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Updated: 7 min 55 sec ago

Roadkill hazards go beyond initial impact

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 11:28pm

Roadkill is not an uncommon sight along the rural roads and highways of the borderland. Yet, many people may not be aware of the hazards animal-vehicle collisions can cause.

Lois Balin, an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Urban Wildlife Program helps the El Paso community with professional planning guidance, management recommendations and research associated with wildlife. She said animal and vehicle encounters are not only traffic hazards, but can also pose health problems for a community.

“After a certain amount of time they are going to be filled with maggots and hopefully nobody is collecting these animals to eat,” Balin said.

Touching roadkill presents several health risks including contracting bacteria and viruses. Animals both big and small are a threat to safety on the road for automobile drivers.

“There is direct danger when they hit a big animal that they’re going to have an accident. People also swerve to avoid hitting animals and then they can hit another car or another person,” Balin said.

Texas Department of Transportation public affairs officer, Jennifer Wright agreed that swerving to avoid small animals can put road travelers at greater risk.

“If you’re driving along I-10 in this urban area and you see a dog or a cat on the highway, it pains me to say this, it’s safer to hit the animal than it is to swerve around it. As an animal lover it grieves me that that’s the consequence,” Wright said.

Proximity to the Franklin Mountains can bring encounters with larger animals, such as mule deer, in the city’s Westside neighborhoods that are close to the mountains. Dogs, birds and smaller mammals are the more common roadkill in the city. Birds tend to fly across roads, smashing into windshields.

“Snakes get hit a lot on the road. Even amphibians and other critters are searching for an area for food or water they may not have where they are so, they will cross the road looking for it somewhere else,” Balin said.

In a joint effort to mitigate habitat fragmentation and practice habitat conservation, the El Paso wildlife program and the Texas Department of Transportation worked together to build an underpass adjacent to Tom Mays Park near Transmountain Road. The area includes some fencing to try to direct wildlife to the underpass so that they can safely cross the highway.

During the spring and summer months, most animals begin breeding season, which can lead to greater road risks.

“In the breeding season the animals are probably going to be searching greater areas to get their food resources met to feed their young. So, they may be traveling more,” Balin explained. “Then after the breeding season, young animals cannot often occupy the same home range or territory as their parents so they have to find their own place to live,.”

TXDot helps with the cleanup of roadkill along Texas roadways.

“In rural areas when we come across animal carcasses, we will dispose of them by burying them in our right of way right along the side of the roadway,” Wright said.

To report roadkill on Texas highways, call Texas Department of Transportation at (915) 790-4200 or go to TxDot. The City of El Paso environment services department provides dead animal pick up for a fee. For more details, visit their website.

The post Roadkill hazards go beyond initial impact appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

Love Letter to Sunset Heights mural highlights border history

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 10:45pm

It took three years to bring a love letter to El Paso to life in the historical neighborhood of Sunset Heights.

Pearl Properties unveiled the mural, Love Letter to Sunset Heights, during the neighborhood’s annual tour of homes last fall. The mural is painted on the side of the Pearl apartment building at 220 Yandell, which overlooks I-10.

Sunset heights residents, city representatives and Pearl Properties staff gather for the unveiling of the Love Letter to Sunset Heights mural in El Paso, TX. on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The mural took three years to come alive and was painted by local artist Alejandro Lomeli. Photo credit: Eddie Velazquez

The Pearl’s owners commissioned Alejandro Lomeli as the artistic director in charge of the painting, but the project didn’t happen overnight. Lomeli, who has lived in three different Pearl buildings – including the one where the mural is now – went off to work as a steelworker in Albuquerque for a while as funding for the project was secured along with permission from the El Paso Historic Landmark Commission.

“The Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association were our main partners,” said Stefanie Uribarri, manager of the Pearl apartment building. “We reached out to them with the idea to see if the community would approve and they were very supportive. They helped us with the process to apply to the Historic Landmark Commission.”

Sunset Heights resident Dolores Henderson gets her first look at the preview of the mural in El Paso, TX. on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Henderson said she has been a longtime resident of the neighborhood and the mural will help visitors know about El Paso history. Photo credit: Eddie Velazquez

Uribarri attributed the idea for the mural to District 1 City Rep. Peter Svarzbein.

“Before he was a city councilman Peter was doing interventions in other buildings and he said ‘you know, the side of that building would be perfect for a mural’ and that was the origin for this concept,” Uribarri said. “That was five years before we even talked to Alex about the mural.”

The concept for the painting itself stemmed from one of Lomeli’s favorite hobbies. “I love collecting postcards of El Paso,” Lomeli said. “I was going to make a painting out of one and I suggested it as the idea for the mural.”

Lomeli said the first dr

Alejandro Lomeli works on detailing the mural in El Paso, TX. on Thursday Oct. 11, 2018. Lomeli said that his shifts working on the mural ranged from 8-12 hours a day. Photo credit: Eddie Velazquez

aft had more downtown buildings had a sunset as its main element before he decided to focus on Sunset Heights.

“I am a big supporter of local history and historic buildings so I thought it was great if we kept it Sunset Heights and added some historical figures from the history of El Paso,” he said.

Mexican revolutionary hero Pancho Villa and renowned architect Henry Trost, both believed to have been Sunset Heights residents, are featured on the mural.

Lomeli said that his favorite part of the mural was the color scheme.

“I think the buildings coming up and building art are just too drab,” he said. “That’s why I think adding some color is good. And to me, it matches what the neighborhood is like.”

Svarzbein said the high visibility of the mural is a bonus for the community. “For all the cars driving by to be able to see this and for all the people to walking from Sunset Heights to downtown to see this history come alive is beautiful,” he said.

Lomeli hopes the project helps make a broader impact on passers by.

“I want the mural to show that El Paso has talent, that it is not just a mediocre city and I want it to make El Paso stand out,” he said.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Explicit lyrics in Latino music worries some, but simply reflects popular culture experts say

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 8:59pm

The Dominican Republic recently decided to ban certain Latino music due to obscene language, sexual content, and lyrics that talk about drug trafficking and consumption. Critics in other Latin American countries are claiming that explicit music is having a negative impact on the their culture.

But some scholars say the content that offends one generation is just part of a normal evolution for popular music and society. Roberto Avant-Mier, a professor of communication at the University of Texas at El Paso specializing in popular music and film explained that music and society have a reciprocal relationship.

“I know for a fact music has an effect on society but also, society has an effect on music. I think it goes both ways in other words,” he said. “People can affect music, music can affect people. I think it’s all a relationship, like a back and forth relationship.”

Curtis Tredway, a music professor at UTEP, said explicit language and content has always been around and it is just becoming more mainstream as society’s standards are changing.

“The truth is, people have been using interesting language forever, maybe we don’t always use it on television, or records, or movies or things like that, but it’s always been there. And to say that it hasn’t is just putting on blinders. So, I think that artists today want to just be more real in what they do,” Tredway said.

Avant-Mier said that this is a reflection of how people’s perception changes over the years. “If you put it in a context of history, what we are seeing now at the moment would seem like it’s too much for us, but in 20 or 30 years, they will be like ‘that was nothing,’” he said.

Different genres of Spanish music, including Mexican regional, and Urban Latino like the ones shown in the photo have been banned in some countries due to their content. Photo credit: Roberto Saenz

Mexican regional music, like the corrido, is very popular in the border area. And while it doesn’t necessarily use strong language, the content dealing with topics like the drug cartels and violence, developed songs into what is known as “narcocorridos.”

Corridos were more political when the style began – telling stories about oppression by the government, Avant-Mier said. Now they reflect more popular culture of romanticizing outlaws.

“I think beginning in the maybe late 80’s, early 90s, it became about glorifying narco, narcotrafico,” Avant-Mier said. “If you look at narcocorridos now, they glorify violence, they glorify money, the drug trade. They’re too easily glorifying the drug trade.”

Mexico has forbidden many artists that sing narcocorridos from performing certain songs due to their content, as officials claim they incite violence and justify crime.

Tredway said that the public also plays its own role in refusing to support performers who go too far.

“With any kind of censorship, then it just gets to be, where do you draw the line. And there have been lots of cases that just kind of say, maybe every individual has to draw the line for themselves. If an artist is performing that kind of stuff, then you have to decide not to go to that concert,” he said.

The rise of urban Latino genres, like reggaeton, have become more vocal about previously taboo topics like sex. Avant-Mier said that can be seen a way for young people to act out against the standards of older generations and showing they won’t be repressed by society.

“The way you get kids to do something is to ban it. If you tell kids ‘Don’t listen to reggaeton because it’s too sexual,’ they’re gonna go for the very thing that the parents don’t want the to do because it’s a form of rebellion,” he said.

If parents are concerned about the impact of explicit lyrics on their children, Tredway suggests there should be a way for music platforms and retailers to communicate or to let the people know what content they are putting out for sale.

“Even though I’m pretty open-minded, as a parent, I want to know what my kids are listening to. And, so I think that there needs to be some kind of way to inform the adults that this is the content of this. Whether that’s a red flag, or something, I don’t know,” Tredway said. “There needs to be some kind of communication.”

The post Explicit lyrics in Latino music worries some, but simply reflects popular culture experts say appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

How to make a career change into the tech industry before leaving college

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 5:48pm

College is the time to figure out what you’re good at and who you are as an individual, at least in my experience. I changed my major twice in four years and finally ended up with a career path I found to be enjoyable.

I found a passion for web development and design during the summer of 2017 when I was studying for a degree in multimedia journalism. I was taking a digital audio and video class and our professor had us create a basic website for the content we created in the classroom.

While I already had a WordPress site, I was trying to make my web page look interesting and less like a generic template. I was playing around with plugins but it still did not have the “look” I wanted. My brother, a Java developer, suggested I create my website from scratch, which meant I would have to code it myself. He helped me out by introducing me to the fundamentals of HTML and CSS.

My brother and I spent a full week putting my website together. I designed my layout and he helped me build it and add all my content.

After that, I was hooked.

I decided I wanted to explore the world of web development by taking courses online through Udemy and Udacity. The first course I started was The Web Developer Bootcamp Course with Colt Steele. I still remember those nights staying up late and getting excited when I would figure out a coding problem all by myself!

It wasn’t long after that that I decided I wanted to pursue web development as a career. I quit my job as a public relations specialist to focus on learning JavaScript.

I soon discovered the El Paso community has several resources to offer, including web development classes. Fab Lab El Paso offers classes to people of all ages who want to learn how to code. I took an Intro to Web Development class with them.

In the class, I met very interesting people from different backgrounds, all trying to immerse themselves in the tech industry.

Networking for Tech Success

When transitioning into the tech world, it’s important to make connections with people who have experience. I was fortunate to network with PHP and Ruby developers from Spectrum Technologies, Stanton Street, and Singulution.Even though I’m brand new to the world of web development, these contacts will be important when I have enough experience to work with these companies.

Another tip: it’s important to tell people you are interested in web development or programming. That way, they will remember you when they see there’s a job opening for a tech position. Shortly before I graduated, one of my professors recommended me for a web design position solely on the basis that I told him I was interested in web design. I now get to practice coding and work on web design projects.

Also, adjust your website or portfolio to meet the standards of the position you are applying for. Whether it’s computer programming, information technology, or user experience design, list the skills employers are looking for.

Lastly, and most importantly, learn every day. Becoming a web developer requires learning on your own and solving problems. I worked to make my website better and add content to showcase my skills. I’m also added app development to my repertoire of programming skills.

Just like everything, programming is difficult at first. There will be days when nothing seems to work and you feel like throwing in the towel. Remember to be patient and don’t let your frustration prevail. Soon enough you’ll have learned the in’s and out’s of computer programming and have successfully made your transition into the tech industry.



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Categories: Local Blogs

What language do you play in? Online gaming chatter a mix of voices in global matchups

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 4:23pm

The success of the early online multi-player games like Doom laid the groundwork for successors like Halo and more recent titles such as Fortnite. Since then, there have been significant improvements in network capabilities that now allow hundreds of thousands of people from English and non-English-speaking countries all over the world to play a game together.

So what happens when you connect with someone that speaks a different language than you do?

Many players use microphones to communicate so this creates an obvious barrier. But Luis Rodriguez says that there have always been ways to get around such language barriers if a player is willing to look for them. Rodriguez recalls working with what he describes as “an Italian gang” when playing Tony Hawks’ Underground online.

Having been a part of the video gaming community for 15 years, Rodriguez was first enamored of online gaming in 2004 when he played Halo 2 for the Xbox. Around this time, development studios improved matchmaking capabilities that allowed players to be matched with other users of the same skill level.

“In order to communicate with people on the team, I was taught to speak Italian. This happened over a microphone with someone on the other end teaching me all these phrases I should know,” Rodriguez said.

However, according to an online forum for Fortnite gamers, some English-speaking gamers aren’t interested in playing with people who speak a different language.

One gamer who goes by the username “MyTeamAlwaysSuck”complains that whenever he plays the game he runs into “nothing but 12-year-old open-mic Mexicans.”

Luis Rodriguez

Rodriguez says he has had some bad experiences when playing with someone speaking a different language but says the experiences vary.

“It can be anything from having someone on your team who doesn’t know your language that’s constantly ruining situations in the game or causing you to lose your advantage in the game, but it can range,” Rodriguez says.

While some players are unwilling to work around a language barrier, other gamers like 88Infamous, a senior member of an EpicGames forum, have no problem working around the language barrier.

“I play EU servers from London and English is the least spoken language I hear when playing lol. It’s definitely annoying, but can be quite funny at times trying to communicate with single words and picking up clutchy wins,” writes 88Infamous on the online forum.

Ashley Lacey, an assistant manager at Gamestop, says that she uses Google translate when she receives in-game messages in a different language.

“I tend to use Google translate for Fortnite item requests, unless I’m playing with my six-year-old who just usually ignores the chat box altogether,” Lacey says.

Other members on the forum suggest English-speaking gamers exchange information with one another in order to host their own matches in English.

While much of the communication that occurs in online gaming is achieved through mic headsets, some gamers communicate exclusively using a keyboard. Since timely communication is key to certain multiplayer games, early gamers developed what came to be known as 1337 SP34k (or “Leet Speak.”)

In the early days of the Internet, most search functionalities were reliant on keyword identification, which meant hackers wanting to keep their secrets hidden resorted to using vowel substitutions such as a 3 instead of an E or a 4 instead of an A.

Though mostly obsolete, Rodriguez says that Leet Speak is still his preferred method of communication via a keyboard.

“They want to involve as many people as you can, say if you’re handicapped and couldn’t speak or type there’s always some way for you to play the game and I feel like that’s a good thing.”



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Categories: Local Blogs

Mom couldn’t find inclusive preschool for her child with special needs, so she opened one in El Paso

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 10:00am

EL PASO – After her daughter was born five years ago with Down syndrome, local educator Kerry McKee began an extensive search for special education opportunities for children with the genetic condition.

She searched with no luck for schools in the El Paso area that catered to children like her daughter and discovered that Down syndrome children often were placed in separate classrooms.

She even considered moving to another city in Texas with special facilities and learning opportunities for children with special needs.

“I said, that’s not the education my child is going to have,” said Mckee, who has worked for 20 years in the field of education.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, approximately one in every 700 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome – or about 6,000 each year.

Finally, after visiting the KinderFrogs School in Fort Worth, an inclusive program designed for children with disabilities, she decided El Paso needed a program like it.

With financial support from the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso and the El Paso Community Foundation, a year ago her dream came true when she opened the Every Little Blessing Preschool program located in the Mesa Plaza Shopping Center on North Mesa near Hobby Lobby. The program now enrolls 15 children between 18 months and five years of age.

“It was a coming together of everybody at just the right time,” said Mckee of her efforts to seek local support for the special school.

Every Little Blessing students and staff

The program’s target population is children with Down syndrome, but also Every Little Blessing also accepts children who have similar developmental differences, as well as typically developing children.

The program currently has two classes separated by development needs that incorporate play-based learning, the “Littles,” and the “Bigs.” The “Littles” class, which enrolls seven children, focuses on developing self-help skills, sensory exploration, and gross motor skills. While the “Bigs” class, with eight children, works on applying those self-help skills independently to prepare them for the transition into kindergarten.

Teaching Assistant Monica Lobera said she fell in love with her job and finds it fulfilling. “It takes them longer to get it most of the time, but when they do it’s the most rewarding,” said Lobera.

“We are constantly seeking to improve and we’re hoping to become the Down syndrome experts in El Paso,” she added.

The program keeps a ratio of no more than three students per adult. Mckee says this plays a big part in why teachers are able to meet each child’s individual needs, no matter what their special needs are.

“Bigs” teacher Jade Beltran has been a special education teacher for over 10 years. She says working with students one-on-one and in smaller groups is more effective than having a very large class. In addition to satisfying the children’s educational needs, teachers work on developing the social and emotional needs of each child by working together with the whole family.

“I definitely believe that we are working to not only educate the children and help them develop in a positive aspect, but we are also assisting the parents and the grandparents as well,” Beltran said.

She adds, “I think there needs to be a whole family, a village type, to raise a child, so I think we’ve been a good tool and a good resource.”

Mckee’s goal for Every Little Blessing is to to eventually create child education opportunities for a variety of special needs. In the future she hopes to expand the preschool and move to a more central location in the city, where they can meet the needs of more children.

“My focus on Down syndrome was because that’s what I learned when my child was born, but I’ve also learned that all children need an amazing educational foundation,” said Mckee, adding that “there’s a lot of joy in raising a child with special needs.

She believes the school has raised awareness in the community about individuals with special needs. While children and adults with Down syndrome experience developmental delays, they have many talents and gifts and should be given the opportunity and encouragement to develop them.

“Education is really the best way to create change,” she said.

For information on Every Little Blessing Preschool:


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Categories: Local Blogs

Do memes contribute to obesity among teens? Study says yes

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 11:30am

El Paso – Nearly 20 percent of high school students in Texas are considered obese and the state ranks fifth in the U.S. for high school students who are obese, according to the website The State of Obesity.

At the same time, Hispanic children in Texas have the highest rate of childhood obesity, or 21.9 percent, followed by non-Hispanic blacks with a rate of 19.5 percent and non-Hispanic whites with a childhood obesity rate of 14.7 percent, according to the Texas Medical Association. Obesity among the youth ages 10-17 accumulated a total of 18.5 percent within the state.

And, for the Paso Del Norte region, almost 40 percent of residents between the ages of 18 and 29 are considered obese, and one in three of all El Pasoans are considered obese or overweight.

Reasons for obesity in teens range from personal behaviors including eating habits and physical activity to genetics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And researchers are now also studying what role the prevalence of internet memes may be having on the increase in obesity among teenagers.

A new study from Loughborough University in the UK suggests that internet memes may be affecting the lifestyle choices of teenagers that result in obesity.

In their study, Dr. Ash Casey, Dr. Martin Sykora, Dr. Suzanne Elyan and professors Tom Jackson and Lorraine Cale concluded that internet memes carry negative health-related messaging as some of the memes make light of unhealthy eating habits.

“A substantial number of individuals on Twitter share health-related internet memes, with both positive and negative messages,” the authors wrote in a letter to a British parliamentary committee.

The researchers referenced a picture of an overweight child captioned “Free food? Count me in!” as an example of memes that promote unhealthy eating habits. They also said memes such as this one have the power to negatively affect a teenager’s self-image and emotional health.

“With the prevalence of social media as a source of health knowledge among young people, and indications that Internet memes may be playing a part in a general apathy towards behaviours that ridicule individuals and groups who display ‘non-normative’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘irresponsible’, ‘at fault’ characteristics. The risks that this poses to future generations and our youth are noteworthy,” the researchers wrote.

Marilyn Rotwein, a nutrition educator and sports dietician at UTEP, does not believe that El Paso’s obesity problem is connected to the prevalence of internet memes.

“I don’t think memes lead to obesity, but (they) sure can be putting negative thoughts into a teenager’s mind,” Rotwein said. “I’m not sure there is a cause effect rise in obesity from these messages, but do believe that poor food choices and eating patterns plus inactivity and genetics plays a more important role.”

Leah Whigham, an executive director for Paso Del Norte and an associate professor at UTEP, see’s obesity among El Pasoans as a lifestyle choice. “It does not get treated as a disease. Instead, people with obesity are often the target of cruel humor,” Whigham said.

Both professionals believe that more information about healthy eating and the importance of physical activity can help arrest the obesity problem.

“I try to help our students at UTEP understand how obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc). I help them by providing personal confidential nutrition counseling and providing motivational talks throughout our campus,” Rotwein said.

Whigham added: “It is important that we shift our cultural views on obesity. If images in the media and social media, including memes, continue to portray people with obesity negatively, our children will learn the wrong message about their bodies and weight.

“We need to encourage people to think about obesity as it is – a chronic disease that requires a complex approach to manage. We do not distribute memes making fun of people with cancer, heart disease or diabetes yet those are all diseases that can be impacted by diet and exercise. Why should obesity be any different?”


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Categories: Local Blogs

El Paso working hard to reach no-kill shelter status by 2020

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 11:30am

The City of El Paso has implemented multiple measures to address growing citizen concerns about the welfare of animals within the city. These measures include turning the El Paso Animal Shelter into a no-kill facility by 2020, encouraging more animal adoptions and increasing the number of volunteers working at the El Paso Animal Shelter.

El Paso residents have frequently voiced concerns about the commitment of the city government to properly care for abandoned or neglected animals. In 2013, the city had a live release rate for shelter animals of roughly 26 percent, meaning that three-quarters of shelter animals were being euthanized.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that anywhere from five to seven million animals are euthanized every year in shelters nationwide, while only 10 to 20 percent of families adopt their animals from shelters. The El Paso Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Unit did not respond to several requests for information about the city’s animal abuse statistics.

In 2016, the El Paso Animal Services’ Department changed its mission to become a no-kill shelter by 2020. To qualify as a no-kill shelter, El Paso Animal Services must achieve at least a 90 percent live-release rate. Live-release includes animals that are returned to their owners, adopted out to new homes, or moved into a rescue program. To achieve this mission, the shelter has increased its adoption efforts by conducting intensive adoption campaigns and events that include waiving low-cost adoption fees, holding promotional events for local schools, and coordinating with local pet stores. After launching these programs and initiatives, the shelter live-release rate has grown to 83 percent and is on its way toward achieving a 90 percent live-release rate by 2020.

Michele Anderson, Public Affairs Specialist for El Paso Animal Services, said that it took many different proactive measures to lower the shelter’s kill rate.

“We have to have life-saving programs, numerous life-saving programs, such as an adoption program, foster program, a community cat program,” Anderson said.

She said thanks to these life-saving programs the only animals currently euthanized at the shelter are those with a life-threatening illness or injury.

El Paso Animal Shelter’s foster program is a short-term measure of two to eight weeks that helps the shelter deal with the overpopulation of kittens and puppies in El Paso, a consequence of low rates of spayed and neutered animals within the city.

Local teacher Judith Semple did not expect to become a foster parent when she visited the shelter. “I had just adopted a puppy from the shelter a few weeks before when I saw this sweet puppy’s photo on the shelter’s web-page. I had to help,” she said.

Semple is now fostering a four-month Pit Bull-mix puppy who has permanent nerve damage as a result of a battle with distemper virus. “He has a permanent twitch but he’s the happiest and sweetest boy, despite his setbacks.”

Short term foster parents help prevent the euthanasia of animals in the shelter who require more specialized care. The Animal Services Department provides one-on-one assistance for the fosters to guide them through the care process. Supplies, food, and medications are also provided free of cost to volunteer fosters. With the help of foster parents, these younger animals have a chance to be socialized in a household environment which makes them more desirable for adoption later. While the current foster caregivers and volunteers are an indispensable part of the animal shelter’s reform mission, there is still a great need for community involvement as the shelter takes in anywhere from 35 to 100 animals every single day.

“The biggest challenge that we’re facing is getting the community to come out and help us. We’re not going to be able to go no-kill without the community’s help,” Anderson said.

El Paso Animal Services has many ways for community members to get involved. This includes adopting a shelter animal rather than shopping for a pet and maintaining their pet’s health by vaccinating and getting them spayed or neutered. For those who cannot commit to adopting, there are still ways to get involved including volunteering and short-term fostering in the shelter, giving of their time to walk shelter dogs, as well as donating to the El Paso Animal Shelter Foundation.

In November 2017, the El Paso Police Department established an animal cruelty unit. The dedicated team of eight officers is assigned to deal with the widespread problems of animal abuse and neglect. The unit works closely with El Paso Animal Services and other local animal rescue groups to prevent animal cruelty by investigating complaints, removing endangered pets and placing them at the shelter where they are checked and treated by a veterinarian.

According to an article in the El Paso Times, the El Paso Animal Cruelty Unit sometimes encounters horrific cases of animal abuse. In one case, a boxer was found so neglected and emaciated that she had to be put down. The perpetrator was charged with animal cruelty by torture.

For more information on the shelter’s volunteer or foster programs visit or

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Categories: Local Blogs

UCLA grad student documents experience of cross-border commuters at Juarez-El Paso bridges and other ports of entry

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 10:12am

EL PASO – Before sunup on a recent breezy Monday morning, Estefania Castañeda-Perez, 27, stood outside the Sun Metro’s Santa Fe Street downtown bus transfer center with a stack of surveys in her arms. Her mission: to further research on the experiences of people crossing the border bridges from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. The ambitious project, she says, hits close to home.

“I began to regularly cross the border when I started to attend middle school in San Diego,” said Castañeda-Perez, a political science Ph.D. student at University of California Los Angeles.

Castaeñda-Perez was born in Tijuana and, as an infant, her parents began crossing her back and forth across the border. When she was older, she began to cross to attend school in San Diego.

“During this time, I had to make various sacrifices that most students in my school did not have to endure, including sleeping less than five hours daily, waking up at 3 a.m. to cross, and enduring harsh questioning about my identity and citizenship status from Customs and Border Patrol on a daily basis,” she added.

The surveys she collected recently during a trip to El Paso are the data collection phase of her dissertation and part of a larger project with Professor Sergio Garcia-Rios of Cornell University, who is supporting and guiding the project.

“We think that this research will help us present to the rest of the country a closer look at the border and one that is often ignored. In other words, a ‘fronterizo’ view of the border,” said Garcia-Rios, who studies Latino and immigrant identity at Cornell.

It is an extension of a senior honors thesis she completed as an undergraduate student at San Diego State University. At UCLA where she is a second-year doctoral student, her studies have been supported by the American Political Science Association, the National Science Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

Castañeda-Perez has already collected 1,300 surveys in El Paso, and in Tijuana has obtained 770 responses from individual border crossers. Next on her list of places to visit to collect data are the border towns of Brownsville and Nogales.

In El Paso, she recently enlisted seven UTEP student volunteers, and, with the support of UTEP Professor Hector Padilla, recruited several students from Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez to help administer the surveys to border crossers as they drive or walk over the Santa Fe and Cordova bridges from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. She spent about two weeks in the Sun City to supervise the data collection.

“Through this research, I seek to amplify our understanding of how border enforcement impacts the lives of individuals residing in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands,” Castañeda-Perez said.

In addition to one day publish her findings in an academic journal, she said she hopes to “create one of the first public databases from the survey responses on trans-fronterizos.”

With the time-consuming data collection phase still underway, Castañeda-Perez does not yet have an end date for completion of the project.

The one-of-a-kind survey, which is anonymous, includes questions about the experiences of people who cross through U.S. border ports of entry, and how negative contacts with Customs and Border Patrol officers affects their sense of legal empowerment, sense of belonging, and physical and mental health.

El Paso student volunteers said approaching strangers as they crossed by foot or in cars into El Paso was no easy task.

Andrea Daniella Mata, 24, a sophomore sociology major at UTEP, helped Castañeda-Perez pass out the surveys at the bus transfer center from Monday through Friday one recent week in October.

“I can’t imagine how exhausting it might be for (people to cross the border every day) but it shows everyone has a story and everyone is important,” said Mata, who lived in Lubbock before moving to El Paso to attend college.

She said it’s important for El Pasoans to be “aware of why people might be crossing… and not just assuming” why they cross.

“I think (this) research is so important,” she added.

UCLA Political Science and Chicano Studies Professor Matt Baretto, who is dissertation adviser to Castañeda-Perez, said her research is important to cross-border commuters.

“The research project Estefania is undertaking is one of the first in the country to fully understand, document, and analyze the experience of cross-border commuters. Her research challenges the notion that crossing the border is a simple transactional event, and places it within the full context of both sides of the border region,” he said.

He added that the survey “is uncovering the persistent rights abuses that happen at the border to legal border crossers, and how these negative experiences go on to impact the identity, psychology, and even health of people who cross.”

Dr. Irasema Coronado, a UTEP Political Science professor who has done extensive research and writing about border issues, said Castañeda-Perez’ research focus will contribute to public understanding of the many reasons why people cross from Mexico into the U.S. and how they are treated by Border Patrol and Customs agents.

“It is important to gather data so that policymakers can make better decisions,” Coronado said. ” We all hear anecdotes about border crossing experiences; this research will provide data that will substantiate or refute the stories that we hear on the street or from our family and friends.”

She said border crossers sometimes feel intimidated by the attitude or questions they are asked by border agents as they wait to be cleared for entry into the U.S.

“These folks have a lot of discretion” when questioning border crossers, she said.



The post UCLA grad student documents experience of cross-border commuters at Juarez-El Paso bridges and other ports of entry appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

This artist is asking how border residents think about air, water, land

Sun, 12/30/2018 - 1:29pm

Zeke Peña, an illustrator and cartoonist has spent most of his work as an artist living on “la frontera,” the border, reflecting the reality and issues faced by Chicano and Mexican-American generations.

“I think about how the border identity is binary. It isn’t about this side or that side, it’s way more complicated. But that’s the beauty of it,” he says.

Illustrator/Cartoonist Zeke Peña in his studio. Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

Sitting in battered, squeaky wood chair in front of a drafting table that displays his work in his studio, the 35-year-old Peña looks the part of a committed artist with his black-rimmed glasses and his shoulder-length dark curly hair and black ball cap. He has several buttons pinned to the pocket of his olive green shirt jacket displaying his sense of activism.

The Las Cruces native currently lives in neighboring city of El Paso. His nomadic cultural identity stems from his family roots asof farm workers from Mexico who immigrated to various farming communities on the U.S. side of the border, Peña proudly claims the title of border child with a strong U.S.-Chicano heritage.

He claims that although the experience of other border residents may be different from his life as a fronterizo who crosses often between Juarez and El Paso, they all share the same nomadic identity.

Zeke Peña’s previous work- a personal graphic biography of photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Peña’s illustrations focus on historical narratives about politics, social justice, national and cultural identities along the border.

His early stories were inspired by cartoons and comics and later matured into refined concepts inspired by ordinary border residents, activists, poets and theorists such as the Rio Grande Valley’s acclaimed Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa.

Peña says in his work he reflects on his personal border identity and how it relates to his community to produce resistencia (resistance) one cartoon at a time.

Peña sketching in his studio in Central El Paso. Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

While Peña didn’t initially consider his work “border art,” he feels a responsibility to represent his community on the frontera. As a natural and organic response, Peña illustrates stories to shed light on issues of immigration, family separation, and the environment showing the faces of Mexican-American men, women and children of the borderland.

“I have to be sensitive to people’s stories and representing them to be sure that images of people in tent cities and people crossing rivers is with consent and care to who they are,” Peña says.

Image courtesy Zeke Pena

He says his storytelling focus is changing because of heightened civic engagement and activism on the border and nationally about Latino or Hispanic issues.


In January, Peña begins work on a new exhibit at his favorite space, which he refers to “el punto final,” the culmination point for his art – The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts based at UT El Paso.

Working with UT El Paso art students, Peña will “create a bridge” between art and the community by installing a didactic exhibit to show through photos and illustrations how border residents think about air, water and land.

Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center, says her mission over the past five years has been to bring art and concepts about the border to the gallery for an international conversation on contemporary art that includes working artists from all over the world.

“I think the reason that art is so important right now is because art is more about asking a question rather than making a statement,” she said.

Doyle has lived on both sides of the border for the past several years and has seen the growing militarization of the border in real-time. She views the border as a “physical manifestation of political polarization,” and attempts to blend local with international artist voices to keep the conversation about local and international borders flowing.

“It’s always a privilege to immerse (artists) in a border community one way or another. We give them information and they make art in response,” Doyle says.

Peña says his work has been inspired by “the thousands of people that have come before me in my community” as well as from outside artists that are creating art around border subjects.

“It’s self sustaining,” he says, “like a community.”


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Categories: Local Blogs

Rare look at Mexican photographer Manuel Carrillo’s work in color on display at UTEP library

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 3:17am

The photo collection of Manuel Carrillo – one of Mexico’s most influential photographers – resides at UTEP’s Special Collections Department and his work is often compared to that of famed American icon Ansel Adams despite both photographers being widely known for different types of photography.

Manuel Carrillo is well known for capturing the authenticity of the Mexican people regardless of social class or gender. Photo credit: From UTEP’s Special Collections

Carrillo focused on photographing the people of Mexico, while Adams concentrated on landscapes, but both were wildly influential, said David Flores, UTEP’s photo archivist.

“Carrillo was passionate about the people (of Mexico) who worked for a living, showcasing his gente (people) in a humbling light with his photographs,” Flores said.

The collection, containing about 14,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 3,00 slides and seven linear feet of papers, also contains numerous publications with Carrillo’s work or biographical information, according to Flores who dealt with the images first-hand. The collection also includes many awards and trophies, while the prints vary in many sizes from contact sheets to giant mural-sized enlargements.

“It’s incredibly deep, it resonates the golden era of Mexico and the character and identity your Mexico and its people at that time, I’m in a very beautiful poetic way,” said Joel Salcido, a photojournalist based in San Antonio and a former photographer for the El Paso Times.

Photos of some of the women photographed by famed Mexican photographer Manuel Carrillo are on display at the Centennial Museum. Photo credit: Daniel Mendez

Some of Carrillo’s work is featured in an exhibit called Carrillo in Color – a photography exhibit with never-before-seen images in color at the library

“This exhibit shows some of the range of the photographer and I hope that seeing the photos that are in color will stimulate interest in Carrillo’s work and also different ways of seeing his work,” said Claudia Rivers, UTEP’s head of Special Collections.

Carrillo was known for capturing Mexico’s culture from 1955 to the 1980s before his death in 1989. All of his photographs projected life of the Mexican people, animals, sights from towns and villages and anything that caught Carrillo’s eye.

The Mexican photographer prominently shot in black and white. But Flores, who got to work with the photos first hand had stumbled upon Carrillo’s collection in a box in storage, found photo negatives of Carrillo’s work in color.

“The subject matter, the black and white it’s more people, places, the animals and Mexico, Flores said. “With his color, it’s more things that he was interested. “With his black and white, he’s telling the story. In color, his shooting those things to get his attention.”

Carrillo’s work portrays Mexico in a way that contrasts to current rhetoric about “bad hombres” and border security.

Manuel Carillo’s work captures some of Mexico’s residents in both candid and posed shots, and is display at the UTEP Centennial Museum. Photo credit: Daniel Mendez

“I’m very unhappy with the way Hispanics are portrayed,” Flores said. “When I see these images. I know that we’re not that way. And these pictures clearly show, the honesty and the integrity of the people.”

The photographs displayed show kids being kids, women living their best life, compositions of the beautiful landscape Mexico have to offer, and so much more of the Mexican culture.

UTEP is home of Manuel Carrillo’s entire collection which includes over 10,000 prints and much more from Carrillo. Photo credit: From UTEP’s Special Collections

“Most people that he photographed represents the descendants of Mexicans nowadays, so it gives us a new perspective as to how we perceive Mexicans from that purity of his photography,” Salcido said. “Which is very important, especially nowadays it is incredibly important that we perceive our neighbors from that perspective with a lot of empathy, humanity and dignity and that’s exactly what Miguel Carrillo did, which is incredibly important.”

Salcido, 61, has always been fascinated of Carrillo’s work. He said he believes Carrillo doesn’t get the credit he deserves on the international and national level in contemporary times compared to another well-known Mexican photographer such as Manuel Bravo. Salcido has never gotten to see all of Carrillo’s work and says the work on display is a small representation of the collection.

Carrillo’s collection was purchased by UTEP and the University of Texas Sytem in 1990. Carrillo began looking for a home for his work several years before his death. Although he was a native of Mexico, Carrillo had strong ties with El Paso so he and a couple of his friends approached UTEP about acquiring his collection. Negotiations were still ongoing at the time of Carrillo’s death, the university was able to purchase the collection form his widow Consuela.

“I think it’s a very important step towards continuing in a very deliberate and visionary way to expose his entire work, we only have seen the tip of the iceberg,” Salcido said. “So, I’ve always been curious as to what the rest of the archive hold, it’s got to be a treasure of important images and photographs, that at least I myself, I’m hungry to see.”

Never before seen stills of Carrillo’s work were displayed for the first time ever in color. The famed photographer was better known for his black and white images. Photo credit: From UTEP’s Special Collections

In order to fully bring the colored negatives that were found in boxes to life, current technology and photo development process was used to develop and enhance the colors of Carrillo’s negatives. The photos were then printed on metal sheets to give the photographs more detail.

“His work is packed with dignity and impurity and poetry that I can that doesn’t resonate with me that I can definitely identify with not only because I’m a photographer but also because I am the Mexican,” Salcido said.


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Categories: Local Blogs

Seeing El Paso for the first time through the windows of the El Paso Streetcar

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 3:59pm

I’ve lived in El Paso all 21 years of my life.

The El Paso Streetcar rides along North Stanton Street on Sunday, Dec. 3. Photo credit: Brianna Chavez

I’ve been to almost every part of town that I can think of. As I’ve gotten older, I grown to love El Paso and appreciate the city’s history and where it’s going. But after riding the El Paso Streetcar for the very first time, I felt like I was seeing the city for the very first time.

After what seemed like a never-ending construction headache followed by traffic nightmares, the $97 million El Paso Streetcar Project was officially launched in early November.

When I first saw the new and improved El Paso Streetcar drive by the first thought that came into my mind was how cute it was.

When I began to learn the history of the streetcar, I began to learn how valuable the streetcar was to El Paso.

Related: Downtown El Paso set to ride streetcar revival

The El Paso Streetcars that are currently running are Presidential Conference Car streetcars (PPC), the same model approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930s.

The streetcars that once ran between the 1950s through 1970s were left in the desert near the El Paso International Airport and decayed over time. Six streetcars were sent to the Brookville Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania to be refurbished in 2015. The refurbished street cars made their way back to El Paso in March of 2018.

Streetcar 1506 rides through North Stanton Street passing through Cathedral High School. Photo credit: Brianna Chavez

The El Paso Streetcar runs a 4.8 mile route and has two loops, the uptown and downtown loop. The Uptown loop has 27 stops that takes passengers from Downtown to the Kern area, UTEP and back. The Downtown loop has 10 stops that starts downtown and works its way to Segundo Barrio.

I decided to take the Uptown route on a Sunday afternoon. I parked by Cathedral High School, across from the Ronald McDonald House on Stanton and waited for about 15 minutes for the streetcar to arrive.

As it approached the stop, you can hear the dings of the vintage 1960’s streetcar. It’s bright light teal color with bright red stripe along the side is just as captivating.


When I stepped on, it was like stepping into a time machine. You could just feel like the history of the car oozing out. It was the past and present combined. Even the smell of the car was new.

The car’s technology was most certainly new, including digital cameras that displayed the inside and outside of the vehicle. According to the City of El Paso, all six of the streetcars have several amenities including free Wi-Fi, bike racks, and air conditioning. They are also all ADA accessible.

Scuff marks can be seen on the pull cord of streetcar 1506, nearly one month after the cars official opened to the public. Photo credit: Brianna Chavez

I noticed that while everything was new and improved, the car was already starting to see some scuffing. The pull cord along the window where I sat was scuffed along, showing signs of use since it first began running.

As I looked around, the car was completely full. Through the entire ride, there was only standing room available. There were people young and old riding along with me, from young families to older couples.

City Representative Claudia Ordaz-Perez and County Commissioner Vince Perez joined the ride. There was even an older gentlemen telling the driver what he remembered when the streetcar was like when he was younger.

At one point during the ride, a family was buying tickets at one of the Brio bus stops and, while the driver could have kept driving along the route, he stopped and told the family the streetcar was free to ride for the day.

Located across the Bert Williams Downtown
Santa Fe Transfer Center on Oregon Street, the Sun Metro streetcar facility houses all six streetcars. Photo credit: Brianna Chavez

Along the route, each historic neighborhood, Kern, Downtown and Segundo Barrio felt so new and so different.

I’d been through Segundo Barrio many times before, but something about riding in the streetcar made me wonder what kind of stories where hidden in the walls of the small brick houses. I felt as if I was reliving someone’s past. I imaged someone walking out of their home and walking towards the stop to catch the streetcar.

On the route, the car passed by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its neighboring school. I went to school and church there for many years, yet as we passed by I felt like I had never seen how beautiful it actually was.

After the 50 minute ride, I thought about the growth El Paso has seen in the last several years. The city has changed and is continuing to change for the better. While the streetcar is a step towards the past, it’s also a step towards the future. Soon, my generation will tell stories of how we took the streetcar, just like the generations before me.

The post Seeing El Paso for the first time through the windows of the El Paso Streetcar appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

ICE leaves crowd of migrants stranded in Downtown El Paso for Christmas; community rises to respond with compassion

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 12:46pm

EL PASO – Here’s a sense of the scene Sunday evening at the Greyhound bus station about two hours after ICE dropped off more than 150 destitute, scared and confused Central American asylum seekers. Mothers traveling alone with small children clinging to them. Fathers traveling with children who are never more than inches away from each other.

Over and over they ask to use my phone. They have phone numbers memorized, or scrawled on worn scraps of paper for family or contacts in the U.S. I dial South Carolina, then New Jersey, Tennessee, California. “Where are we?” they each ask me as they talk to their connection. “El Paso, Tejas,” I tell them. They repeat it, trying to memorize it. Others around me do the same. “El Paso, Tejas.” They are all looking up at me, nodding, and repeating it like a mantra. The women are tiny and I’m taller than most of the men. They are afraid they will be taken back to ICE detention.

Photo by Kate Gannon,

As word of this crisis spreads, El Pasoans show up at the bus station with bottles of water, pizzas, fruit. The police are amazing, supporting the growing numbers of volunteers, trying to contact relief services. After almost three hours, at the time of these photos, the crowd is being updated on efforts to secure shelter for the night somewhere in the city. City buses are brought in so they have a place to rest and stay warm. The County Judge is onsite, along with the director of Annunciation House. Calls and texts furiously trying to find motel space, volunteers, support.

At 1 a.m. the buses were loaded and still waiting. This is Christmas Eve in America.


To help with donations that go directly toward shelter and logistics

If you live in El Paso and are a restaurant or church organization that can prep and crew a meal service or, if you speak Spanish and can transport people to the airport and bus stations


What I learned after wandering into a refugee crisis at the bus station downtown:

When undocumented migrants are processed by ICE and released, there is no formal support system to help them navigate the next steps to safely get to their families and sponsors. Community charities and immigrant advocacy groups have stepped up grassroots efforts to help. Their coordinators and volunteers are doing amazing work, but this latest surge is overwhelming the humble infrastructure of support here. In 2016 during the last big surge of asylum seekers from Central America the federal government set up a temporary processing site. But this time there is no such system in place.

In my few hours at a bus station in Downtown El Paso on the night before Christmas Eve, I learned just how complex it is for refugees to get to their next stop.


• Many don’t have phones, so they have no way of contacting relatives and sponsors to make travel arrangements. Pay phones are a thing of the past on most U.S. streets, so they can’t even make a collect call.

• They don’t understand long distance dialing once in the U.S. The scraps of paper they carry with phone numbers have the international prefix of 00. The numbers are sacred to them exactly the way they’re written down. Without a helpful local doing the dialing, their calls won’t go through.

• Even if they can borrow the phone, making flight or bus arrangements takes time and they may not have access to the phone for return calls. I don’t know the names of anyone who used my phone last night. I don’t know where they are now. This morning I keep getting calls from worried relatives and don’t answer because I can’t connect them and don’t speak Spanish well enough to explain it.

• Many speak primarily indigenous languages and not much Spanish. It is hard for them to communicate directions or instructions. They don’t know where they are.


• Many said they were dropped off without having anything to eat all day. Word went out and people showed up with pizzas, fruit, energy bars and water. The effort is helpful and immediate, but it is hard to coordinate random individuals.

• Crews from groups like churches and other organizations are needed to take on responsibilities for providing meals once migrants are provided shelter


• There are few flights and buses out of El Paso, so it can take days to get the next available seat. This means people are stranded here without money or a place to stay. They have no change of clothes. Some don’t have jackets or sweaters.

• The hospitality centers hosted by Annunciation House are full. The charity is now renting out hotel rooms and the money is running out. Every new busload of migrants dropped off means they are scrambling to find new spaces for 100-200 people. A huge amount of money is needed to pay for this.

• People need rides from the shelters to back to the bus station or airport when they get a ticket.

• They may need help with additional paperwork or understanding how to present themselves at checkpoints, such as the TSA at the airport.

My experience at the bus station reinforced my deep respect for the volunteers and advocates who have been working tirelessly since before the crisis ramped up this summer. I hear reports that our local community leaders and grassroots workers continue to work on a better infrastructure to get us through this surge. Meanwhile, I hope this helps give some understanding about why migrants don’t just simply check out of ICE once their paperwork is done and pop on a bus bound for family.


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Categories: Local Blogs

There’s no home for the holidays for deployed border agent family

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 12:20pm

On Nov. 13, nine buses carrying the first large wave of about 350 asylum seekers from the Central American migrant caravan arrived in Tijuana.

Michelle Arandas’ mother and stepfather are both Customs and Border Protection agents assigned to the El Paso ports of entry. However, on Nov. 15, Aranda had to drop them off at the airport, where they joined other El Paso CBP officers in boarding a plane to Nogales, Ariz. Their deployment came in response to the migrant caravan approaching the Arizona border. Arandas’ parents have since been relocated to the San Diego border after it became clear that was the caravan’s destination.

Aranda, whose surname is different from that of her mother and stepfather, says that her parents were warned of their possible deployment five days in advance and received confirmation of their deployment two days in advance.

“My mom was definitely nervous. She started packing right away as soon as they gave her the five-day warning. You could also tell the he was kind of nervous when we were on our way to the airport,” Aranda says.

The holidays for the Aranda family have always been offbeat, usually celebrated a week in advance or a week after the actual holiday because the parents have to work most holidays.

“We’re kind of used to the holidays not being ideal,” she says.

However this is the first time that they didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Aranda, who is pregnant, also says her parents’ deployment meant they missed her first ultrasound and will likely miss the gender reveal party, as they aren’t expected to be able to return home until after January.

With both parents deployed, Aranda has taken on the responsibility of taking care of her 13- and 15-year-old sisters. Despite their family being somewhat used to their parents’ work schedule, Aranda says they have had to make some adjustments to stay connected with their parents in their absence.

Michelle Aranda. Photo by Pablo Morales,

“Taking care of, I guess, regular things around the house when it comes to mail, getting the bills and sorting them and sending them pictures of the mail because there’s no way for them to basically see what they’re getting here. Making time to FaceTime with them because their work schedules don’t exactly correlate with our school schedules for the girls or work schedules for us, so that’s pretty much the biggest adjustment,” she says.

When they had first been deployed to Nogales, Aranda’s parents reported feeling restless as not much was happening at that port of entry. Now that her parents are at the San Diego port of entry, Aranda says her own concerns for their well-being have increased.

“I’m afraid that being away from the family too long is going to affect them negatively, and I’m afraid that since they’re going to San Diego, which is one of the busier ports right now and it’s one of the main ports that the caravan is passing through that they’re going to be injured or that something’s going to happen.”

Despite their parents’ efforts to stay in contact through text messages, Aranda and her sisters only get to FaceTime and actually see their parents about once a week. She says she can see the long separation is having an impact on her sisters.

“They try to text us throughout the day. They’ll sometimes even send us some pictures of where they’re working at, what post they’re at while they’re at work. But now that they’re gone and they haven’t seen them in a really long time like, you can tell they miss them. ”

Aranda plans to drive her sisters out to San Diego for Christmas so the family might have some holiday time together.

The post There’s no home for the holidays for deployed border agent family appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

Cinco ‘Expectativas’ cumplidas por Enrique Bunbury en su último disco

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 11:30am

En noviembre, mi cantautor preferido Enrique Bunbury se hizo acreedor a un Grammy Latino en la categoría Mejor Álbum de Rock con “Expectativas”, disco que publicó en octubre de 2017. Como este espacio es reducido, describiré en cinco puntos por que creo que este disco es justo ganador de dicho reconocimiento.

“Expectativas”, ganador del Grammy Latino en la categoría Mejor Álbum de Rock en noviembre de 2018, fue publicado en varios formatos, incluido el vinilo. Photo credit: Roberto Saenz

Lleno de romanticismo español puro

La música de Bunbury ha sido para mí un reflejo de varias épocas de la literatura. La letra de sus canciones está llena de metáforas con significados abiertos a la interpretación de la audiencia, algo muy característico del romanticismo literario.

Él hace uso de ésto para mandar diferentes mensajes al mundo, desde dedicarle palabras a un amor, hasta criticar a la política y a los aspectos débiles de la sociedad. Canciones como “Parecemos tontos” y “La constante” dentro de “Expectativas” son el vivo ejemplo de este romanticismo ibérico.


En varias ocasiones, el mismo Bunbury ha manifestado que él ha crecido como artista a base de irse adaptando a lo moderno e innovador.

En una entrevista conducida por la periodista mexicana Adela Micha a finales de 2017, Bunbury habló sobre cómo su disco, “Expectativas” es un proyecto que vio con el desafío de intentar cosas nuevas y más contemporáneas.

“Enfrentarme a nuevos instrumentos, a intentar utilizar las nuevas técnicas de grabación, intentar ser contemporáneo, hay más sintetizadores, más secuenciadores… Intento que el disco sea contemporáneo, que sea un disco muy actual”, dijo el cantante español.

Lleva critica social

La pista número 4 del disco, titulada “En bandeja de plata”, es una crítica directa de Bunbury al hecho de que en el mundo actual, poco a poco se está perdiendo la seriedad y han bajado los estándares en cuanto a las elecciones de líderes, en especial en la política de su país, al igual en Latinoamérica y Estados Unidos.

Bunbury describe esto en la canción como “una suave brisa nuclear que nos dejará en los huesos, o una bacteria que se expandirá y contagiará sin darnos cuenta”.

Incita la creatividad

En otro tema social, Bunbury siempre ha mostrado respeto por todos sus colegas músicos en sus respectivos géneros, y aunque parece una crítica directa a la música moderna, la canción “La actitud correcta” se puede interpretar mejor como una invitación de su parte a que todos hagan un esfuerzo por actualizarse y ser más creativos en su música.

“Tienes la actitud correcta, pero te falta ese no se que, que no sé lo que es, y es lo único que importa”, dice la letra.

Foto por: Jose Girl, Cortesía de Photo credit: Jose Girl

Innovación en la música

Como bien lo dijo el mismo Bunbury, este disco lo vio con el reto de ser más innovador y contemporáneo, y la música de este disco ha cumplido esa expectativa totalmente.

Basta con escuchar “La ceremonia de la confusión”, “Al filo de un cuchillo”, y “Mi libertad” para darse cuenta de cómo hace una combinación perfecta usando sonidos sintetizados e instrumentos tradicionales como el saxofón y la guitarra.

Este disco es solo uno más de tantos que Bunbury ha producido y que han sido del agrado de tantos de sus seguidores, incluyéndome a mi. Su ingenio y su música me han inspirado en aspectos como mi forma de escribir, de hablar, y de pensar. La manera en que se expresa en una forma poética y sofisticada sobre cualquier tema han influido mucho la forma en que yo lo hago, en cuanto al lenguaje que uso y en mi ideología. Una inspiración en toda la extensión de la palabra.

The post Cinco ‘Expectativas’ cumplidas por Enrique Bunbury en su último disco appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

Indy bookstore Literarity nurtures unique space for readers and writers in El Paso

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 2:29pm

In a little more than a year after opening, the bookstore Literarity has become an important fixture in El Paso’s literary community in promoting regional authors and poets for readings and book sales.

The locally owned store sells new and used books as well as collectible books, rare books and signed first editions. Owners Bill and Mary Anna Clark wanted to create a welcoming shop for book lovers to browse through and included events where they can mingle with writers.

“With most authors, it’s really focused on their new book,” Bill Clark said. “At the same time, we did an event with Alfredo Corchado and his new book Homelands, which deals with Mexican-American migration and immigration.”

Homelands author Alfredo Corchado discusses the books themes of identity and borders at Literarity in El Paso. Photo by Kate Gannon,

Corchado, a border-Mexico correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, turned his book reading event into a conversation with border journalist Angela Kocherga about immigration, journalism and cultural identity that was followed by a Q&A session with attendees.

Other writers featured at Literarity events include acclaimed poet Rosa Alcala, a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Ron Stallworth, author of Black Klansman, which made the New York Times Best Seller list.

Ron and Patsy Stallworth at book signing for Black Klansman at Literarity. Photo courtesy Robert Moore.

“It’s not just selling books, these days are more like old- home week,” said photographer and New Mexico State University professor Bruce Berman, who came to Literarity on Nov. 10 to promote his latest collaboration with poets Lawrence Welsh and Ray Gonzalez, Cutting the Wire: Photographs and Poetry from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s beyond a commercial thing. It’s not about the money so much as it’s about affirmation, like, people must really like it,” Berman said.

Not far from UTEP at 5411 N. Mesa in Pepper Tree Square, Literarity carries a good selection of books written by university faculty as well as other notable authors who have called El Paso home at one time or another.

“I think anybody who’s a creative, or not even creative, any person who’s not from here that becomes from here has a very interesting story to tell (about El Paso),” Berman said, “This is a special place.”

Inside Literarity, taken on October 25th, 2018. Photo credit: Andrea Sandoval

Co-owner Bill Clark also tries to encourage up-and-coming writers and poets. “We’re always interested in talking with emerging voices in the local literary world in how we can possible help them and support their efforts.”

Independent brick and mortar bookstores face a lot of challenges in today’s digital culture where ebooks can be downloaded from massive online catalogs. But the Clarks are dedicated to providing a more personal experience.

“We didn’t do this for the money, we did it because we believe that El Paso needs an independent bookstore,” Bill Clark said. “We’re doing this out of commitment for the community.”

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Categories: Local Blogs

Rubin Center exhibit explores migrant culture

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:28am

The works of Mexican artist Betsabee Romero offered a reflection on themes of migration and belonging in an exhibit featured recently at the The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center at UTEP.

The exhibit of large-scale sculptures, prints and installations titled Tu Huella Es Tu Camino (Your Tracks Are Your Path) will be up through Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

El Paso’s position as a multicultural border city is one of the most defining aspects of its unique character. For Romero, the Rubin Center was a natural landing for her exhibit.

“For me, El Paso and especially the multicultural university population and the vision of the Rubin Center created the ideal context for this exposition,” Romero said.

Referencing El Paso’s position as a border city, Melissa Barba, assistant director of the Rubin Center, said she believes that experiencing the blend of cultures in day-to-day life attracts the center to exhibits with similar themes that arise from our geography.

“We are really at the forefront of everything that is happening and what people talk about with the border, with how dangerous they think it is and all of these issues of migration. We have it all at an arm’s length away. We can turn to one side and that’s another country.”

Betsabee Romero says it is important to emphasize the shared history and cultural values across border lines.

“As an artist from Mexico, I wanted to make sure that people understand the necessity of recognizing and dignifying the art from both sides of the border,” Romero said.

Romero’s art installations focus on sculptures and textiles. Her style is mainly centered around her use of traditional techniques for constructing and detailing the items in her sculptures. This creates a rugged, rough and organic look.

The exhibit will be on display in the Rubin Center through December 14th. The Rubin Center’s gallery hours are 10 A.M. – 5 P.M. Monday through Wednesday, and 10 A.M. – 7 P.M. on Thursday.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Iconográfika Oaxaca exhibit at Rubin Center until Dec. 14

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 11:06am

EL PASO – Oaxaca has become known as a cultural center in Mexico with many art galleries and artisan crafts. An exhibit at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual arts gives a glimpse of life outside of the big cities of Mexico.

Opening installation of the Iconográfika Oaxaca Exhibit created by artist Pablo Cotama Photo credit: Laneige Conde

Titled “Iconográfika Oaxaca: Contemporary Prints, and Works on Paper,” the exhibit showcases artwork that delves into topics of poverty, border relations, immigration, family, and indigenous culture in Oaxaca. The exhibit also features a wide range of art mediums including prints, photography, paintings, tile work, and sculptures.

“I think that people coming to this exhibition can get a preview of… the energy and the pulse of what is happening in Oaxaca,” said Melissa Barba, assistant director at the Rubin Center. “We have a lot of really interesting artistic exchanges between artists here in El Paso and Oaxaca and so we were interested in looking a little deeper into that connection and creating just a beautiful survey of what’s happening there.”

Kerry Doyle, director of The Rubin Center, had already selected Oaxaca as the subject of the exhibit when she invited Carmen Cebreros Urzaiz, a Ph.D. candidate doing extensive research about Oaxaca at UCLA, to co-curate show. Cebreros Urzaiz’s research encompasses the culture, art, and artists in Oaxaca where she has been living for two and a half years.

Glass work installation, containing shards and pieces of glass that Oaxacan farmers and settlers encounter everyday, by artist Lissette Jimenez Photo credit: Laneige Conde

“The exhibition shows how place, geography, cultural, social, and political forms of organization are negotiated through images, materials, and media by the artists featured,” Cebreros Urzaiz said.

“Oaxaca is a very complex territory assembling multiple locations, languages, environments, indigenous groups, migrants from other countries and states, rooted traditions, and conflicts of the contemporary world,” Cebreros said.

” I hope visitors get to evoke landscapes, memories, fantasies, to the same extent of perceiving the artists’ awareness about the time in which their practice is situated, and their desire to transform specific dynamics of the contexts in which they participate,” she added.

Photos taken by Baldomero Robles displayed in the exhibit Photo credit: Laneige Conde

Artists featured in the exhibit include Pablo Cotama, Demian Flores, Blanca Gonzalez, Sergio Gutierrez, Lissette Jimenez, Claudia Lopez Terroso, Baldomero Robles, and Jaime Ruiz Martinez.

All either live in Oaxaca or have in the past. Many of the artists visited El Paso for the Sept. 20 opening of the exhibit, which runs through Dec. 14.

Following the opening of the exhibit in September, UTEP art students have visited the gallery to interact and learn from some of the featured artists.

“Some of the artists will be working with UTEP students in their classes over the semester as they come through,” said Barba.

The Rubin Center hours of operation, as well as directions, can be found on its website

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Categories: Local Blogs

This guy loves the scent of rain in the desert so much he figured out how to bottle it

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 3:08am

El Pasoan Kyle Alvarado has captured the sweet smell of the Borderland after a rainstorm in a bottle.

His product has “one main purpose and that is aromatherapy“ Alvarado said while at the Onawa Studio, a holistic care and wellness center where students practice the connection of the mind, body and spirit, including aromatherapy.

Kyle Alvarado, at the Onawa Yoga Studio, has captured the sweet smell of El Paso after a rainstorm in a bottle. Photo credit: Samantha Pasillas

Alvarado studied communication at UT El Paso and is a writer and digital content specialist who previously worked with the El Paso Times and various local media outlets. Drawn to new and creative ideas, Alvarado took a fresh approach to aromatherapy.

“Originally I wanted to make rain-scented candles,” Alvarado said. After trial and error, he came across a different way to better achieve the smell of rain by distillation. He created an aromatic liquid known as hydrosol that captures the distinct smell of the high desert.

Distillation is the process which removes the plants essential oils by placing it above hot water. The steam that’s created, which is now infused with creosote oil molecules, gets recondensed and is now an aromatic liquid.

The smell of desert rain is something only Southwest regions get to experience in the U.S.. Scientists have a name for that pleasant “earthy” scent after it rains, called petrichor. Alvarado’s aromatic liquid is derived from the leaves of the Creosote bush, otherwise known as the “Gobernadora” bush found in El Paso.

Phytotherapist Dr. Armando Gonzalez-Stuart, has devoted much of his life studying the medicinal effects of herbs, as well as aromatherapy. The creosote bush is “very versatile because it contains a compound called Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), which is one of the strongest natural antioxidants known,” Gonzalez-Stuart said.

The plant releases a signature aroma when it rains, and with Alvarado’s Chaparral Hydrosol, which can be used with a diffuser, it’s now possible to recreate the scent at home.

“Aromatherapy is an art and a science,” Gonzalez-Stuart said. It’s an art because it is up to the aromatherapist to come up with a variety of blends, and it’s a science because active ingredients in essential oils have therapeutic values, Gonzalez-Stuart said.

Owner of the Onawa Studio, Christina Munoz, practices aromatherapy at home. Munoz said she uses her diffuser to help start and end the day. If she’s ever feeling sluggish or congested, aromatherapy “helps put you in a different mood,” Munoz said.

Essential oils appeal to the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Alvarado aimed for his hydrosol to help people make connections and be reminded of special memories related to the desert rain.

“When it rains in El Paso, the first thing you smell are the resins that emanate from the leaves of the creosote bush. It’s a pleasant smell,” Gonzalez-Stuart said.

The distinctive smell of El Paso after a rainstorm is contained in a bottle called Chaparral Hydrosol. Photo credit: Samantha Pasillas

Munoz said she was thrilled to hear Alvarado captured the smell of El Paso rain in a bottle. El Paso rain is “very specific and unique to us” Munoz said. “Anybody who can relate to what El Paso smells like, it immediately takes them to a special place”

Alvarado describes the scent as “sweet and earthy” with a “touch of sourness to it.”

Alvarado held a public sensory experiment on Sept. 1st at the Onawa Yoga Studio in Central El Paso where he recreated the illusion of rain, and gifted people with samples of his hydrosol.

“I took it home and my kids loved it. We all love the smell of rain,” Munoz said. “It captures you and takes you in that moment.”

There’s a specific color on creosote leaves that gives off a much stronger scent, “If I see that, I take a little here, I take a little there” Alvarado said. Despite the fact that the plant can be found all over the region, Alvarado says he’s mindful not to strip away any plant completely dry.

Alvarado plans on one day starting an etsy shop and selling his hydrosol little by little. “I feel almost guilty making a profit off of something we get for free” Alvarado said. He hopes to one day host other pop-up experiments but making them fundraisers and donating profits to charity. Nothing has been officially planned.

“This smell, which a lot of us in the region take for granted, is very powerful and it’s something worth exploring. It’s one of the reasons why I embarked on this” Alvarado said.

For more information, see the Chaparral Hydrosol Facebook page here:

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Categories: Local Blogs

Robot sheriff play co-written by autistic teen rises to the stage in El Paso

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:30am

When the curtain closed this fall on an unusual play about a robot sheriff and his band of outlaws at the downtown Philanthropy Theater, playwright Robert De La Rosa, dressed in black jeans, cowboy hat, and a bandana around his neck, was there to receive a standing ovation from the packed auditorium.

The post-apocalyptic tale, “The Ballad of Roobie Rookie,” that he co-wrote with a local playwright was no small accomplishment for De La Rosa who was diagnosed with autism as a child.

Actors face off during “The Ballad of Roobie Rookie” at the Philanthropy Theatre. (Jacqueline Aguirre/ Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

His mother, Maria De La Rosa, says her son has never allowed being on the autism spectrum to stand in his way. She first became aware that the youngest of her three children was different when he was three and she noticed him methodically arranging toys and VHS movies on the floor of their Northeast El Paso home.

“He would become very involved with that toy, he would just get really happy and flap his hands and that was different to me; I didn’t know why he was doing that,” Maria De La Rosa said.

When he was five, a co-worker informed Maria about autism, and she decided to have her son tested. Doctors concluded that Robert was “on the spectrum of autism.” Maria, who was then working as a manager at Wal-Mart, left her job for the next four years to care for her son.

“I wanted to dedicate myself to just him,” she said. “That means treating him, taking him to the therapist, taking him to different doctors, trying to figure out, trying to help him, trying to let him live a better life.”

Throughout his infancy, Robert struggled to communicate with others but finally, six months after starting kindergarten, he began singing the ABC’s. As he grew older he developed a love of movies and music. His mother recalls that when he would watch the Nickelodeon and Disney channels or listened to rap and pop music on the radio, Robert began “stemming,” an autistic behavior that includes dancing, jumping and clapping and waving his arms.

Later, as a teenager, inspired by movies like Rango and Robocop, Robert began to create his own storylines with the help of a speech therapist.

“I make a script when I have an idea. I picture it in my mind and I type it on the computer,” Robert says simply.

Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

The initial idea was furthered developed with help from Artistic Director and co-founder of The Border Theatre, Austin Savage. Through three separate meetings with De La Rosa, together they created character descriptions and storylines, transforming De La Rosa’s idea into a full-length play about a robot sheriff, Wreckie, and other characters.

“It was very clear to me that the vision he was seeing was incredible and the only thing prohibiting it was the ability to communicate that,” says Savage.

The play was written in the span of several months, and Savage organized numerous readings with the help of community members at The Border Theatre and The Glasbox, where Savage met De La Rosa’s teacher and Theatre Director, Marissa Thurman.

Thurman, a theatre director for 11 years, said she knew she wanted to have the screenplay adapted and shortened for her theatre students to perform at Del Valle High School.

On Autism Awareness Day in April, students performed “The Ballad of Roobie Rookie,” to raise money for The Autism Society of El Paso and the autism specialists of the Ysleta School District.

“Philo” Cassandra Marcellus tips her hat as the “The Ballad of Roobie Rookie” comes to an end. (Jacqueline Aguirre/ Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

“I’ve had the honor of teaching Robert for three years, and he amazes me constantly,” said Thurman. “He never lets his disability get in the way of his amazing imagination.”

In September, Thurman recast new actors to play the roles with a change in venue to the Philanthropy Theatre at The Plaza Theatre. With some of the high school juniors and seniors playing opposite gender roles, they began rehearsing in September and performed the play in mid-October.

“Having a dream that has become a reality, even though it’s still progressing, it’s an actual thing. And it’s amazing for it to be real this way,” Maria, his mother, said.

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Categories: Local Blogs

by Dr. Radut