the mid-1960s — Davis isn’t sure of the exact year — Marlin turned the barber shop over to her.

“He sat right over there in that chair and said, I’m just tired of looking at hair and I’m just tired of hair. I’d rather go out there and cut some grass,” she said.

Running her own businesses

That was the beginning of Estine Eastside Barber Shop. The Piedras-Alameda neighborhood is in what is now Central El Paso, but in the 1950s and ‘60s it was considered to be on the Eastside of the city.

Standing barely 5 feet tall, Davis commanded respect and her barber shop became a hub of the Black community.

Estine Davis answers a call from her son on a rotary phone in her barber shop on Piedras. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“You learned so much about what’s going on in the community,” said Dana Pittard, who grew up in El Paso and went on to an Army career that saw him rise to major general and command of Fort Bliss.

And she was never shy about sharing her thoughts.

“She would get personal and say, who you dating these days? And I might mention a name and because the African-American community is so small, it’s like, oh, I know her. She’s no good,”  said Pittard, who now lives in Indiana.

Davis makes no apologies for her persona. “I always have been this way. I say what I feel like. If you don’t like it, I really don’t care.”

Davis also founded Estine Fashion Models and was a driving force for years for the Miss Black El Paso Pageant. Starting in 1982, she entered floats each year in the Sun Bowl Parade.

One area where Davis admits she didn’t have much success was marriage. She said that’s why she devoted so much time to her businesses and community activities.

“I was marrying so much and I sure did get sick of them,” she said with a laugh.

Davis said Judge Woodrow Bean II once told her, “If you get married again, I’m going to tell you right now, I’m going to put you in jail, not them.”

Davis raised two sons, Michael and William. Michael lives in Virginia and helped organize the birthday parade in honor of his mother. William passed away two years ago in El Paso.

Famous customers

For the first half of the 20th century, El Paso’s Black community was concentrated in a neighborhood just east of Downtown. The intersection of Piedras and Alameda served as a commercial hub for the Black community, featuring bars, restaurants, beauticians and barbers.

Davis grew up in that neighborhood. But by the time she took over her godfather’s barber shop in the mid-1960s, El Paso was changing. Schools had desegregated a decade earlier. The construction of Interstate 10 in the early 1960s bisected the city’s historic Black neighborhood, hastening its demise. A growing Black population, largely tied to Fort Bliss, began settling more in the East and Northeast parts of El Paso.

Estine Davis, caught in a flurry of birthday balloons, waves to the parade of family and friends who drove by her barber shop on Dec. 5, 2020 to celebrate her 88th birthday. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

But Davis’ barber shop continued to be a gathering spot, even as other Black-owned businesses in the old neighborhood closed their doors in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Most of my friends who were African-American at Eastwood went to Estine’s. In fact, you would really see contemporaries from about five different high schools. It would be Eastwood, Bel Air, Burges, Andress, Austin primarily,” said Pittard, the retired Army general who went to high school in the mid-1970s.

Dana Pittard

Davis cut the hair of several players on the 1966 Texas Western College national basketball champions. She did the same for entertainers like Little Richard and the Harlem Globetrotters when they came through town.

Davis also was the barber for numerous El Paso boys like Pittard and Stallworth who went on to great success in life — Greg Allen, now El Paso’s chief of police; Marc Carter, who became a judge in Houston; Nolan Richardson, who went on to be a Hall of Fame college basketball coach.

Pittard got his first haircut from Davis when he was 9. She continued to cut his hair until he graduated from Eastwood High School in 1977 and headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Davis was his barber “through the whole stage of very short hair in fifth grade to having an afro. She used to have these things called blow-out kits,” Pittard recalled with a chuckle.

He said he always trusted Davis because ”she knows my hair.”

“In fact, when I was going to West Point it was like, well what’s going to happen Miss Davis, you’re not going to be up there. And she said, well, you won’t have anything to worry about because you won’t have any hair.”

Ron Stallworth

Stallworth began going to Davis’ barber shop as a teen in the late 1960s, leaving another barber after his mother agreed to let him pay an extra 25 cents for what he saw as a superior haircut. He was a regular customer until he graduated from Austin High School in 1971 and left El Paso for a 32-year law-enforcement career that included an undercover investigation of the Ku Klux Klan that led to his book and an Oscar-winning movie directed by Spike Lee.

“Whenever I paid a visit to El Paso over the years, I would always stop in and say hi to her and have her cut my hair,” Stallworth said.

He moved back to El Paso four years ago and brought his wife, Patsy, to the barber shop to meet Davis.

“I’m sitting in her chair, she’s cutting my hair, and I made a derogatory remark about a mutual acquaintance of ours. And next thing I felt on the back of my head was Estine’s hand slapping me. And I said, Miss Estine, I’m 63 years old. And she said, I don’t care, you’re still one of my babies and I don’t like you talking like that.”

The future

Davis drives her 2004 Lexus to work five days a week and charges $13 for a basic haircut. She’s active at Shiloh Baptist Church, though a bit miffed because COVID-19 has led the church to scale back activities. She gets together with friends, and sometimes surreptitiously checks in on a rival barber.

“I keep the shop open just to keep my health up. That’s what people got to learn. Money is good, but hell, if you’re in bad shape you can’t even spend it,” Davis said.

Estine Davis will celebrate her 88th birthday this weekend. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Her barber shop is the last remaining business from El Paso’s historic Black commercial district. COVID-19 has heavily impacted her business, as customers delay haircuts or forego them altogether.

Her son Michael has asked her to move to Virginia to be closer to him, but she has no interest in leaving El Paso’s desert climate.

“I’m an asthmatic patient and it won’t help me none. I love my son but I love my health,” she explained.

Davis isn’t one for regrets.

“I can say I laugh a lot of times. I can say I cry some times. And I can say all of it was fun, I guess.”

Cover photo: After celebrating her 88th birthday on Dec. 5, Estine Davis returns to cutting hair in her barber shop. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

This article first appeared on El Paso Matters and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Categories: Local Blogs

Biden ends ‘Remain in Mexico,’ allowing thousands of migrants to stay in U.S. for asylum cases

Sun, 02/14/2021 - 3:50pm

Migrants trapped in Mexico for more than a year by one of former President Trump’s most controversial policies rejoiced to the news Friday that the Biden administration was ending the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols and allowing people in that program to gradually come to the United States to pursue asylum claims.

“What did we feel when we heard this news? Joy!” said Jorge, a Guatemalan man who’s been in Mexico since July 2019.

“Because after being here so long, with this sickness we have (COVID-19), we don’t have the freedom to go out, it’s ugly here. But to have the news that they are going to start to let us cross to the other side, and to finish our process over there while being with our relatives, it’s a huge joy to know that maybe all this will finally be over. We are very happy, truly,” said Jorge, who has been living in a Juárez shelter and asked that his full name not be used because he fears for his safety.

Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “remain in Mexico,” began in January 2019 and was part of the Trump administration’s strategy of deterring migrants from coming to the border by making crossings more difficult and more dangerous. Human rights groups said the policy of forcing migrants to stay in Juárez and other dangerous northern Mexican cities was inhumane, subjecting them to kidnappings, attacks, sexual assaults, threats and other cruelty.

“It’s been a very difficult two years. We’ve seen unbearable suffering from the people that we served. From kidnapping victims, rape victims, the most horrific stories, the people that are in remain in Mexico have lived through that. Our big frustration is that this didn’t come down soon enough,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of El Paso’s Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, which has provided services to people in MPP.

The Department of Homeland Security will start allowing the approximately 25,000 people still in MPP with active asylum claims to enter the United States beginning Feb. 19. The Biden administration provided few details about the process of bringing MPP participants into the United States, other than to say it will be “safe and orderly.” The Los Angeles Times reported that they will initially come to the United States through ports of entry in El Paso and Brownsville in Texas and Calexico in California, with only a few hundred people allowed to enter per day.

Fatima, who asked that her full name not be used to protect her family, came to the border from El Salvador almost two years ago with her husband and three children. She is due to have a baby on Feb. 17, before the Biden administration plans to begin allowing MPP participants to enter the United States.

“We felt happiness because finally there will be justice. Because I believe that it was unjust that we have been here so long waiting,” said Fatima, who has been living in a Juárez shelter. “I would have liked the baby to born in the U.S., but I trust that God knows what he’s doing.”

Fatima, a Central American asylum seeker who is expecting a baby girl on Feb. 17, is joyful at learning that individuals in the MPP program will soon be allowed to enter the US as they await their court hearings. Fatima has been in Mexico with her husband and three children for almost two years. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Ending MPP fulfills a promise that President Biden made during the 2020 election campaign and restores long-standing practices of allowing people to live in the United States while pursuing asylum claims. But Biden administration officials are wary of sending signals to Central America and elsewhere that could trigger a migration surge similar to that seen in 2018 and 2019. That was reflected in Friday’s announcement of MPP’s demise.

“As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said. “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values. Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time. Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border.  Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced.”

The announcement on MPP also said “this announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States.”

People in Migrant Protection Protocols were brought into El Paso immigration court on March 16, 2020. It was the last day MPP hearings were conducted in El Paso because of the pandemic, leaving thousands of people in further uncertainty. (Robert Moore/El Paso Matters)

Most MPP participants allowed into the United States are expected to join family members throughout the United States. Those coming from Juárez may stay in El Paso shelters for a few days while their families arrange transportation.

The Biden administration said MPP participants will be tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to enter the United States, and will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing during processing.

Rivas of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center said she was encouraged by the administration’s orderly approach to bringing people in MPP into the United States.

“This is beginning to restore our asylum system. We should be welcoming people who seek refuge in this country with dignity. This is a good first step but it can’t be the last step,” she said.

Seeking asylum is a legal means of entry into the United States. For much of the world’s population, it is the only legal means open to them.

More than 71,000 migrants were placed in MPP, according to the Transactional Resource Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which tracks the federal court system. Almost 25,000 of those cases were assigned to El Paso immigration courts, the highest number for any city. Most of those people were sent back to Juárez.

Immigration courts stopped holding hearings in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving it uncertain when the asylum claims of many migrants would ever be heard.

Before the pandemic, almost 33,000 MPP participants were given what is known as a “removal order,” the first court step toward deportation. Only about 800 of them were represented by a lawyer, a much lower rate than for people who pursue asylum claims while in the United States. Attorneys said it was extraordinarily difficult to connect with potential clients in Mexico, and immigration courts prohibited lawyers from meeting with groups of migrants ahead of hearings to do a basic presentation on their rights.

Tens of thousands of migrants abandoned the asylum process after being forced to remain in Mexico, their advocates have said. An estimated 25,000 people — mostly from Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — still have active asylum cases through MPP.

In El Paso courts, about 11,000 of the 25,000 people with MPP cases didn’t attend their last scheduled hearing and lost their claims in absentia. About 5,000 attended all their hearings and another 9,000 have never been given a hearing, according to TRAC data.

Attorneys and other advocates have said it is difficult for people to get from shelters and other locations in Juárez to the Paso del Norte Bridge at an appointed time for their hearings. It’s unknown how many people failed to show at court hearings because they were abandoning asylum claims and how many did so because they were unable to get to the bridge on time.

Officials have estimated that about 11,000 MPP participants remain in Juárez.

Corrie Boudreaux, René Kladzyk and Robert Moore contributed to this story.

Cover photo: Jorge, an asylum seeker from Central America living in Juárez, smiles at the news that individuals in the “Remain in Mexico” process will soon be allowed to enter the United States. Jorge and his family fled their country after his wife was almost killed and have been in Mexico since July 2019. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

This article first appeared on El Paso Matters and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.” data-src=”https://elpasomatters.org/?republication-pixel=true&post=9076&ga=UA-158587614-1″ />

Categories: Local Blogs

Local business in Juarez adapts to border shutdown

Sun, 02/14/2021 - 12:57pm

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Months after the U.S.-Mexico border was closed to all but essential travel as a COVID-19 precaution, small businesses have been forced to find ways to new ways to cope.

“Many of our clients are from El Paso, so at first, they didn’t come as often because the situation was difficult,” said Natalia Briceño, 23, creative director for the nail salon Durazno Claro.

After her two sisters and a cousin opened up the nail salon in June of 2019 in Ciudad Juárez, Briceño joined in September as the business’ demand rose quickly. The salon has customers from both sides of the border, enticing those coming from the U.S. with prices nearly half than what businesses in El Paso charge.

As COVID-19 spread throughout the two cities, it closed its doors in March for three months when the governor of Chihuahua ordered non-essential businesses to close as cases spiked. The border has been closed for Mexican nationals for nearly eight months now.

Since reopening on June 15 for its binational customers, Briceño has been surprised to find people were eager to return to get their nails done. The salon’s appointment schedule quickly filled up.

Even though clients from El Paso face the possibility of longer wait times at international bridges after U.S. Customs and Border Patrol began efforts in August to discourage non-essential travel from Mexico, Durazno Claro has seen an influx of clients from the U.S. side of the border.

“After two, three weeks they slowly started to return. Even a week ago many of our clients came from El Paso,” Briceño said.

In order to keep employees and customers safe, the business now follows strict protocols, like requiring face masks, disinfecting tools more often and having customers step on a sponge mat soaked with disinfectant to kill germs on their shoes. The salon also checks temperatures before customers enter to get their nails done.

“I went back immediately because I was sure they would take the necessary precautions,” said Paola Peña, 23, another customer from El Paso. “I never get nervous when going.”

Even if the business is not considered essential, Briseida Mota, 26, an El Paso resident who crosses the border to get a set of gel nails at Durazno Claro, continues to go on a monthly basis and says she considers the salon’s services essential — but not only for aesthetic purposes.

“I go do my nails once a month and, if I don’t have my nails, actually they start hurting because they have become very thin,” Mota said, noting how the gel is applied in layers in order to thicken the nail.

The business is struggling with another issue caused by the border shutdown. they would buy most of the items they use in El Paso since it was cheaper to buy .

Before the pandemic led to a border shutdown, the salon’s owners crossed the border to purchase tools and supplies.

“There are things we buy from the U.S. and the fact that we cannot cross is complicated,” Briceño said. “It slows down the periods of having to go purchase things and bringing them back here.”

Although they have found deals on the internet, once the border reopens, Briceño said the plan is to keep buying some items online, but said they are desperate to be able to cross in order to avoid waiting for products that are easily bought in bulk in El Paso.

Categories: Local Blogs

Photo Essay: In-person church services resume in Ciudad Juárez for the first time since September

Fri, 02/12/2021 - 12:57pm

San Felipe de Jesús parish is one of the many churches that re-opened its doors to the public in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico at the end of January. About 35 people came to the church to celebrate Mass, all respecting social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

In an attempt to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the state government of Chihuahua suspended all public religious services in September, the second time since the start of the pandemic last spring. Chihuahua’s restrictions are based on a street-light-inspired system defined by specific indicators, such as hospital bed capacity. When the state transitioned to the color yellow in January, churches were allowed to reopen to the public at 30% capacity and limited to a maximum of 100 people.

The celebration at San Felipe de Jesús was set to begin at 9 a.m., but many arrived half an hour before. Entire families and single adults were seen entering the doors of a place they had only been able to see through a screen for many months, but one thing was certain: they were ready to experience Mass in person again. These images capture what it was like on Sunday, Jan. 24.

Carmen Soledad checks the temperature of mass attendees to ensure no one with a fever enters the temple.

Mariana Chávez pours hand sanitizer on the hands of all attendees before entrance at San Felipe de Jesus parish.

Enrique Luna plays the guitar for the choir at Mass.

Arlene Valdez writes down the lyrics for one of the songs she will sing during Mass as part of the choir.

A single man prays in front of the altar before Mass begins at San Felipe de Jesús parish.

Benches inside the temple at San Felipe de Jesús have signs to designate where attendees can sit in order to respect social distancing.

All attendees are seated in an order that respects social distancing guidelines imposed by the state government of Chihuahua.

Father Juan Carlos Lopez officiates Mass in green attire, which signifies Ordinary Time in the Catholic church.

Father Juan Carlos López makes the consecration in front of about 35 attendees. This is the first time that people are allowed to enter the temple for Mass since September. due to Covid-19 restrictions, in Ciudad Juárez.

Father Juan Carlos López , wearing a mask and a face shield, gives communion to a woman during Mass.

Categories: Local Blogs

RV sales surge in the Borderland as the pandemic fuels interest in low-contact mode of travel

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 3:01pm

Sales of RVs have skyrocketed more than 31% in the past year and aren’t expected to abate as vacationers seek safe ways to travel during the pandemic, according to industry figures.

Borderland recreational vehicle retailers are experiencing the same national trend as local residents fill their showrooms buying up motorhomes and RVs, leaving lots almost empty.

“As units are coming in, it’s like eight to 12 days that they last on the lot,” said Ale Camacho, general sales manager at Holiday World of Las Cruces. “Normally our stores usually sit with 188 to 200 units.” Inventory has gone as low as 44 RVs.

With the pandemic in full swing nationwide, many RV retailers are seeing a rise in first-time buyers this year. “A good number… I would say, probably 60%, maybe 70%,” Camacho said.

Most buyers are purchasing larger units, called bunkhouse models, that can sleep up to 10 people.

Shan Thomas, local owner of Franklin Mountain RV Sales, said: “In the beginning, well, before the pandemic, we were doing really well in sales. But in the beginning of the pandemic, we were worried, you know, sales are really gonna fall off. But of course, now they’ve really picked up.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been avoiding traditional ways of travel in attempt to reduce their chances of contracting the coronavirus. Air, bus, train and even car travel have taken a backseat for many.

As a result, RV sales have skyrocketed by 31.2% since September 2019, according to the RV Industry Association’s September 2020 survey of manufacturers. The organization represents some 400 manufacturers and suppliers who produce 98 percent of all RV’s made in the U.S. and about 60 percent of RV’s worldwide.

The most recent statistics show RVs shipped from September 2019 to September 2020. The different RV models consist of four types of tow-able RV’s such as travel trailers, and three models of motorhomes.

On the road during a pandemic

El Paso resident and first-time RV buyer Ricardo Valle, said his family remains close despite the pandemic, spending time on the road.

“It’s still important to make memories and take trips with my family but, staying as safe as possible while doing so,” Valle said.

First time RV buyer, Ricardo Valle, switches to RV travel for family time during the pandemic. Photo by Brianna Perez, Borderzine.com

RV travel is the answer for many families looking to make the most of the pandemic and travel with caution. With running water, heat and bathrooms, RVs require the least amount of stops during long road trips in comparison to cars and buses, which involve close contact with others for an extended period of time.

“I think it’s a lot safer. We don’t have the contact with anybody else. It’s just us. And we know we’re not COVID positive so we can be together in the RV and go wherever we want to travel without worry,” Valle said.

Low gasoline prices also are making RVs attractive and an economical alternative to flying. Valle’s family is spending less money traveling than they would traveling by other means, he said.

“It’s more economical. Buying gas for the RV is so much cheaper than the flying, we get to wherever it is that we’re going since we hook up, we have electric, water, we have heat, we have everything that you that we have at home and you only end up paying about $35 a day,” Valle said.

Since purchasing the RV the Valle family has put it to good use, driving their motor home through different cities in New Mexico, including Cloudcroft and Ruidoso.

“In the RV, we’re planning to travel at least every three to four months,” Valle said.

RV growth projected through 2021

The RV Industry Association projects continued sales growth in 2021 of 19.5 percent over 2020.

Thomas of Franklin Mountain RV Sales said he is optimistic that RV sales will remain steady even after the pandemic is over.

“After the pandemic, I think it’ll level off a little bit, but I think we’ll go through this spike for several months to come. I don’t see it dropping off anytime soon,” he said.

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

Our traditional cross-border Christmas celebration will be missed this year

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 2:40pm

“¡Ya llegué!” I wake up to the sound of Mamy’s voice early in the morning, it’s Christmas Day. I open my eyes groggily, still sleepy from Christmas Eve celebrations, I put on my holiday robe that I love and make my way to the kitchen. There are loud clanking noises and shuffling sounds coming from the kitchen, and I can already smell the deliciousness that my mom is stirring in a huge olla.

I walk into the kitchen and I see my grandma who just crossed the border from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to my house in El Paso, Texas. We meet halfway and she gives me a tight hug. Donde está la música Navideña?” she asks as she hands me a regalito. My mom is still stirring the montería and it smells so good that I can’t help but ask for a small taste from the ladle. My Awe walks in holding a big olla de tamales and multiple containers of leftovers from yesterday.

This is what a regular Christmas Day would look like in my family. Like many other families, mine usually celebrates the holiday with a big party, including as many family members as we can fit in our apartment along with as many foods as we can place on the table. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I will not get to spend Christmas Day with my abuelitos, or any of my extended family. Amid the risk of contracting COVID-19 and the social distancing guidelines suggested by the CDC, having a conventional celebratory Christmas Day party is impossible this year.

Este año no participare en el intercambio de regalos (this year I won’t partake in the gift exchange),” said my mom Hissel Glenn, in the family group chat. The family group chat I am part of, alongside family members, has changed its name from La Familia” to “¿Y ahora cuando nos vemos (when are we seeing each other now)?” Every year we have a gift exchange, sort of like Secret Santa, but this year, due to financial hardships and the fact we won’t be meeting, the gift exchange has been canceled.

Like many others across the country, myself and many of my family members have suffered from job loss and other forms of income loss. What was an exciting experience in years past – picking out the perfect gift for a Christmas gift exchange – has now turned into stressful and anxious time for many.

“We are not completely economically good,” said my aunt Julieta Rio. “I’m a singer and I haven’t been able to work since March and my income has gone down to zero.”

Although gifts are a big part of any Christmas celebration, it is not at the forefront in our family. The unity of all family members is the most important part for my family.

Like many families in the Borderland, mine is a big family. From great uncles and great aunts to baby cousins and everyone’s in-laws, any family gathering – especially holiday celebrations – are sure to bring together at least 30 people at once.

“What’s most important and what’s really sad, is that on the night of Christmas, when we should all be together, we won’t be able to be united,” my grandmother, Carmelita Prado, said.

My parents’ apartment is usually where we spend Christmas Day and my grandparents, uncles and aunts travel in Juarez travel to El Paso to be with us. Now, because of the border being closed to all but “essential” travelers, my family on the other side of the Rio Grande can’t come over.

It may seem dramatic to some, but after all that we have all endured – with the loss of loved ones to COVID-19 and even contracting it ourselves as I did – the cancellation of Christmas Day as we know it is the sour cherry on top of this unprecedented year. The holiday that is so dear to me and my family will not be the same. I held some hope throughout the months that the pandemic would be over by the end of the year, but that is gone.

The only consolation that is left is due to the recent arrival of a vaccine that could help bring the world as close to normal as it can be.

“Even if this year is going to be sad, I know that things will get better and we will have the best Christmas next year,” my mother said.

Categories: Local Blogs

Pandemic measures change college life for international students

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 12:29pm

The “college experience,” usually depicted as an exciting time of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities, has changed dramatically due the COVID-19 pandemic. From classes switching to online teaching, technology issues and economic hardships, the pandemic has proven to be challenging for many students.

But some Mexican international students in El Paso faced even more challenges after some government offices closed and new restrictions were placed on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Irving Avalos Guzman, 19, a first-year international student from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was unable to get his student visa processed on time for him to attend any classes at the University of Texas at El Paso in person.

“I would like to cross the border, go to the classes, hang out in UTEP, meet new people,” Avalos Guzman said. “Obviously, I would like to have that experience.”

Instead, Avalos Guzman attended all of his classes and UTEP new student orientation virtually from his home in Juarez.

Catie McCorry Andalis, UTEP Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, said the university is doing everything possible to make all students feel included and has coordinated several virtual events to help students stay connected and involved with their campus community.

McCorry Andalis says international students are encouraged to reach out to one of the caseworkers assigned to aid them with any concerns, from needing an internet hotspot, to getting help with food assistance.

“We have an entire team of case managers. There are 16 of those case managers and that’s their job,” McCorry Andalis said.

The university informed students it will continue to offer a combination of online, hybrid and in-person classes for Spring 2021, anticipating that COVID-19 precautions will likely still be present in the community.

“While the number of local COVID-19 cases is rising, UTEP is continuing its mission to teach and conduct research in a safe campus environment, and we are evaluating additional measures that will help the region to suppress the disease,” said an e-mail sent to all students from the president’s office.

While new students are not going to get the full campus treatment in the short term, McCorry Andalis said the university will continue to strive to bring them the best experience possible.

“No matter what happens, our commitment is to ensure that our international students are successful, academically, socially and professionally,” McCorry Andalis said.

Categories: Local Blogs

El Pasoans continue to celebrate special occasions with loved ones at a distance

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 11:10am

El Pasoans and other area residents have been taking to the streets to celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other events by using outdoor garlands and neighborhood parades to commemorate celebrations because the pandemic is limiting indoor social gatherings.

A bridal shower for Elizabeth Morales, 28, was postponed several times since March because of COVID-19 concerns, but her big day was finally celebrated in mid-October when her parents organized a parade to note her daughter’s nuptials.

“This was not the way I had planned on celebrating my bridal shower, but with the setup of my balloons, I wouldn’t have asked for anything different,” Morales said. “They were beautiful and made me realize that it is OK to have it celebrated this way for the safety of my friends and family,” she said.

The pandemic has forced wedding halls to close because of restrictions that limit social gatherings. Engaged couples have been looking forward to celebrating their upcoming marriage, but have had to keep postponing due to the shutdowns and not risking their friends and family’s lives.

Morales’s parents, David and Frances Perches set up the memorable parade in front of their Lower Valley home and celebrated the shower for Morales and future son-in law, Shaun Hilburn, 32, celebrated with family and friends.

“Even with this pandemic, we were still able to celebrate with the people we love. Plus it doesn’t matter if we had a hall or not, what matters is keeping safe and having others safe as well,” Frances Perches said. “The balloon tied it all together at the end.”

Businesses that organize these celebrations have been busy.

“The balloon business became more personal now that we have to change the way we have our parties,” said Victor Arzola, co-owner of Mia’s Balloons. “My wife and I saw the value that balloons bring nowadays to any occasion from graduations, anniversaries, birthdays and the holidays as well.”

Mia’s Balloons is booked virtually every weekend, co-owner Ana Arzola said. They also are busy delivering balloon decorations throughout El Paso County and outside the county lines.

Regardless of any occasion, family and friends continue to celebrate events despite the pandemic and accompanying uncertainty, making milestones memorable.

“Our customers want something to live up the parade and for them letting us be part of it. We want to personalize our garlands to show something personal and memorable to remember their day,” Victor Arzola said.

An El Paso family sends love and a balloon garland to celebrate their mother’s birthday on their front entrance. Photo courtesy of Mia’s Balloons

The way people are now celebrating and keeping safe is by inviting their friends and family to drive-by parades. Garlands are often set up at the celebratory location, filled with colorful balloons of different sizes and different shapes.

The balloon garlands have become a bigger hit, now that birthdays, weddings, baby showers, graduations and quinceañeras have been pushed back or also postponed.

Pink, gold and maroon balloon garland is displayed inside of a canopy for family and friends to pass by and see balloon arrangements. Photo courtesy of Mia’s Balloons

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

No ceremony, but graduation during pandemic is still is dream come true for 1st in family to earn degree

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 11:06am

In 2003, I graduated from kindergarten in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. I was chosen to give the last speech on graduation day. This last speech, was very important to me since I was not going to continue my education in Mexico. My family was moving to El Paso, Texas, where I was born.

Stephanie Chavez giving her last speech in her kindergarten graduation in May 2003.

I practiced my speech with my mom for a couple of weeks. I was very good at memorizing. My parents beamed with pride when I went up on stage and gave my speech loud and clear. I was sad saying goodbye to my friends, but also happy to start a new chapter and meet some of my now best friends.

Now, in 2020, I will be the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism from UTEP. The biggest difference is that I will graduate this December without a ceremony because of the pandemic. The university has moved the ceremony date to next year in May 2021 in hopes that we might be able to gather in person by then.

Comfortable in the spotlight

Growing up I was very into music. My first time singing in front of an audience was at the age of six years old. I remember it was a school show talent and I chose to sing a song ” El Reloj Cucu,” by Mana. I dedicated the song to my grandmother who had passed away from cancer that same year.

“She would get the microphone in front of people, and she was never shy, never showed fear. On the contrary she would do it with a natural spark and till this day,” my mother, Irma Gaytan, said.

I was in my school choir from kinder to senior year in high school. I also fell in love with theater. In 6th grade I had the opportunity to compete in a one act play called “The Party.” I was given one of the protagonists roles. Five actors including myself participated in this play, which came in second place among five schools. I also received an all-star cast award.

Once I started high school I knew that little by little I had to decide what career I wanted to pursue. In my junior year in high school I had a journalism class. That is when I knew I wanted to become a television broadcaster.

The first to graduate in the household

My parents have always worked very hard to give me a better education. My mother finished high school and just as she was going to attend college her mother became ill. So she had to leave her education to care for her mother. My father did go to college and was close to graduation when he got a job opportunity that he believed would bring a better income to the household.

Instead, my parents focused on me finishing my degree. They would motivate me to keep going with my education because they wanted me to have more opportunities and and a chance to get my dream job. Growing up, my dad would tell me: “study something that you will wake up every day and enjoy doing and not see it as work.”

Stephanie Chavez poses for her kindergarten graduation in May 2003.

In August 2016, I started my first semester in the University of Texas at El Paso. I decided to major in multimedia journalism and a minor in theater.

When I attended the college graduations of my older cousins and friends, I would always picture the day I would walk in my cap and gown and receive my diploma. I knew that when that day came, not only was I going to be happy but also my parents would see it was worth all the sacrifices they gave up for my education. Both of them have worked full time jobs. They put aside things that they dream of, such a new vehicle or vacations, so that I could graduate debt free.

Everything seemed normal until UTEP went on spring break in March 2020, That’s when COVID-19 arrived in El Paso and the university switched to online courses. Those who graduated in spring and summer 2020 had a virtual graduation. I hoped the pandemic would be mostly over by the end of December so that I could have an in person graduation.

My dream graduation is not coming true, but the lesson is to keep things in perspective. The restrictions on gatherings are for the health of everyone. COVID-19 is something no one expected. It just came and took many lives and it is still doing it. I have friends who have lost family members. People started to lose their jobs.

I was very lucky to keep my job at the Student Recreation Center at UTEP. Even though the gym closed, I was able to work remotely. Last summer my plan was to find an internship, which was harder because most internships were cancelled because of health protocols. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to work in marketing for the Student Recreation Center. I started managing the department’s Tik Tok account, and eventually became a student supervisor overseeing three departments. However, I will have to leave this job when I graduate.

If I see it on the positive side, not everybody can say that they graduated during a pandemic and I can. I am excited for the future. My plan is to try to get an internship at a television station and get more experience. Then, hopefully by fall 2021,come back to school to start working on my masters degree.

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

Supporting Borderland journalism students opens a world of opportunities

Wed, 12/16/2020 - 5:42pm

Borderzine note: Our publication is more than a website that covers life along the border. It is a training tool that gives aspiring journalists from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez a real newsroom experience in multimedia reporting. This month we are asking readers to help us in our mission by making a contribution on Borderzine’s behalf to NewsMatch. Thanks to NewsMatch and two other organizations that support diversity in news, every dollar donated before Dec. 31 will be tripled. Your gift will go toward giving young people from our border community the tools and experience that are critical to their success as the journalists of tomorrow who will bring us the kind of informed reporting we needed for a healthy and strong democracy.

I am a proud El Pasoan, born at Providence Memorial Hospital and raised in Sunset Heights, long before it became fashionable and was a neighborhood composed mostly of middle-class Hispanics. I was the only son and second child of a single mother who like many Latino women, cared for her mother at home while she raised her two children without the help of child support from my father. He was a patent-holding electrical engineer in what eventually became Silicon Valley.

I grew up in a bubble and loved my bubble. Sunset Heights and my eventual expansion to the West Side was my home. I didn’t think much about the outside world. Everything I needed was near our apartment at 316 W. Rio Grande Avenue where I grew up.

St. Patrick’s Elementary School was less than a 15-minute walk away. My eventual high school, El Paso High School where I graduated in 1979, was not much farther away. The Sunset Grocery was on the other side Rio Grande where the street changed names to Los Angeles, and even Johnny’s convenience store was down the block on El Paso Street. A Safeway near the El Paso Public Library filled the refrigerator and cupboard every Wednesday after my grandmother shopped on double-coupon day.

As a result, my bubble was tight. It expanded when I began attending UTEP. By then, we had moved to a duplex off North Mesa near the King’s Hill Apartments, but I was still close to all I knew. My UTEP friends were clearly more worldly than I was. Most were El Paso natives, but came from different high schools, had different ideas and encouraged me to join a fraternity.

My new schoolmates told stories of where they’d visited, summer vacations they’d taken with their parents, where they had lived and planned to live after graduation. All this was new to me. My UTEP relations were expanding my mind. One of my friends invited me to a Halloween party in Fabens. I was in the boonies – as far as I was concerned – and I was alone in my 1979 Datsun mini pickup driving east on Interstate 10. I had pierced the eastern edge of the city limits. This was the farthest east I’d ever traveled. I was 20 years old. Prior to that, my eastern journey was likely Cattleman’s steakhouse in Fabens for a day-trip with my high school class.

Moving on to the big, wide world beyond the Borderland

On the drive to the party, I had a rare introspective moment and realized that while I had a great deal of respect for my Clint brethren, it should not be my most eastern destination. I made a decision that day this would change. And it did.

Two professors opened my world. One helped get me elected to the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists as a student representative and the other helped introduce me to potential internship opportunities out of El Paso. Before long, I was travelling to Los Angeles for a job fair conference, San Francisco and Milwaukee to attend board meetings with SPJ and the world began to open – all thanks to the influence of my UTEP professors. There was a world outside the bubble and I was liking it.

I started working at the late and often lamented El Paso Herald-Post while still in school and then full-time after I graduated. One day the phone rang. It was the Austin American-Statesman city editor, asking if I was interested in a police reporter position. I was energetic, bilingual and loved covering police. He’d heard about me from a fellow contact from the Los Angeles job fair conference I had recently attended. I sent him my clips – examples of my work – and was effectively hired over the phone. I was leaving my hometown, my family and the protection of the bubble. I could thank UTEP and those professors for showing me a bit of the world. I had a packed garment bag.

Through the years, I’ve worked at the San Antonio Express-News, the Associated Press in Dallas, Tucson Citizen and even the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. I remembered that experience in Clint and wanted to go even farther east. I ended up on the southern coast of China for a three-month stint and met some lifelong friends.

A lifelong commitment to greater diversity in news

Through the years, I remembered those who came before me, especially the pioneering minority journalists who paved the way. I joined and took leadership roles in Hispanic journalist organizations in El Paso, Austin, Dallas and other cities. I was a founding member of the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists and led that organization for a number of years.

I eventually was elected president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists – one of that organization’s early presidents. I remain on the board of directors of the Associated Press Managing Editors after having served as president. I chair that organization’s scholarship committee. The APME is committed to diversifying Texas newsrooms and we select minority students for summer internships. UTEP students have often been selected for this internship, which often takes them to bigger and better places.

I owe much to the professors who came before me –  the late Jim Patten and Ramon Chavez. I would not be where I am now if not for their guidance, encouragement and tutelage.

I have followed in their footsteps and stand on their shoulders. I am an associate professor in the very classrooms where they taught me at UTEP. The lessons they taught me are clear in my mind and I try to repay the favors they did for me every day.

UTEP professors Dino Chiecchi and Zita Arocha with UTEP students at NAHJ 2018 conference in Miami.

 

I’ve taken my students to Washington, D.C., Anaheim, Calif. and Houston for journalist conventions. We’ve gone on photography field trips to Ruidoso and San Antonio, N.M. Our mission as professors is not to merely teach the contents of a textbook. It is to open the eyes and minds of our students, many of whom have never left the city, never seen an airline booking pass, or been to Ruidoso Downs to photograph the horse races or Ski Apache to photograph skiers or for any other reason.

I owe so much to the university of my life’s work, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to repay the school through my students for all that UTEP has given me.

Cheers.

Dino Chiecchi

Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism

Categories: Local Blogs

La nueva convivencia de ‘gamers’ a través de las redes sociales durante la pandemia

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 10:00am

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Las redes sociales se han vuelto más transitadas tanto para buscar información como para convivir debido a la cuarentena puesta por la pandemia del COVID-19, donde se recomienda distanciamiento social.

Como medio de información, las redes sociales han servido para mantener a gente de diferentes partes del país al tanto de la situación de cuarentena de los demás y además han ayudado muchos convivir y encontrar diversión mientras se encuentran aislados.

Una forma de interacción que se ha vuelto bastante popular durante la cuarentena debido al incremento de tiempo en casa han sido los videojuegos en línea.

“Ahora (mis amigos y yo) jugamos bastantes más horas que antes,” dijo Daniel Ríos, trabajador de soporte técnico para FlexGPS originario de San Juan del Río, Querétaro, México. “Sí jugábamos diario pero unas dos horas más o menos, ahora sigue siendo diario pero unas cinco, seis horas.”

Un juego que se volvió bastante popular es uno llamado “Among Us”, un videojuego del tipo multiplayer creado por Innersloth y publicado el 16 de noviembre del 2018, el cual ha estado recibiendo un creciente número de reseñas, casi llegando a un total de 80,000 reseñas en la página Steam desde el 24 de agosto hasta días recientes, y llegando a tener hasta 1.5 millones de jugadores a la vez según un artículo de TheGamer.

Otro juego que se hizo popular durante la cuarentena ha sido “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” de Nintendo, llegando a las 22 millones de ventas desde que salió en marzo, según un artículo del New York Times.

La industria de los videojuegos en línea es un “raro ganador de la pandemia”, según un artículo de The Economic Times. Incluso sitios sobre videojuegos, tales como Twitch.tv, han estado recibiendo más tráfico durante la cuarentena que los canales de deportes según un análisis del New York Times.

Las redes sociales también se han vuelto populares como método de interacción, como el caso de Discord, una red social fundada por Jason Citron y Stan Vishnevskiy como método de comunicación entre amigos mientras juegan en línea, según la sección de Nuestra Historia en su página oficial, con el tráfico en su página yendo desde las 670,000 de visitas en abril hasta las 884 millones de visitas en mayo según SimilarWeb.

Los jugadores también están compartiendo sus experiencias en ambos lados de la frontera.

“Lo que he aprendido es que allá (en la frontera) son mucho más estrictos (con la cuarentena), porque creo que allá no los dejan salir sin cubrebocas aquí por todos lados los encuentras” dijo Ríos. “Y pues allá sí me he enterado que es más complicado pasar (a Estados Unidos). Nada más pasan para las clases, el trabajo y cargar gasolina, de ahí en fuera creo que para nada más.”

También han ayudado a jóvenes ver cómo las economías de Ciudad Juárez y El Paso dependen mucho la una de la otra según Brian Anaya, estudiante de biotecnología en la Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez.

“Hemos visto a través de las redes sociales cómo personas de El Paso, o sea los mismos Paseños, han estado pidiendo que se re-abran los puentes dado que su economía está ahorita estancada, muchos negocios, especialmente en el Downtown están cerrando,” dijo Anaya. “Es la forma en la que yo veo que nos hemos conectado más en el que cierta forma ha servido de lección para en cierta forma acabar con esta segregación política y social que existe actualmente en Estados Unidos.”

En el caso de Ríos quien, aunque su vida no se ha visto muy afectada por la Cuarentena, ahora habla más con sus amigos.

“Empecé a chatear más con mis amigos que antes, pues, no estaban tanto porque ellos sí salían a la escuela y todo eso,” dijo Ríos. “Ahora, pues, ya me puedo comunicar más con ellos porque ya están más tiempo en la casa y ,aparte, algunos juegan en clase.”

A pesar de eso, aún hay opiniones que difieren de la de Ríos, como la de Anaya, quien cree que en el ámbito social nos hemos alejado más con el uso de las redes sociales.

“A través de las redes sociales no podemos expresar sentimientos, no podemos saber si un comentario lo dijo en modo sarcástico, de broma, o de mala gana,” dijo Anaya.

Categories: Local Blogs

The gaming goes on as young El Paso esports team adjusts amid pandemic

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 11:00am

Referring to itself as El Paso’s flagship Esports team, the El Paso HoneyBadgers organization was just beginning to build its membership.

Then the coronavirus pandemic forced the group of gamers to shift to meeting online only.

“The social aspect of the HoneyBadgers is kind of harder for us. We, our teams love to practice and they love to be around each other,” said team president Caroline Salas.

The El Paso HoneyBadgers is an electronic sports team based at the GAIA Makerspace at UTEP that sometimes competes through playing multiplayer video games against other teams in competitive matches. It is also an organization where people can come together and bond over their shared love of games.

Salas said the HoneyBadgers became an official student organization at the University of Texas at El Paso in February 2019. They have since expanded beyond being an exclusive UTEP student organization to being open to anyone in the city who has an interest in gaming. This openness sets the HoneyBadgers apart from other collegiate ESports teams, Salas said.

Some member serve as hosts for particular multiplayer video game titles. Types of games range from first-person shooters, arena games or adventure quests. All ages are welcome to join, but members under 18 need to have parental permission.

HoneyBadgers hosting a Magic the Gathering card game event inside the Undergraduate Learning Center at The University of Texas at El Paso. Photo Courtesy The HoneyBadgers.

While some competitions are open to all members of a HoneyBadgers team, others may be restricted by the league host. For collegiate competitions, at times only members who are at UTEP may be eligible to play, and at other times, members from El Paso Community College may qualify to compete. Currently the HoneyBadgers are not officially part of any larger Esports organizations such as the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

Before COVID-19, the organization would host events Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Undergraduate Learning Center on the UTEP campus. Since the pandemic outbreak, the group has been following social distancing health guidelines and not conducting in-person gaming sessions.

In order to stay connected with members and fans, the HoneyBadgers use social media platforms like Twitter, where they post schedules for upcoming virtual events. The put recordings of the livestream events onto their YouTube channel. The group also does a podcast.

There are now about 30 teams under the HoneyBadgers umbrella, each playing a different game title. If anyone wants to add more games to the group’s roster all they have to do is designate someone as the captain and get some other members to join and the game will be added to the growing list of games the organization has.

“With our fans, we’ve actually grown a little bit bigger,” said George Molina, a sophomore at UTEP, who is the the captain of the Call of Duty Zombies team.

He said his team has been able to play more games together using the Twitch platform since it is easier to coordinate virtual meetings.

“I feel like, ever since we had to go online, I feel like our team has been doing more together,” Molina said.

But not all teams are having a smooth transition to online-only meetings.

UTEP senior Kaylee Wersant, captain of the Super Smash Brothers team, said the Nintendo online service can be glitchy.

“The comparison between offline and online in terms of lag and stuff like that is really huge,” she said.

The HoneyBadgers also have a Discord server, a group chatting app used by gamers to communicate. They’ve create spaces on Discord for their communities to meet up and hang out virtually.

“We have a lot of people just talking in general chat or just a bunch of our regulars communicating,” Salas said.

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

El Pasoans barred from New Mexico State Parks for the time being

Sun, 11/29/2020 - 6:40pm

New Mexico state officials have closed Elephant Butte Lake State Park to El Pasoans and other non-New Mexico residents because of the COVID-19 pandemic for the forseeable future, officials said.

Only people with a New Mexico driver’s license are allowed in the state’s parks. El Pasoans who used to make the two-hour drive north on Interstate 25 north are disappointed with the state’s edict, enacted in mid-March.

The order states only people with proof of New Mexico residency are allowed at Elephant Butte and other state parks, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Elephant Butte Lake State Park has been closed to non-state residents as per a public health order issued by the New Mexico Department of Health, said Susan Torres, public information officer at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources department.

The public health order was introduced in mid-March, Torres said. It was amended in late October, stating that state parks would only be allowing visitors in as long as they have proof of New Mexico residency.

Per the order, out of state visitors are also advised to do a two-week quarantine if they plan to travel within the state.

Prickly pear cacti in the desert near Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Image courtesy of NM State Parks

Along with resident-only access to state parks, campsites have also begun to reopen. “So currently at Elephant Butte, you can come for the day and you can make an overnight reservation online and again with New Mexico residency proof for reservation,” Torres said.

Some El Pasoans say the health order is unnecessary for outdoor-related activities where social distancing is easier to practice.

“I think (patrons) should be allowed and I think it’s just going to be your family going out there and for the most part, you’re not near anybody,” said Bret Baffert, 59.

“When you’re launching your boat, everybody’s like, maybe 50 yards away from you watching you launch your boat,” Baffert said.

El Pasoan Eric Gorman, 24, shared similar sentiments about the restrictions for visitors to Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

Gorman owns property in New Mexico. He said property owners should be exempt from the restrictions and allowed to use the parks “all of us Texans who own homes there pay our taxes and dues and have rights to the usage of that area.”

Snowy hills overlook Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Image Courtesy of NM State Parks

According to Gorman, once Elephant Butte became restricted to out-of-state visitors they began going to the Elephant Butte Dam area. “This forced so many out-of-state individuals over to the dam site because there was no regulation there and allowed out-of-state people,” he said.

There is also a concern for the local businesses in the area around Elephant Butte Lake and the nearby city of Truth or Consequences that rely on revenue from tourism.

“I’m sure there’s gonna be an impact because of those restaurants and people spend the night buying fuel,” Baffert said.

Gorman also shared a similar concern regarding the impact on local businesses “The lack of out-of-state income drastically hurt businesses.”

Park rangers also will be checking everyone for proper identification and to make sure that everyone in the vehicle is a New Mexico resident and not someone who is trying to enter with people who are from out-of-state.

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

South El Paso merchants struggle to hold on after sales plummet amid border travel restrictions

Sun, 11/29/2020 - 6:28pm

Downtown El Paso stores that have long relied on shoppers from neighboring Mexico for a majority of their sales have taken a big hit from cross-border travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alma Gallegos event planning business, Viridiana’s Flowers, saw steady foot traffic from shoppers from both sides of the border – El Pasoans and Juarenses alike who came in looking for décor and party supplies for special events such as quinceañeras, weddings, baby showers and other occasions.

“There used to be more flow of customers both from here, locals, or from Juárez and now with the pandemic, the clientele or the fluidity of people has dropped by approximately 85 percent,” she said.

Alma Gallegos, owner of Viriana’s Flowers, says border travel restrictions have greatly cut down on sales for her shop in Downtown El Paso.

A large part of Gallegos’s business has suffered from restrictions against large gatherings. “There are no social events right now, there are no quinceañeras, baptisms,” Gallegos said. “There is nothing, so the clients have dropped by a lot and so have the sales. It has affected me quite a bit … economically.”

In March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security imposed temporary travel restrictions on all ports of entry that border Mexico and Canada. The restrictions limit entry to essential travel for U.S. residents and U.S. citizens in an effort to minimize the spread of the COVD-19 virus across borders. The order to limit non-essential travel at the border was extended to Dec. 21, but could continue through the end of the year.

The guidelines to determine “essential travel” include those traveling for medical, educational and or work purposes. Because traveling for tourism, leisure or shopping does not count as essential travel the downtown establishments that rely on daily customers from Mexico to keep their businesses afloat have seen a significant decline in sales.

Joe Hernandez, owner of downtown clothing store, La Quinta, is optimistic about holding on through the pandemic to await the return of shoppers from south of the border. Photo by Brianna Perez, Borderzine.com

Longtime shop owner, Joe Hernandez, has been in business for over 20 years. He estimates 90% of the clientele at his women’s clothing store La Quinta come from south of the border.

“Our business was definitely much better than (before the pandemic), than it is now. It’s gone down at least a 70%” Hernandez said. He has lowered prices in effort to attract shoppers from El Paso and to make up some of the the lost business.

“All we can anticipate is that there’s going to be an increased volume of business closures. But how big that volume is going to be at this point, nobody really has an accurate estimate of what that is going to be,” said University of Texas at El Paso Economics Professor, Thomas Fullerton.

There’s a ripple effect from a big spike in job losses and decline in property values as businesses close their doors and liquidate their holdings.

“That’s going to increase unemployment in El Paso. It’s also going to see increased commercial vacancy rates in South-Central El Paso, which eventually will cause leases per dollars per square foot to decline as well,” Fullerton explained.

In an effort to keep her event planning business going until the shoppers are allowed to return, Gallegos has begun using sources such as Facebook to display her work in hopes of attracting more shoppers online in addition to her storefront. “It has not been the same,” Gallegos said.

Over at La Quinta clothing store Hernandez tries to stay optimistic.“As soon as the pandemic is over and people from south of the border can cross, I’m absolutely sure this will improve a lot.”

 

Categories: Local Blogs

Soccer team with players on both sides of the border rebuilds in response to pandemic limitations

Sun, 11/29/2020 - 5:22pm

As COVID-19 arrived at the borderland, many of those who frequently cross from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, but are not U.S. citizens or U.S residents, had to stay back in Mexico. For the Dynamo Futbol Club, a local amateur soccer team based in El Paso, that meant some of the players on the team that are from Ciudad Juárez were unable to finish the season.

Dynamo encountered many challenges as the pandemic of COVID-19 began in the spring of 2020. Eight players who lived in Juarez were not able to cross to El Paso, after the U.S. limited entry to U.S. residents and essential travelers, such as students. Players on the team range in age from 20 to 35 years old. The Dynamo Futbol Club has about 30 players because conflicts with work or parenting duties meant not all players could not attend all the games.

Dynamo coach Carlos Moreno, 24, feels he has big responsibility with his players. He is trying to keep the team united as the pandemic requires social distancing. He has noticed how some of the players have been affected emotionally by the pandemic. “They all want to play, but not all of them are able to play, so they are frustrated, upset,” Moreno said.

Frank Rodriguez, 23, goalkeeper of the Dynamo soccer team warms up before the game on Sept. 27,2020. Photo credit: Stephanie Chavez

 

The local amateur soccer team stopped playing for about three months, which gave the coach the opportunity to find new players.

“I had time to recruit more people, to reinforce the team with those seven, eight players that I was missing that were in Juárez, and it worked for us,” Moreno said. “They still need to adapt a little bit more, however they play good.”

Some of the players felt they declined physically during the break.

“It was a few months without playing, so I was a little bit out of shape, a little bit out of the rhythm of the game,” said Dynamo goalkeeper, Frank Rodriguez, 23. “So coming back and playing again it took some games to adjust again.”

The majority of the players from Ciudad Juárez, requested some time off until they can cross the international bridges again. The order to limit non-essential travel at the border was extended to Dec. 21, but is likely to continue through the end of the year, depending on the circumstances regarding COVID-19.

“Patience, just have patience so that as soon as they open the bridges, they still have their spot on the team,” Moreno said.

Dynamo soccer team playing on September 27,2020 in the Cielo Vista Park. Photo credit: Stephanie Chavez

 

Another challenge the team encountered was that some of the players were scared of going to the games because they did not want to risk themselves and their families to exposure to coronavirus.

Jesus Cortes, 24, who has been playing for Dynamo for a little less than a year said when the pandemic hit players stopped gathering together after games. Then, Cortes said he stopped attending games for a while.

“I wasn’t really coming out the first few weeks, I was a bit scared you know. I mean I didn’t mind getting sick , you know most people get sick and stuff. But, I was just thinking of not getting my parents sick, just because I want to come to a soccer game,” Cortes said.

As the team went back on the field in September they followed precautions, such as keeping their distance of 6 feet apart and using of hand sanitizer.

“I do think about it when I’m out in the field , you know clashing into other players, thinking that they might have the COVID. But at the same time you know you got to move on you gotta start living life, I can’t stop my whole life just because of this,” Cortes said in September.

Coach Carlos Moreno,23, talking with two of his players before the game on Sunday, September 27,2020. Photo credit: Stephanie Chavez

In October, Dynamo Futbol Club won the Dragon Cup Category A championship, according to its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Moreno continues to try to keep the team connected through text messages and phone calls and hopes to continue growing the roster.

“God willing, everything will go back to normality,” Moreno said.

Categories: Local Blogs

What makes pozole so irresistible?

Sun, 11/29/2020 - 4:00pm

EL PASO — As chilly weather sets in and fall finally arrives in the borderland, so does the beloved tradition of making pozole.

Elva “Raquel” Salas, 60, sells the slow-cooked red chile and hominy stew from home on weekends to earn extra money. The mother of three and grandmother of eight works full-time at a power plant, but on Sundays she sells her homemade pozole to friends, family and others who don’t have time to make their own.

Red chiles are blended to make a sauce that Elva “Raquel” Salas uses with a mixture of seasonings to make pozole. Photo by Emilia Zubia, Borderzine.com.

Salas uses a recipe from her grandmother’s kitchen. She says it’s all about the seasoning. “It’s the pork meat with onion, garlic and salt. Then red chile ,the guajillo chile, a pinch of oregano, two basil leaves and a pinch of cumin, that’s what gives it a good flavor,” Salas said.

She said the secret is all about how you cook it. She’s secretive about her entire recipe but offered this tip: put the oregano in the pozole while cooking instead of adding it after.

With her $7 dollar liter bowl Salas has built up a loyal customer base. She does not deliver but has plenty of hungry customers happy to pick up their pozole from her doorstep. Due to the pandemic, she now asks customers to wear a mask.

Salas says that because it has been colder, more people are asking for pozole. And she has expanded to sell pozole on Saturday as well as Sunday.

But what exactly is this ancient stew?

Pozole is one of Mexico’s most beloved hot dishes as well as one of the oldest. According to research made by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, pozole originated from the Aztecs and other indigenous people, historic texts say pozole used to be cooked with sacrificed human flesh.

Fortunately for us, the Spanish changed the human flesh to pork meat. Made from hominy, pork or chicken and your choice of sauce between, red or green Chile sauce or clear broth.

According to Culture Trip, a website for exploring cultures through food and travel, the variations on sauces used in different locations represent the colors of the Mexican flag – green (verde), white (blanco) and red (rojo). White pozole is more common in Arizona. Red dominates in El Paso.

Pozole is traditionally served with a side of warm white bolillo or tortillas to soak up the broth and is served with a variety of toppings that can be added to make this stew more flavorful. Some top their bowl of pozole with fresh diced onions, shredded cabbage, radishes, oregano and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Others may prefer lettuce instead of cabbage.

Borderlanders share what they love about pozole

When asked in an informal poll by this reporter on Facebook about what makes pozole so irresistible, people had a lot to say.

Pozole on the U.S.-Mexico border is typically prepared with a red sauce. It is served with a bolillo roll and garnished with shredded cabbage, radishes and lime. Photo by Emilia Zubia, Borderzine.com

 

Yvan Montoya said it’s the “pan blanco mixed with the sauce.” Ramon “Ray” Arambula said that it’s the meat. Cameron Webb said it’s the hominy. Others say that it’s the perfect warm soup for the cold day.

Out of 70 people who answered this survey, 89 percent of respondents agreed that colder weather calls for the iconic Mexican stew. But, 7 percent of hard-core fans said any day is a good day for pozole.

Where can you buy pozole?

In the same Facebook poll, I asked if it’s better to buy store-bought pozole or home cooked. It was not surprising that 100 percent said it’s better home cooked.

Elva “Raquel’ Salas blending the red chile sauce for the pozole she will sell. Photo by Emilia Zubia, Borderzine.com

But for the many who don’t have time to make their own, living in a border city is an advantage for pozole lovers. There are plenty of Mexican restaurants that sell it. According to Yelp, there are over 30 restaurants selling pozole in El Paso and 39 restaurants listed in Ciudad Juarez.

And these days social media is also a place where people are selling and buying pozole including in the Facebook marketplace. Elva says that going online has helped her sell more pozole.“Everyone is on Facebook these days,” Salas said.

 

 

Categories: Local Blogs

Innovating journalism education during a pandemic with a little help from our news network and donors

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 12:57pm

When COVID-19 first swept across the country this spring, news organizations began canceling internships for college students. That was devastating news for students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions like the University of Texas at El Paso who are trying to stand out in the media job market. Strong internships are needed for professional experience and important networking opportunities that can lead to better prospects at graduation.

Fortunately, thanks to Borderzine’s dues-paying membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News, we were able to reach out to a wide network of digital media organizations around the country. The UTEP multimedia journalism program was able to place seven of our students in remote summer internships with INN members. It was an informal effort, set up at the last minute. Going forward, we are talking with INN staff now about standing up a more formal arrangement for 2021.

The professional journalists who worked with our students came away impressed, and in some cases asked the students to continue a professional relationship beyond the summer.

Claudia Hernandez

Claudia (Hernandez) has been stellar and we plan on working with her on a freelance basis after her internship ends on Aug. 31,” said Nissa Rhee, executive director of Borderless Magazine based in Chicago. Hernandez worked on a series of interviews with immigrants for Borderless Magazine’s Postcards from the Border feature.

“I think I fell in love with journalism even more,” said Hernandez, who is graduating in December. 

Frank Hernandez

Pam Dempsey, executive director of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, said student reporter Frank Hernandez was invaluable on an investigation they published on coronavirus in the meatpacking industry. The project, done in collaboration with USA Today, looked at how meatpacking executives sacrificed worker safety for profits. InvestigateMidwest.org extended the internship for Frank Hernandez into the fall semester.

Our multimedia journalism students showed the resilience that is a UTEP hallmark, adapting quickly to work with editors and sources miles away. 

Exodis Ward

“There’s something about being in a professional space where they trust you to do your work. I was greatly supported and challenged so I know that my writing and research can go further in depth. It’s a great feeling! I feel like I can bring even more to the table!” said Exodis Ward, who did her internship with New Mexico In-Depth.

Under the Borderzine umbrella, UTEP’s journalism program promotes the advantages of our pipeline of talented multicultural students – many of whom are bilingual – who are training in the largest binational community on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Anahy Diaz

“The skills I acquired during my semester in the audio and video production course allowed me to have a better understanding of how to navigate through the assignments required from me during my internship. These assignments involved skills like editing for radio, writing scripts, producing stories, among other things,” said Anahy Diaz, who interned for KTEP public radio on campus.

Connie Martinez

“Without learning (Adobe) Premier or utilizing the writing skills taught within the communication department I would not have been able to successfully publish stories for the Traveler,” said Consuelo Martinez, whose internship was with National Parks Traveler, which does in-depth reporting on U.S. national parks.

Kurt Repanshek, the editor-in-chief of National Parks Traveler, said Martinez did a great job, particularly given the constraints of a remote internship.

“Consuelo has been great to work with. She’s responsive, a quick learner, and comes with a nice skillset (photography, writing, video construction, bilingual). She tackles her assignments constructively and quickly, and takes instruction well,” he said.

UTEP students also worked with INN.org member organizations NOWCastSA in San Antonio and the Tucson Sentinel.

Thanks to the support of our donors in building up Borderzine and the MMJ program, more media organizations are taking an interest in the work we are doing here – reporting on the borderland and preparing a diverse, well-rounded field of candidates with the skills to tell the stories that matter to our communities.

And right now, we have another opportunity to grow, also thanks to our membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News. During the 2020 national NewsMatch campaign, all donations to support Borderzine will be doubled! You can make your gift now and sign up as a recurring donor to continue to sustain our program as we go forward. 

Categories: Local Blogs

Hispanic, Latino … a single word is too small to capture who we are

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 11:56am

In the leadup to the Nov. 3 election and in its aftermath, there’s been a lot of talk about how Latinos aren’t a monolith, and the messiness of trying to lump so many different people into one group.

It’s also something Brandy Ruiz has been thinking about. She’s a journalism student at the University of Texas at El Paso. What, she wondered, does it even mean to be Latino or Hispanic?

Ruiz set out to explore that question in this report.

When Gabriel Renifo was 12-years-old, his family moved from Venezuela to Denton, Texas. That’s where he first learned about Hispanic Heritage Month.

“That wasn’t a thing growing up,” he said. “I’m Hispanic every month.”

In Denton, most of his classmates were Mexican-American. But every fall, during Hispanic Heritage Month, he was the one selected to pick decorations for the school’s announcement board.

While his teachers singled him out, his classmates assumed he was like them.

“Eventually, they were like, ‘You’re Mexican right?’ And I would tell them, I’m not Mexican. If you say I’m Hispanic then I’ll tell you where I’m from,” Renifo recalled.

“I was like, how do you not know that? Then I started realizing that people just think of Latinos — Mexico. Because it’s just the nearest thing here, right? And there’s just so much more.”

I have to admit, as a kid, I was that person — the one to think that every Latino was Mexican.

I grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border, raised by a Mexican mom, surrounded by other Mexican-Americans.

But we never really learned about other Latin American countries and their cultures.

We barely even learned about our own. We just received a few lessons about Día de los Muertos, maybe Cesar Chavez and then the Mexican-American War (taught from the U.S.’ point of view, of course).

“You would think in El Paso, you would learn so much more about Hispanic culture, but you really don’t,” said Kyra Lewis, a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Lewis has always felt connected to her Mexican roots. Not because of what she learned in school but through her grandmother.

“My grandma is a very traditional Mexican woman,” she said. “She cooks and cooks and cooks and is offended when you don’t eat her food, and she’s very stereotypical.”

Her grandma instilled a love of Mexican music and dance, and taught her to make dishes like fideo and albondigas.

Yet Lewis has often had the opposite experience of Gabriel Renifo. Because she’s Afro-Latina — Mexican and Black — many people don’t assume she’s Mexican.

They’re especially shocked when they see her dance to Spanish music with her grandma.

“Because of course they see a big Black woman walk in with her afro out and then she starts dancing,” Lewis said. “They’re like, ‘Oh my god, are you Cuban?’ No. ‘Are you Colombian?’ No, no, no. ‘You’re- you’re Dominican?’ Like I’m just Black and Mexican, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Kyra Lewis with her mom and grandmother. She credits her grandmother with instilling a strong sense of pride in her Mexican roots.

There’s no color barrier on being Hispanic, Lewis said, but sometimes Afro-Latinos are erased.

She remembers watching the 2019 Emmy Awards and feeling excited when Jharrel Jerome, an Afro-Latino actor, won an award for outstanding lead actor for his role in the series “When They See Us.”

Then she read some of the reactions on social media, where many people didn’t recognize this achievement.

“It’s unfortunate that even when Afro-Latino people are winning awards or are in primetime roles, they’re not really seen through the lens of ‘Hispanic goals,’” Lewis said.

“They’re more seen in the sense of ‘Black goals’…It’s one of those things where, when Afro-Latinos are represented, it’s not really accepted as what being Hispanic is.”

The word Hispanic is meant to encompass many countries and cultures. But Frank Peréz, an associate professor of communication at UTEP, said it doesn’t always work that way.

“We tend to kind of overemphasize the Spanish side of the culture and then we downplay the mestizo or indigenous or Mexican sides of the culture or other parts of the Latinx culture,” he said.

He believes the term Hispanic, and the way Hispanic history is taught, often ignores indigenous people and crimes committed against them.

“We create this mythic ideal that the Spaniards came and indigenous fell to their knees and said, ‘thank you for bringing us science and religion,’” Peréz said.

“Then the natives would happily wake up every morning and they would just throw corn on the ground and beanstalks would jump up and at the end of the day they’d sit with the friars and learn Christianity and learn to read, and that’s ridiculous.”

Kyra Lewis believes the push for cultural assimilation in the U.S. cuts Latinos off from our roots.

“There’s really no one box to put Hispanic people in and I think that’s what’s really beautiful about having cultures outside of an American culture,” she said.

She thinks we should reclaim those roots and recognize there’s no single definition of Hispanic or Latino.

Gabriel Renifo, who moved to the U.S. in middle school, agrees.

When asked how he defines himself, he said, “I’m just Venezuelan, bro.”

Brandy Ruiz

Brandy Ruiz is a student in the Audio Journalism and Podcasting Research Course at the University of Texas at El Paso. This report was also published by public radio stations KTEP and KERA

Categories: Local Blogs


by Dr. Radut