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Where Are El Paso Leaders On The Big Lie?

El Paso Politics - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 8:05am
If you tell a big lie enough times people will believe it. Such a lie has been dubbed the Big Lie over time. Hitler described the idea of the Big Lie in […]
Categories: Local Blogs

El Paso Corruptor Still Trying To Game System From Prison

El Paso Politics - Tue, 05/11/2021 - 1:42pm
At sentencing, the judge labeled Chris Balsiger a “chameleon” for orchestrating such a vast fraud while plying El Paso charities with his philanthropy. The judge described Balsiger as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. […]
Categories: Local Blogs

UTEP helped parents from Mexico attend our graduation, but pandemic border-crossing rules remain unfair

Borderzine - Tue, 05/11/2021 - 1:17pm

For the first time in more than a year my Mexican parents will able to cross the border from Ciudad Juárez using a special waiver to attend my commencement ceremony at University of Texas at El Paso.

Since March 2020, crossing the border has been restricted to essential travel including crossing for work, medical or academic reasons in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19. Because of that, when UTEP graduating seniors got the news that in-person commencement was happening, I thought I would be alone at the ceremony, walking the stage at the Sun Bowl Stadium while my parents watched a live stream from their home in Juárez.

I wrote a letter to University of Texas at El Paso President Heather Wilson in what I described as “a hopeful attempt to make my graduation a memorable one.”

In the emailed letter, I explained that my parents are both Mexican citizens living in Juárez, and because the border remains closed except for essential travel during the pandemic, they would not be able to attend my commencement ceremony.

I understood, I told her, that she could not open the border to my parents, but that she did hold a position of authority and power that is unique when it comes to being the voice of UTEP students and amplifying their concerns. The letter included a list of other graduating students whose parents also  would not be at the ceremony.

Wilson promptly replied to my email and said UTEP was working with the Mexican Consulate in El Paso and the American Consulate in Juárez to make it possible for our loved ones to attend commencement and that they would “continue to try to work with authorities.”

Then, on May 6, I received an email from Arturo Barrio, Director of Collaboration and Stakeholder Development at UTEP, that “U.S. Customs and Border and Protection (CBP) agreed to facilitate the attendance of parents with valid travel documents who arrive from Mexico for The University of Texas at El Paso graduation ceremonies on May 14 and May 15, 2021.”

Ever since my first semester at UTEP, I have dreamed of walking the stage on commencement day. I pictured myself wearing my cap and gown with colorful cords and stole hanging from my neck. My tassel is white, because I’m from the college of liberal arts, and my outfit underneath the gown is white too.

Carmen Soledad and Eloy Chavez were looking forward to crossing from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso to attend their daughter Marisol’s commencement ceremony at the University of Texas at El Paso.

That dream will become a reality on Friday, May 14. I will walk the stage proudly as I receive my Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism.

When I initially got the news that graduates were going to be able to bring two guests to the ceremony, my heart dropped. I realized my dream was not solely about walking across the stage, but also having the people that I love the most watch me do it. Now my parents will be able to attend in person.

Throughout the pandemic in spite of border travel restrictions, U.S. citizens have been going back and forth to Mexico. Meanwhile, Mexican citizens with tourist visas or border crossing cards issued to local residents have not been allowed to enter the U.S. As a U.S. citizen, I can freely cross the border into Mexico and return to El Paso since the U.S. cannot stop me from returning to the country of my birth.

I have continued to cross the border many times since the restrictions were put in place.

I was born and raised on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border and my life is binational. I’ve worked, gone to school and lived in both cities since I was a child, sometimes simultaneously. I’ve even crossed the border two to three times a day, and that never seemed out of the ordinary, because that is life in this region.

The pandemic did not change things for me. I continued having to balance personal, educational and professional matters in both El Paso and in Ciudad Juárez. My travel has never been restricted.

But there are many borderlanders or fronterizos whose life changed drastically when the restrictions were imposed, simply because they are not U.S. citizens. My parents, for instance, are Mexican citizens who live in Ciudad Juárez and have legal documents to go back and forth to the U.S. Their life is also binational but they have not been allowed to visit the U.S. for more than a year. And that almost meant they were going to miss my graduation ceremony.

It hurt to imagine the only two people I wanted as guests not attending my graduation. But it hurts even more to know that border restrictions are unfair.

Since the beginning, the reasoning behind the pandemic travel restrictions was to stop the spread of Covid-19. But this policy only applied to ports of entry at land border crossings. If that were truly the case shouldn’t air travel from Mexico also have been restricted since the start of the pandemic? That did not happen.

Now, anyone in Mexico can fly to the United States with a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before travel. This is not an option for those arriving through land ports of entry.

Some in Mexico have taken advantage of the ability to fly to the U.S. for “vaccine tourism,” to visit states like Texas that do not require proof of residency to get a shot.

Most Mexican citizens have not been vaccinated. The Mexican government has had a slower vaccine rollout than the U.S. because it does not have enough of a supply.

In El Paso more than 60% of people 16 and older received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 40% are fully vaccinated. In Ciudad Juárez, only some residents 60 and older have received the first dose of the vaccine, roughly 8% of the total population.

In Texas, 0.4% of the vaccines administered through April went to people who came from out of the country, according to Chris Van Deusen of the Texas Department of State Health Services. I only expect that number to grow.

Meanwhile, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez , two cities that are so close to each other and so dependent on one another, will remain separated – at least until public health is prioritized.

My parents will be present during one of the most important days of my life, and I’m very grateful for it. But the reopening of the border means so much more than family members attending commencement.

Thousands of lives could be saved if an international effort to vaccinate people in Ciudad Juárez was put into effect. That would allow all of us to reclaim our binational lives.


Categories: Local Blogs

DescolonizARTE Youth Art Showcase & Mural Reveal in Chaparral, NM 

El Paso News - Mon, 05/10/2021 - 9:58pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Empowerment Congress of Dona Ana County  Contact Bernice Barrientos, 575-312-7826  May 4, 2021   DescolonizARTE Youth Art Showcase & Mural Reveal in Chaparral, NM  Chaparral, New Mexico: The Empowerment Congress announced today the completion of the spring 2021  DescolonizARTE workshops in art and social justice with colonia youth from Chaparral and Anthony, NM.… Read More DescolonizARTE Youth Art Showcase & Mural Reveal in Chaparral, NM 
Categories: Local Blogs

Indigenous diaspora: The arduous journey from Guatemala through Mexico

Borderzine - Mon, 05/10/2021 - 1:17pm
By René Kladzyk and Maria Ramos Pacheco/El Paso Matters and Veronica Martinez/La Verdad First of a three-part series 

Running children and crying babies create a cacophony at El Buen Samaritano shelter, but in a far corner, Carmela holds her 2-year-old in silence. She can’t communicate with anyone — she doesn’t know Spanish, and no one at the facility can understand the Indigenous language she speaks.

Indigenous migrants like Carmela encounter extra hurdles in attempting to reach the United States: communication difficulties, cultural barriers and anti-Indigenous discrimination.

In this three-part series, we’ll trace the path of a migration journey from Guatemala, investigating the challenges that Indigenous migrants face at every stage. Part one looks at migration drivers and the arduous journey across Mexico; part two discusses added barriers at the U.S. border as Indigenous migrants interact with immigration officials; and part three centers on the struggles Indigenous migrants face in shelters in Juárez and how they’re rendered invisible in U.S. immigration courts.

Lea esta historia en español

All names of migrants in this article have been changed to avoid potential harm.

Carmela, 26, is from Santa Maria Nebaj, a mountain town in the Guatemalan department of El Quiche. Her native language Ixil is one of at least 24 Indigenous languages in Guatemala, a nation with a population that is nearly 50 percent Indigenous.

Since 2018, more than half a million people from Guatemala have been apprehended by Customs and Border Protection at the border of the United States. Given Guatemala’s demographics, it is likely that as many as a quarter million Indigenous people from Guatemala have endeavored to migrate to the United States in recent years. But it’s impossible to know precisely how many because indigeneity and Indigenous language speakers are not being tracked by immigration officials in the United States or Mexico.

Guatemala is one of several Latin America countries with significant Indigenous populations sending migrants to the United States. Mexico has 17 million Indigenous citizens and at least 6 million Indigenous language speakers.

Many of the challenges faced by Indigenous Guatemalan migrants would apply to Indigenous migrants from NicaraguaEl SalvadorHonduras, or Mexico, although Indigenous peoples are not a uniform group and experience varying challenges based on local context and culture.

Migration drivers for Indigenous Central Americans

“All I want is to have a house, to raise my kid — I want him to go to school. I was never able to go to school because my mom did not have the money for it,” said Ingrid, a 19-year-old from San Andrés Sajcabajá. Her native language is Kʼiche.

Due to the economic hardships of her family, Ingrid never received a formal education. Ingrid has been learning Spanish on her own to prepare for her journey to Massachusetts, where her aunt has lived for two years.

Ingrid holds on to her son as she recounts the hardships and threats she faced in her native Guatemala. Ingrid, a K’iche speaker, is learning Spanish despite having never received any formal education. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

With tears in her eyes, Ingrid recalled how a man from her village “tried to do bad things to (her),” but she never reported the incident to the Guatemalan authorities out of fear of retaliation against her family.

Nearly half of Guatemala’s population is Indigenous. Displacement drivers like natural disasters, human rights violations, poverty, and discrimination often affect Indigenous people more intensely than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

“Any change in the weather, any change in the quality of the land … is going to affect (Indigenous people) immensely,” said Selfa Chew-Melendez, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso whose advocacy and academic work involves Indigenous immigrants.

When catastrophic hurricanes hit Guatemala in 2020, Indigenous communities were largely left to fend for themselves with minimal governmental assistance. Huge numbers of Guatemalans were displaced due to destructive Hurricane Eta, and entire Mayan villages were buried in mudslides.

Chew-Melendez said past U.S. foreign policy in Central American countries plays a role in the trajectory of migration from those countries.

“The history of intervention of European countries and the United States makes possible that connection, through which Indigenous persons realize that it’s going to be easier for them to make that journey,” she said.

State-led genocidal violence against Guatemalan Indigenous communities in the 1980s — in which more than 200,000 people were killed — was linked to funds and military training from the United States. 

“If we look at in the case of Guatemala with the genocide and the internal armed conflict, those are some of the newest root drivers of forced migration. Everything that came after that, (the) lack of educational opportunities — some of the places that were decimated because of massacres never bounce back,” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez, executive director of the Mayan League with Maya Mam Indigenous heritage.

The U.S. continues to be significantly involved in Guatemalan affairs, with a recent announcement that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will provide training for Guatemala’s border security task force.

Guatemala City’s Parque Central in 2016. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Cabrera Lopez emphasized the long history of structural racism and colonization in perpetuating harm against Indigenous communities.

“A lot of people (immigrating to the U.S.) now are the children and grandchildren of those who were coming in the ‘80s and ‘90s fleeing decades of civil war. That’s a very recent history,” said Leah Rodriguez, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid who focuses on improving language access for Indigenous asylum seekers.

This is the case for Ingrid’s family. Her father moved to the United States shortly after she was born. Almost 20 years later, she is following the same path, looking for a better future for her son.

Lack of Western education compounds hardships while migrating

In Mayan communities in Guatemala, illiteracy rates among adults reach as high as 33 percent. Ninety percent of Mayan children never graduate from high school and Mayan women are less likely to attend school than men.

Rural schools often lack the resources to educate children, spaces are limited and students are rarely taught Spanish. With the lack of formal education and skills to achieve higher paying jobs, the cycle of poverty and migration continues.

It’s important to note that Indigenous communities are educated, just in a completely different modality from that of Western formal education. The needs of agrarian communities and cultural norms of Indigenous peoples necessitate broad-ranging education in varied applied skills and environmental understandings outside the scope of what would typically be part of a formal Western education.

“When the Indigenous language speakers only have received a very low formal education, they cannot communicate or find a job. But this is not because they are ignorant. They are very smart people, they have a lot of knowledge but inside of their own culture,” said Sergio Romero, a linguist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies Indigenous languages.

An Indigenous woman carries snacks and candy to sell to tourists in Antigua, Guatemala. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Similar to Guatemalans, Mexican Indigenous people face a long history of discrimination. Their formal educational opportunities are limited. In 2020, El Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) conducted a survey across the country that found 24 percent of Indigenous people experienced at least once an act of discrimination against them because of their appearance or skin color.

Since Mexican Indigenous people have legal status in the country they are not as vulnerable when traveling through Mexico as Central American migrants. With most having greater fluency in Spanish, Mexican Indigenous people only encounter difficulties related to the language barrier once they reach U.S. territory, said Monica Lima Aguilar, legal representative at the Attention Center for the Families of Indigenous Migrants (CAFAMI in Spanish).

“We know that there is some level of discrimination because they are undocumented in the United States, but they face a double discrimination for being labeled in different ways as Indigenous people,” she said.

Indigenous migrants face greater risks traveling across Mexico

In October 2020, Alma and her son Salvador left their home in Caserio La Bendición, a rural community in the Sayaxche municipality of Petén in Guatemala. They traveled for two weeks across Mexico. Along with a few other migrants, they paid a smuggler to take them to the United States border in a van.

The journey was long and the temperature inside the vehicle rose to extreme levels.

“There was no air (in the vehicle) and he couldn’t take it,” the mother said about her 13-year-old son. “He fainted and I feared he was about to die, but thank God he was OK.”

Alma, left, translates from K’ekchi’ to Spanish as Andrea recalls the struggles she’s had on her journey from Guatemala to the U.S.-Mexico border with no knowledge of Spanish. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Other migrants aided Alma and Salvador with water and the few medications they had available. That night Alma and her son prayed to God.

Unlike many other Indigenous migrants who venture into Mexico to get to the U.S. border, Alma is fluent in Spanish, which made her journey somewhat easier. The 30-year-old mother remembered instances in which other Indigenous migrants were discriminated against and suffered for their lack of Spanish-speaking skills.

“There was this young man who got left behind at a warehouse where we spent the night,” Alma said, adding that he didn’t speak Spanish well.

The Guatemalan migrant spoke K’ekchi’, the same language as her, and was abandoned by the smuggler who claimed he didn’t pay the full price for the trip. He argued in K’ekchi’, but his limited communication skills in Spanish made it difficult to fight back or for the smuggler to listen.

“They just left him there. They said he didn’t pay, he said he did but I don’t know,” Alma recalled at the shelter, looking down to her feet and lowering her tone. “They often take advantage of anyone they can.”

When crossing Mexico to reach the United States, Central American migrants are susceptible to xenophobic discrimination, but Indigenous migrants are even more vulnerable and are frequently targetted by scammers. In the case of Indigenous women, they are also targetted for sexual abuse and rape, said Sergio Luna, director of the shelter La Sagrada Familia in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

Luna said that the most prominent challenges experienced by Indigenous migrants at the shelter are related to language barriers and lack of Western education.

Without Spanish language skills, Indigenous migrants face barriers to accessing public and health services that they need, picking up packages that their families send to them and finding informal jobs to get them through their travel.

“Most of the time they endure pain or illnesses that they have,” Luna said about the migrants who cannot communicate their needs. “They don’t know how to read, how to write, and then you add the language challenges, so the vulnerable conditions and difficulties keep getting bigger and bigger.”

The La Sagrada Familia shelter is adjacent to a stop on “La Bestia (The Beast),” a web of train routes that serves migrants as a clandestine form of transportation. More than 90 percent of the migrants who reach the shelter in Tlaxcala are from Honduras, while Guatemalans take second place with 5 percent, Luna said.

Even as the shelter sees a large influx of Honduran migrants who are not from Indigenous communities, the director has noticed a tendency of Indigenous Central Americans being convicted of misdemeanors in Mexico.

“We’ve encountered cases in which they’re accused of committing an administrative fault or crime. They don’t have the ability to defend themselves or to argue their way out of these situations,” Luna said, adding that they’re often left to fend for themselves.

Luna has noticed tendencies to segregate among the migrant population at the shelter, and observed that some of the nationalities have a “superior place in a hierarchy.” While Nicaraguans and Salvadorans seem to have a higher status, he considers Guatemalans to be the most marginalized.

“They receive a certain stigma because of their conditions of poverty and indigeneity,” Luna said, adding that he notices discrimination based on skin color, height and complexion.

After the long and dangerous journey from Guatemala across Mexico, Indigenous migrants face similar barriers at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Cover photo: Indigenous women in Antigua, Guatemala, work on textiles that will be sold to tourists. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Categories: Local Blogs

County Attorney Declines Our Request Seeking Opinion From Texas Attorney General

El Paso Politics - Mon, 05/10/2021 - 10:52am
On Friday, May 7, 2021, El Paso Politics received a letter from County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal denying our request that they seek an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office to […]
Categories: Local Blogs

Estreno del libro digital "Cosecha de Mujeres: El safari mexicano"

Diana Washington Valdez - Mon, 05/10/2021 - 10:39am

 La nueva version digital del libro esta disponible desde hoy en sitios como,, y mas.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Una nueva versión digital del libro “Cosecha de Mujeres: El safari mexicano” se estrena el 10 de mayo de 2021 bajo el sello de Peace at the Border. La autora Diana Washington Valdez dijo que hizo algunas revisiones al libro de 2005, que fue publicado por Océano como “Cosecha de Mujeres: Safari en el desierto mexicano.” La versión digital se preparo debido a la demanda por este libro en formatos mas flexibles, y para distinguirla de las copias piratas que existen en sitios de internet. Esta versión es la única genuina y autorizada, según la editorial. La autora es una periodista internacional que ha colaborado con medios y documentales como “Investigation Discovery,” “Al Jazeera,” “Proceso,” “Discovery de Argentina,” “La Jornada,” “The Guardian” (de Londres),” “Letras Libres,” “CBC (Radio Canada),” “Al Punto con Jorge Ramos,” y con las películas y podcasts exitosas como “Border Echoes/Ecos de una frontera,” “Soles Negros/Dark Suns,” iHeart “Forgotten: Women of Juarez”. “Mi deseo es que los lectores puedan obtener una versión autentica y que contiene algunas sencillas revisiones y actualizaciones,” expreso Diana Washington Valdez. “No tiene caso ampliar más la investigación porque seria repetir mas de lo mismo, más muertes y desapariciones”. De acuerdo con la autora, “Aunque ya tenemos una nueva generación de mujeres jóvenes, que están mejor preparadas para enfrentar los peligros y que hacen un activismo contundente, las causas principales de los crímenes son las mismas: La corrupción y la falta de voluntad por parte del gobierno mexicano para esclarecer los crímenes y proteger a las mujeres vulnerables. Advertí en 2005 que las cosas iban a empeorar y que los asesinatos sistemáticos se extenderían si no hubiera una intervención importante. Y, lamentablemente, el tiempo me dio la razón”. El libro digital es disponible desde el 10 de mayo de 2021 por Barnes and Noble, Amazon, y otros sitios de internet. Para solicitar entrevistas con la autora pueden comunicarse por el correo electrónico



Categories: Local Blogs

How police work for women in El Paso has changed over the years, but still has a ways to go in recruiting

Borderzine - Thu, 05/06/2021 - 11:02am

The history of women on El Paso’s police force dates back to 1913, but much has changed over the years.

“Women were seen more as social workers than police officers because it was a very male-dominated occupation,” said Egbert Zavala, an associate professor in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Early police work by women mostly involved looking for runaway girls, making calls on community residents, patrolling the streets and arresting prostitutes.

“There was this idea, back in the day, that males had to deal with dangerous criminals,” Zavala said.

According to records with the El Paso County Historical Society, the first policewomen in El Paso appointed in 1913 were Mrs. C.A. Hooper, Mrs. L.P. Jones, and Juliet Barlow. Jones had a background in charity work for the city and Barlow had a professional medical history, working as a nurse in pediatrics. They were responsible for enforcing sanitation laws and conducting arrests for cases of abuse. In 1917, Lola Eighmey was hired and assigned to work as a traveler’s aid for the YWCA at the union depot.

In 1918 positions for policewomen were eliminated in El Paso, but restored again in 1919 when Julia Kate Farnham was appointed, followed by Virginia Mendez who, it was noted, spoke Spanish.

Farnham and Mendez were assigned to work together and patrol the streets. Mendez was known as a “gun-toting, badge-wearing policewoman,” according to the historical society article which also notes Mendez “was said to be tough and as strong as any policeman.”

Virginia Mendez, an El Paso policewoman, wrote what she did for every shift she took up in her logbook. Photo credit: Nicole Lopez

Mendez wrote in her logbook for every shift. In the logbook, which is in the C. L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP library, most of her notes read “worked on the streets” or “located a runaway girl.”

Farnham experienced similar encounters. In an April 24,1923 article in the El Paso Herald-Post, Farnham talked about how she would always try to help young girls before having to put them in jail. .Farnham said she felt she was more of an influence to these girls than their parents because they “feared her authority.” She said she believed their mothers were too modern and liberal in raising their daughters.

“Because mothers have not been careful in training their daughters, I find the girls reeling as they cross they Juarez bridge at midnight.”

The policewomen positions were eliminated again in 1923. Mendez went on to serve as deputy county probation office and Farnham took up a job as matron at Washington Park. After that position was eliminated she ran the Upson Hotel, a boarding house on Upson Street.

In 1929, Callie Fairley became the first woman police detective, according to a post on the El Paso History Museum’s Digie site, credited to the El Paso Police Department. She was a detective on the vice squad for more than 25 years and was responsible for more than 96% of arrests involving female vice violators from 1929 until her retirement in 1952.

The post said she “was in charge of handling all woman prisoners confined in the city jail and carry out investigations of woman involved in prostitution and other similar offenses.”

In 1942, according to the EPPD’s annual report, the department began a regular advertising campaign encouraging women to apply as full-duty policewomen.

In its 1947 annual report, the EPPD included a section called “Report of Policewoman.” It listed that women officers investigated 352 clinical cases, arrested 44 juveniles and 717 women.

By the 1950s, police departments began to consider women officers for the same work as male officers, according to research published by Carol Archbold, a professor at North Dakota State University, and Dorothy M. Schulz, a professor at the City University of New York, in 2012. That’s when women all over the nation were being assigned to take on more cases besides sexual and domestic crimes.

Although women are now provided with more and more opportunities, the police force in El Paso is still predominantly comprised of male officers. In 2019, 14% of the 1,153 person police force was made up of female officers, according to an annual report released by the EPPD.

There are five regional commands and the specialty unit in the El Paso Police Department, where female officers are distributed throughout each of these sectors.

“When you’re spread out that far, there are not that many females in any one regional command, so we’re still very small in terms of females,” said EPPD Assistant Police Chief Zina Silva.

Silva, the highest ranking woman in the El Paso Police Department, began serving with EPPD in 1995. Originally from New York, Silva moved to El Paso in the early nineties to continue her powerlifting training with a good friend of hers who was living in El Paso at the time. She was looking for a policing position since the late 1980s. The New York Police Department honored her a role to work in the mass transit subway system, but due to a hiring freeze, she wasn’t able to move into city policing there.

After a while, she decided she would try to pursue an official position as a police officer at the El Paso Police Department.

“I knew what I wanted, I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew what I wanted to achieve,” Silva said. “I was on a good path and I had the opportunity to work in several departments.”

As an assistant police chief, Silva is in charge of the strategic planning and auxiliary services bureau, where she is responsible for writing policies and procedures for the departments, implementing software, delegating city council presentations, and works in resource management. Silva is also actively working in other sectors such as victims services, radio communications, and volunteer programs.

Assistant Police Chief, Zina Silva, is assigned to work in the funeral committee to honor fallen officers. Silva wears a special uniform when attending funerals.

Silva touches on the kinds of assignments that El Paso policewomen take on today.

“We have women working in crimes against persons where they’re managing homicides,” Silva said. “The field has completely opened up for anybody that has the talent, the expertise, and the willingness to learn these job assignments.”

Zavala, of UTEP’s criminal justice department, said there are plenty of ways that the police force can encourage more women to join and diversify their field of work.

“We need to have a police chief or a sheriff that go out there and seek those types of applicants out there,” Zavala said.

UTEP criminal justice assistant professor, Caitlyn Muniz, notes that most recruiting positions are male officers, which may also pose another roadblock when it comes to hiring women in the police force.

“There is the greater issue of recruiting and then within that, recruiting women specifically and really getting women involved in a time where the field of law enforcement needs a positive change,” Muniz said.

Categories: Local Blogs

Cross-border romance disrupted, but not defeated by pandemic restrictions on travel

Borderzine - Thu, 05/06/2021 - 9:52am

The cities of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez Mexico are side by side, but to some Borderland couples it seems like they are worlds apart since the pandemic closed the border to all but essential travel.

The U.S. imposed limits on border travel in March 2020 in response to the rising COVID-19 crisis. Only U.S. citizens, permanent residents and those designated as essential travelers can cross. That means no crossing for recreation and tourism to go shopping or visit family and friends.

Love is not considered essential under the travel ban, which makes it hard for cross-border couples like Briana Martinez and her boyfriend, Oswaldo Cuevas, who once freely traveled between cities to stay connected.

“It’s been tough definitely, because the borders are closed. He does have a tourist visa only, so he hasn’t been able to cross since March of last year,” Martinez said.

Martinez and Cuevas met while she was visiting her grandmother in Guanajuato, Mexico. Martinez works as a speech-language pathologist in El Paso and would occasionally visit Cuevas in Guanajuato, Mexico over the span of their 8 year relationship.

In January 2020, Cuevas, a chemical engineer. moved to Juarez to be closer to Martinez. Two months later the pandemic hit.

“When he initially moved here we thought we’d both have the liberty to cross whether he goes to visit me for the weekend or I go to Juarez. So, it’s been tough in that aspect because he hasn’t been able to cross,” Martinez said.

After months being away from each other at the beginning of the pandemic, Martinez began visiting Cuevas in Juarez almost every weekend. She moved to Juarez at the start of the 2021 to live with Cuevas, but found the commute to work in El Paso was too much and moved back to the U.S.

The couple is now engaged and Martinez is buying a home in El Paso, but they aren’t sure when they will be able to get married. Even then, it could take years before Cuevas can legally reside in the U.S.

The pandemic also forced Edith Velazquez of El Paso and Alex Rodriguez of Juarez to rethink their 6-year cross-border relationship.

“I was traveling to Juarez to see my boyfriend, but the pandemic hit and we had to decide whether one of us would move to where the other lived or just stay apart for the time being,” said Velasquez, who met her boyfriend during an outing with friends in Juarez.

They decided to get engaged and plan to get married in Tulum, Mexico, next year when the pandemic has eased. They’re hopeful that Rodriguez will be able to move to El Paso in the future.


Categories: Local Blogs

UTEP students eager to celebrate graduation in person after year of pandemic

Borderzine - Wed, 05/05/2021 - 10:05am

After more than a year of remote classes and cancelled graduation ceremonies, students at the University of Texas at El Paso are excited about commencement.

At the end of March 2021, students got the news UTEP would have an in-person ceremony for graduates of the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 at the Sun Bowl Stadium on Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15.

The Friday ceremony recognizes bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates and candidates in the colleges of business administration, education and liberal arts. The Saturday ceremony honors graduates and candidates in the colleges of engineering, health sciences and science, and the schools of nursing and pharmacy,” according to the announcement from UTEP Communications.

Many of those who will take part in commencement are the first in their families to graduate from a university.

“I’ve always wanted to walk across the stage and, just you know, have that special moment, saying that I did it and I made it,” said Deante Michelle Sears, a first-generation student.

Sears, 30, earned a bachelor’s degree in education. It’s meaningful for her family because she will be able to find better job opportunities in the future and be a good example for her daughter, Sears said.

Her family lives in Virginia and won’t be able to attend the ceremony because of the cost of last-minute traveling expenses. She says her family is very proud of her accomplishments and she will capture the moment to share with them.

“I’ll have pictures I can send, and I’ll be able to have video that is recorded. So, even if they can’t physically be here to support me and see, they will be able to see me online or through video,” Sears said.

Yomaira Gonzalez, 26, graduated last spring. She earned bachelor’s degree with a double major in psychology and criminal justice. She was disappointed when pandemic restrictions forced UTEP to cancel commencement.

“Last year I was like, it’s finally my moment, I can shine,” Gonzalez said.

Now she’ll attend a the commencement ceremony with the class of 2021. Even though it’s a shared ceremony, she’s excited. She is a first-generation college graduate who wants to make her parents proud, especially her father, who was diagnosed with cancer.

“I want to show him that I actually walked the stage, to see that his daughter actually had the education that he didn’t have. For me is something that I wanted to show him,” Gonzalez said.

Astrid Elsa Barrientos, 23, is also a 2020 graduate attending the commencement ceremony this year.

Barrientos earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is the first in her family to complete a college education. She also missed her commencement ceremony and is glad that one is happening this year.

“I was really really sad when they postponed it in December because I already have my diploma but it feels more real walking across the stage,” Barrientos said.

Her parents, twin sister and a younger brother will attend commencement. “I’m very proud. Very very proud,” said her mother, Maribel Barrientos. “She strives for the best, and whatever she puts her mind to she gets to it, and that is what I admire about her. And I love that about her.”


The university initially announced that each graduating student could only take two guests, but later expanded the number to a total of eight guests per student. The decision was made after carefully reviewing the level of COVID-19 cases in El Paso and the number of students who had confirmed they planned to participate in the ceremonies according to UTEP.

“Our 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates have worked hard to earn their degrees, and their achievements deserve to be celebrated with their loved ones,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson in a statement released by the university.

According to University officials, 3,812 students had sent an RSVP to attend the ceremonies as of April 22.

Social distancing between family groups will be in place and face masks will be required. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up and Sun Bowl seating capacity will not exceed 50%, even if every graduate brings eight guests, according to a recent press release from UTEP.

Students will not have physical contact or shake any hands with anyone as they walk the stage but they will have the opportunity for photos of the proud moment.

Families will watch from the stands, eager to share the milestone that many missed last year and now happily celebrate.







Categories: Local Blogs

Deconstructing El Paso’s Identity Crisis

El Paso Politics - Wed, 05/05/2021 - 5:56am
El Paso has a cultural identity crisis. It is Mexican and then it is not. Why this exists can be traced back to two realities. The first is that El Paso, unlike […]
Categories: Local Blogs

County Attorney Responds To Our Children’s Open Records Intervention Request

El Paso Politics - Mon, 05/03/2021 - 7:48am
As readers may remember, we asked the County Attorney – to intervene on behalf of the El Paso taxpayers – to ask the Texas Attorney General to determine whether the El Paso […]
Categories: Local Blogs

How pandemic anxiety has altered the social lives of young adults

Borderzine - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 11:43am

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us interact now. For one group, the changes in social dynamics come at a critical time in their lives as they navigate early adulthood. Amid managing socially distant lifestyles, 20-somethings are seeing shifts in their relationships – with some drifting apart and others dissolving completely.

“I did lose a handful of friends this year. But now that I look back on it I don’t know if they were really my friends or just acquaintances,” said El Pasoan Brittney Tambeau, 25.

What should be important and life changing years in terms of relationships, networking and an overall transition into adulthood has turned into a much more complicated reality, relationship experts say. With the loosening of lockdown measures in much of the country comes a divide between what to do when your friends want to go out, and how to maintain friendships when daily interaction is confined to a screen.

“The dynamics in relationships have shifted because of COVID, and it’s really hard for people to adjust because it’s still a loss, even if it’s a friendship,” said Ellen Ijabor, a counseling-psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso. Ijabor works as a mental health practicum intern at CAPS, the university’s counseling and psychological services department.

On top of the disconnect of not being able to have day-to-day interactions, Tambeau said she found she resented acquaintances who were posting on social media about their unsafe escapades of going out to crowded places.

“Clearly we don’t have the same moral compass if they’re just going out all the time,” she said, pointing out one particular acquaintance who documented trips to Disney, Utah, Vegas; even an EDM festival, on social media.

Ijabor said she has already seen increased anxiety, depression and difficulty socializing in many of her clients along with a “how do I say no?” dilemma in respect to going out.

“It’s been a really big conversation with a lot of students of ‘how do I say no? How am I able to set those boundaries when usually I could just go out?’ ” These added stresses and strains on friendships, she says could lead to increased loneliness.

While we live in a very digital age, we are still social beings who need human interaction, Ijabor said.

Even with opportunities to video chat via Facetime, Zoom and other communication apps, staying connected with friends can be a challenge for many young people who are living with their families and may not have their own space to be themselves.

“The way that people would usually have conversations with their friends, or have intimate conversations with their partners, they can’t really do that because they don’t have the privacy to do so,”,Ijabor explained. “So, that’s an additional strain on the relationship.”

However, she says that adaptability is key in trying to navigate these hurdles. “Coping is different for everyone. So, maybe it’s not always going to be staring at a screen, maybe it’s having a phone call or doing things outside safely while social distancing like going for a walk or hiking,” she said.

Clinical psychologist Seth J. Gillihan, wrote in a May 2020 WebMD blog post that navigating friendships during traumatic times takes an extra level of compassion and kindness for what friends may be going through, regardless of if they have extra time or may be posting on social media. In addition, he adds that it is important to adopt compassion for oneself in order to understand the meaning behind feelings of being neglected or left out in friendships.

El Paso Community College student Rikki Gutierrez, 20, said the pandemic has given her a new outlook on how to be a more attentive friend. “We all have busy schedules and everything. But when we come back and talk it’s like nothing has changed,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Gutierrez had plans to transfer to UTEP for in-person classes, travel to Korea and see her favorite band live. Disappointed, but carrying on, she said she realized how important it is to check in with others whose lives have also been disrupted. Even with friends she feels she has drifted apart from.

“We’ve become more open with talking about how we feel and better about being there for each other,” she said. “To move the conversation forward and to make sure we’re doing okay, it’s just become an important part of our relationships.”



Categories: Local Blogs

UMC Voluminous Personal Messages

El Paso Politics - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 5:56am
The leaders of the University Medical Center of El Paso and El Paso Children’s Hospital use taxpayer-funded equipment and services to send and receive “voluminous… personal messages unrelated to official business,” according […]
Categories: Local Blogs

Delta-8 gaining interest in Borderland as legal alternative to marijuana products in Texas

Borderzine - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 10:08am

Delta-8 – a legal compound similar to THC from cannabis – has arrived in the Borderland and one CBD shop owner says its popularity is sure to rise among El Paso-area residents seeking to explore its medicinal qualities.

May Leach, owner of Whole Health CBD, says the compound is thought to relieve pain, emotional unrest and produce a slight sense of euphoria. It is marketed in different form such as oils, lotions and even edibles.

And unlike marijuana, it is legal in Texas, Leach said.

Like CBD, short for cannabidoil, Delta-8 comes from the hemp plant and is legal in the Lone Star state after Texas Bill 1325 legalized hemp products in 2019.

Nayeli Granados, 28, an El Pasoan who regularly consumes Delta-8, said she found it gave her more energy. “I was ready to do my work very focused and relaxed. Without any stress.”

Prior to using Delta-8, Granados tried CBD, but now prefers Delta-8.

CBD is widely available, and its products are made from the hemp plant, which makes it legal to consume and sell in Texas, Leach said. The hemp plant might look like a cannabis plant and is related to it, but it will not get users high like the marijuana plant, according to online health magazine,

Leach sells Delta-8 in her store and said Delta-8 can produce a psychoactive reaction, meaning there might be a soft “high” feeling when consuming the product.

THC is the main component associated with a high-like feeling in cannabis products. CBD and THC have the same chemical components, but they have different structures, which makes the reaction of the body to CBD or THC different, researchers said.

Social media, like TikTok or Facebook, are full of reviews on the products. Many users talk about taking Delta-8 for their anxiety and relaxation. There are entire Reddit threads for users exchanging information about how to consume it and reviews of gummies, vapes, or tinctures.

Toni Chops, the owner of Piercing Poli’s, sells both CBD and Delta-8. He said that the federal legalization of marijuana is becoming more of a possibility and hopes that Delta-8 remains legal, but recognizes there are some issues that come with easy access to the products.

“I believe that individuals who abuse products, use them underage, or distribute them to minors, do ruin it for everyone who follows the appropriate laws,” Chops said. The legal age to buy Delta-8 is 21, the same legal age to buy alcohol and cigarettes.

Product labels indicate not to drive while under the influence, just like when drinking alcohol. The consumer must be aware, like full-spectrum CBD, Delta-8 can be detectable in employer drug tests.

Leach said that the hemp product’s chemical components will attach to body fats and stay in the system for 30 days. Drug tests will detect Delta-8 or full-spectrum CBD as marijuana.

“I usually tell my customers right away, that if they are likely to get tested, they maybe should use other CBD products,” she said.

Unlike Delta-8, CBD is available as topical creams, which means CBD can be used to target a specific problem, for example, back pain or joint pains like arthritis. Some research shows that there’s also a potential healing effect of CBD for pets.

El Paso’s history with cannabis products is long. In 1915 was among the first cities in the U.S. to ban marijuana use after a local sheriff pushed the idea that it provoked violent crimes. On June 4, 1915, an El Paso Times article praised the city for taking “a stand against the traffic in marijuana, known to be the deadliest drug on the market.”

Much has changed through the years. El Paso City Council last year approved a “cite-and-release” policy for people found with small amounts of marijuana. Possession of the drug at a Class A or B misdemeanor level will no longer lead to an arrest but a citation, much like a traffic ticket, will be issued.



Categories: Local Blogs

Special Report: El Paso Children’s Hospital Argues It Is Not Accountable to El Paso

El Paso Politics - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 7:34am
The El Paso Children’s Hospital is arguing that it is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. El Paso Children’s Hospital is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. As a nonprofit, it argues that […]
Categories: Local Blogs

Artesano batalla durante cierre de la frontera por pandemia

Borderzine - Sat, 04/24/2021 - 1:41pm

Ciudad Juárez — En esta región fronteriza, COVID-19 ha causado un gran impacto económico en centros comerciales, y negocios pequeños.

Los gobiernos de México y Estados Unidos cerraron puentes internacionales en Marzo durante la pandemia. Solo está permitido cruzar por razones esenciales e ir de compras no es una de las razones.

Muchos negocios ubicados en la Avenida Juárez tuvieron que cerrar temporalmente a causa de la pandemia y siguen afectados por restricciones en los puentes internacionales Estos negocios dependen del turismo y clientes que cruzan el Puente Internacional Paso del Norte.

“Afecta mucho a los países de los dos lados pero aquí nos afecta más porque estamos esperanzados en el turismo,” comento Antonio Hernández Camacho, joyero en Avenida Juárez. Por 45 años, se ha dedicado a vender todo tipo de joyas, como anillos, pulseras de plata, collares pero se especializa en arte en metal. Hace llaves con nombre de las personas, corazones, y varias cosas con la segueta.

Su arte lo ha llevado a exponer con éxito en Europa ya que unos años atrás una escritora quedó sorprendida con su trabajo y lo invitó a España. Después siguió recibiendo ofertas de otras ciudades para exponer su arte, incluyendo Boston, Dublin, y Miami.

El señor Camacho tuvo que cerrar por tres meses cuando empezó la pandemia en Marzo y explica que vendió sus llaveros a través de internet. Pero las ventas fueron disminuyendo. “Tenía unos ahorros, porque soy un hombre muy precavido en ese aspecto, pero por mucho dinero que tengas si no trabajas se va a acabar.” explicó Camacho.

Desde que volvió a abrir su joyería, sus ventas no han mejorado como esperaba. “Las ventas bajaron como en un 70%,” dijo Camacho.

Antes de la pandemia y restricciones en los puentes internacionales, “venían muchas personas de los Estados Unidos, de Canadá, de diferentes partes del mundo” dijo Camacho.

a causa de la pandemia en 2020, tuvo que cancelar dos viajes organizados por medio de la Cultura del Arte en México para inaugurar museos en Escocia y Japón.

“Hasta el día de hoy no ha cambiado nada como la gente ha esperado, aún no se sabe hasta cuando vuelvan abrir los puentes internacionales para las personas con visas de turista”, dijo Camacho.

El, como muchos que dependen del flujo de clientes que cruzan la frontera, sigue en limbo. “La pandemia y la crisis económica parece no terminar y lo último que queda es la esperanza para que todo regrese a la normalidad.”

Categories: Local Blogs

Juarez nightlife trying to adapt to changing pandemic conditions

Borderzine - Sat, 04/24/2021 - 1:22pm

The COVID-19 pandemic affected a wide range of businesses during the past year, especially nightclubs in Ciudad Juárez but some businesses found ways to reopen and adapt. Now, they’re faced with a new health order limiting hours and capacity and forcing some to close their doors once again as cases and hospitalizations spike.

Nightclubs and restaurants have looked for ways to stay in business.

“We had to turn everything into e-commerce we tried to sell remotely and reach the customer ourselves, said Pepe Hernandez, a founder of “Punto Unión,” an upscale property with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

The months when businesses were forced to close under a health mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 were difficult.

“The entertainment business ended, so we did it through other brands; we launched a sushi brand, mixology courses, food, and some businesses we turned completely into something new, ” Hernandez said.

“Plaza Portales,” another upscale commercial center that attracts a young crowd with trendy restaurant bars and nightclubs also had shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. But it and other places reopened as restrictions were slowly lifted in Ciudad Juarez.



Mexico has an “epidemiological traffic light” system that indicates the level of risk and restrictions for business activities. The lights indicate levels range from red, the most restrictive, to green, the least restrictive. While Juarez had been allowed to operate under a yellow light, the rest of the state of Chihuahua was in the orange light category. The lights can fluctuate depending on COVID-19 deaths and infections.

The yellow light level meant many businesses in Ciudad Juarez were operating with health and safety protocols like masks, social distancing, and limited capacity depending on the type of establishment. There were more activities but also many precautions for bars and nightclubs that sell alcohol.

At midnight on April 23rd as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spiked, State Health authorities ordered a weekend shutdown of non-essential businesses that included restaurants and bars through 6 a.m. Monday. The orange light level is now in effect in Ciudad Juarez forcing bars to shut down. Restaurants can operate at reduced capacity, 30 percent inside and 50 percent outside, and must close by 10 on weeknights and 11:00 pm on weekends

Health protocols were already in effect with many places checking temperatures and ensuring customers have masks on when they arrive. Most businesses also have a floor mat soaked with disinfectant at the entrance people step on before walking into the building. There’s plenty of hand sanitizer available inside and some places use digital menus so that customers don’t have contact with a physical menu.

“Last year, we were open for three months in which we had opened under the yellow traffic light with 30% of the total capacity,” said Marco de la Fuente, director of operations and public relations for Plaza Portales. “It lasted those three months, and then we returned to the traffic light red,” he said.

Bars were allowed to reopen if they also provided food. But under the orange light, some of these businesses were forced to close again. Many restaurants and nightclubs that cut staff as they coped with a drop in sales and uncertainty.

But others moved forward with their plans. During the first weekend of February, a new restaurant-bar called “Panic Botanic” opened.

“It was not going to open until we were on a green traffic light, said Marco. But the owners went ahead “to generate sales and money to pay expenses,” said Marco.

Panic Botanic has been able to attract a clientele eager to try a new place. As customers from Juarez and El Paso ventured out, nightlife on the border was slowly returning.

Categories: Local Blogs

Joe Lopez Keeps Latino Cultural Heritage Visible

El Paso News - Fri, 04/23/2021 - 1:29pm
By Ricardo Romo, PhD When Joe Lopez was growing up, the most popular Spanish language movie theaters located on the western edge of downtown, just west of the San Pedro Creek, featured the latest Mexican films and stars. These cultural architectural landmarks included the Zaragoza, El Nacional, and the Alameda theaters. The Alameda, with its… Read More Joe Lopez Keeps Latino Cultural Heritage Visible
Categories: Local Blogs

UTEP Presidents, Latinos/as, and Colonialism

El Paso Politics - Fri, 04/23/2021 - 7:13am
By: Oscar J. Martinez, PhD., A guest editorial Editor's Note: Oscar J. Martínez is a retired professor who taught at UTEP and the University of Arizona. He has published numerous books on […]
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by Dr. Radut