LAST OF THE LAST

Last Days of the aLast Days, Globe Mills and traffic, El Paso, October 2015 Interstate 10 (I1Last days of the last days, Globe Mills

and I10, El Paso, October 2015,

photograph by Bruce Berman

____________________

“I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, oh, have a!
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it if it makes you feel good,
Oh, yes indeed.

You’re out on the streets looking good,
And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain’t right…”

-Janis Joplin

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RANCHO BOOTS IN JUAREZ

Rancho Boots, Juárez, 2009

Rancho Boots (from the book Juárez), Juárez, 2009

Photographs and text by Bruce Berman

Every once in awhile you have to just throw yourself on the ground and go for it. Sometimes it’s worth it. This was worth it. My eyes needed it.

Juárez is changing. It’s good. People are dancing in the streets. The Cartel is receding into memory. Juárez has always had its own style, its own punch, it’s little kick in the gut that reminds you you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Juárez is the center of the world of nowheresville.

I bow to it.

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Relic #40: Hatch, New Mexico

Relic#39: Hatch, New MexicoRelic #40, Hatch, New Mexico

Commentary and photograph by Bruce Berman

What was is going.

What was the recent past is now becoming the debris of now, eroding into the dust or waiting for the two hour demolition wrecker to come and sweep it away, laying waste to the last of the industrial age, smoothing a pad or a field to a bald table upon which will be laid The Grid.

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RELIC #39

Relic#39_HatchNM

Relic #39, New Mexico, April 2016
Commentary by Bruce Berman

The Relics of Light and Shadow series is an ongoing project since 2010.

From the very beginning of my life in photography I’ve always spent a lot of time “out there,” in the backlands of America. One of my first published pieces (October 1969)  was for the Christian Science Monitor (I was their Midwest photographer, based out of Chicago, from 1969 thru 1973). It was a piece  I did on the coming of  the fallow harvest times of the Midwest, showing images of the solitude that comes with the coming of winter, locking down hearth and home, the time when “it,” the harsh wintertime, is coming and all you can do is get yourself ready for “it.”

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SOLDADERAS/WOMEN SOLDIERS

Maria Gonzalez and soldaderas.
Maria Gonzalez and soldaderas, Photograph from the Runyon Collection/Library of Congress

 

This photograph was taken during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), exact date unkown.The photograph was taken by commercial photographer Robert Runyon (1881-1968), a longtime resident of South Texas. His photographs document the history and development of South Texas and the border, including the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. military presence at Fort Brown and along the border prior to and during World War I, and the growth and development of the Rio Grande Valley.

This image was shot on a glass-plate negative ; 5×7 in. Camera unknown.

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MEMORIAL

ASARCO #212, May 2012. Photograph
©BruceBerman 2015

 

Photograph and text by Bruce Berman

I miss you ASARCO.

You were texture. You were identity. You were muy macho. You had cajones. Your candy stripe shaft spewed your acids and we ran for cover. At least we were moving. You were not vanilla. You were not something else. You were, well, ASARCO, un madre. You were definitely not bourgeois, pro seguroOn dark nights, down on Paisano, huge trucks dumped your excrement and giant flames roared into the sky, lighting up I10 like a festive firecracker.

Now you are a bald pallet awaiting “The Grid.” They fiddle before they drop the hammer, just enough time for one to build trust in the untrustworthy. What should go on the ground that has your blood? Should it be a Western Town? Giddy up! Should it be an amusement park? Ice cream! Maybe it could be a “multi use” nothing (Ha! What else do you think they will do!)? We need more apartments and strip centers! Maybe we can just let UTEP spread its, its…well…it could just spread whatever it is that UTEP has.

I will politely clap. I am not lamenting the inevitable any more than I do on The Day Of the Dead.

Yes you were a cancer dispenser, a reminder of danger, vulnerability and of the sweat and blood of working men. Oh yeah, you were one bad hombre. Oh, and how the gerentes avoided your gaze. You were so not sheik. How could we sell this bipolar berg as the cultural and artistic epicenter of the great southwest with your giant schlong sticking into the sky, having intercourse with the eyes of every passerby? No no no, you had to go. You were so, well, nasty!

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MAD MEN: END OF THE INNOCENCE

 

50’s Merc. Photograph ©BruceBerman2015

Mad Men, the 50s and the Waiting

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

Mad as in nutty mad…mad because they were delirious with the defiance of convention while simultaneously becoming the masters of the Establishment (and remain so, truly understanding what motivates consumers -and that became all of us- and then getting them to consume), mad because they were about to be jetting and tail-finning and mini-skirting and drinking and potting and pushing every moral convention ever taught and/or learned out the back door into what became the waste dump of the 60s. They were insane with the possibilities and not burdened by the weight of the previous two generations (The Great One of the Depression and the War). They were mad and intoxicated and wild, like their cars, huge, with unlimited horsepower, design that was plastic and chrome and sweeping, made with materials never heard of before. Theory knew no limits. Everyone felt a little “illegal,” yet, invited to the table. Being ecclectic was safe. Just keep consuming, it’ll all be all right. Yes, they were nutty mad and flew high, never thinking there could be a landing, mad with the waiting for the coming fall, the doubt, the emptiness, the great Genericide, ergo, The End Of The Innocence (Don Henley). They became us. Post Mad. The masters of data, overthink, and, compliance.

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UNDEFINED PERSONALITIES AND THE BRIDGE

 

Guy with a pipe, (á la Puente series), El Paso, April 2015
Guy with a pipe, (á la Puente series) El Paso, April 2015. Photograph ©BruceBerman 2015

Text and Photo by Bruce Berman

 

No telling what and who will come over the Cordoba bridge that links El Paso, Texas with its sister city Juárez, Chihuahua.

In this case, crossing from south to north, was Spencer.

Pipe, a hat that said “F___ Off,” aged Doc Marten’s, punk rock labels every where,  he is as ecclectic as the border. In a strange way he, is the border: neither this or that, neither Mexican or American, neither barrier nor passageway.

A friend once called the border a metaphor for a person who has “an undefined personality.”

Looking at Spencer -and some others (in my mirror!)- I’m thinking it’s a place for very defined personalities.

The problem is that it’s really difficult to say exactly what they are.

Which brings us back to “undefined.”

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THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SHOE PAINTER

 

Juárez Shoe Man
Man in the Plaza Reforma, Juárez. 2014. Photograph ©BruceBerman2014

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

This man is a shoe decorator. He paints designs on shoes and then the shoes are sold in nearby stores, The faster he can paint the more money he can earn. The fumes from the permanent paint are toxic and the shoe man swigs from his Coca Cola constantly.

The economy of Juárez is purely entrepreneurial capitalism and there are many one-man “businessmen” in the Plaza Reforma which has become the new heart of El Centro. The recent Cartel War saw the exodus of much of Juárez’ middle class and along with them the businesses they owned and maintained. Much of Juárez that butts against the border south of the Cordova/Paso del Norte bridge has now been razed in anticipation of a massive redevelopment.

As the new Juárez rises so has the need to create one’s own business.

 capitalism.

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The Old New Juarez

Juarez Loteria
Loteria de Juarez. Photograph ©BruceBerman2013

The New Juarez.

Everyone is talking about it. A new day, full of new promise. Many acquaintances tell me about all the new bars and cantinas. That Juarez will rise again.

This morning, Easter morning, two bodies were found hanging from a bridge in central Juarez. The victims were young, scruffy, boys with no names.

Hanging, like crucifixion, is a public and humiliating death. A death after death, the person shamed, rendered helpless, publicly. This is death with a message.

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Whiffs: I Can See Tomorrow

El Mariachi (the real one), Juarez Photograph ©BruceBerman1999

There was a day when you could think of Juarez and think in color. I get whiffs of it lately, but one is so cognizant that under that shiny surface is a black and white heart that has been ripped open for all to see and it will take a long time fill with the energy and joy that was -and will be again- the hallmark of Ciudad Juarez. It will happen. It is happening now. A generation has now come that learned to live abajo, and carefully. There has been damage. No one can live under that cloud forever.

It’s nice to look back, now and again. But here, on the border, it has been years since people have allowed themselves to look forward.

There are “whiffs.”

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Unhappy Crowd With Tarot Cards

Unhappy Crowd With Taro
Unhappy crowd getting their Tarot Cards read, Juárez. ©BruceBerman2014

 

The streets of Juárez abound with life again.

The “Cartel War” is over.

The war for justice and integrity in government, the war to develop a country that doesn’t need a drug transporting business as it’s second most important economy (after petroleum), is not over and won’t be for the foreseeable future.

On the streets of Juárez, there is a strange mix: Old people who couldn’t get out, the poor that couldn’t get out, the young that didn’t know there was anywhere to go to and babies!

There are a lot of babies in their teenage parents’ arms these days. In the streets in from of the Mercado Reforma there is this strange blend of young parents weighing babies in their arms, interspersed with the very old, interspersed with prostitutes, interspersed with an economy that is not longer threatened by the incursion of “the franchises.” Franchises bailed out of Juárez years ago, when the war began, in 2011.

This isn’t the Juárez of the glamour 1950s or the boom boom 1960s and their international factories, or of the up and down 1970s and 1980s with the rise of the licenciado middle class, nor of the “we are almost first world” Juárez of the 1990s and beyond.

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The Shocking Man

 

Shock Man, El Paso, 2014
Shock Man, El Paso ©BruceBerman2004

This man shocks people in bars! He takes his battery operated tool around and for five bucks looks for masochists who, drunk (or insane?), pay him to turn up the juice, hit the button and let ‘er rip..

It takes all kinds, no?

Ah Humanity!

And it takes someone to recognize certain kinds of Humanity and let ‘er rip…for…five bucks!

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La Familia Hernandez: A Short History Of The Causes Of War

La Familia Hernandez, Juarez. ©BruceBerman1995

Commentary by the Editor

Juarez, Chih., Mex. — So how did this Cartel War begin and how does it end?
The Border Blog will not answer that today. We look for the things that make the heart tick and leave the fancy thinking to those that make these messes in the first place.
Roughly, for me, it began a long time ago, when the people who have  most of the marbles understood that they didn’t have to do a thing about bringing along another class of people who had hardly any marbles at all. Impunity. No apologies. In Juarez the maquila industry began when someone figured out that Labor was a cheap product that Mexico had a lot of and that it could be exchanged for some major profit. Of course nothing so crass as that was said. Rather, this was the bright new day that would lead to a burgeoning “middle class,” and bring everyone up from the bottom. So they said.  So the “development” of Juarez began. The powers that be brought willing companies looking for labor and they delivered “labor.” This labor, also known as the citizens of Mexico came from the far flung corners of Mexico. They had nothing else to do and would work at any price, went the theory. Everyone would be happy. You move here, we’ll give you subsistence (and societal dislocation), and we’ll go to the bank. Everyone will be happy.

Right?

When I first started photographing in the maquila factories of Juarez in the early 1980’s the salary in a maquila was $5 per day. Today it’s a little over $7. A full two dollar increase in 20 years. Imagine!

It wasn’t sustainable then and it isn’t now.
The promise of some kind of job, of rising above downright depraved poverty, was strong and people flocked to the border factories. First from Veracruz, then from Durango, then from Torreon and on and on.

If you were a Mexicano and wanted to improve your life without the terrible alternative of actually crossing the border and trying to make it work in El Norte, you headed to the maquilas of Juarez or Tijuana or Nuevo Laredo. If you made that journey you left your culture and customs behind. This was the brave new world.

Bienvenidos campesinos.

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The View South #421

The View South #421

The View South #421, July 2014

Flags are down in Parque Chamizal. Wind must be up and hopefully a little rain. Just a whisper of a season change. Not yet. But not all that far off either. ‘ta bien. The View South. Days come and go. Then years. Then decades. Then…? I turned my back on the past a long time ago. People tell me that’s good. Bible says it too. Do they really mean it? 

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Where’d El Paso Go: Le Foo Foo!

Opinion/Observation

by Co-Editor Bruce Berman

___________________

I drive my old routes. Camera on the passenger seat or my lap. As always, these days it usually stays there, untouched. There are things along the way that spark memories. Object that aren’t there anymore. Gorgeous commercial signs constructed by craftsmen in the 1950s and 60s (not the least of which from the Jimenez Sign Company) were carted off to other cities that were twenty years ahead of El Paso in their bourgeoisie ambitions.You can drink under some of El Paso’s “Motel, Vacancies,” signs in various bars from Austin to Houston to Baton Rouge. There’s a withering away now, aging and weathered, but mostly not endearing anymore, not worth stopping for (to make images). There came a year, a month, a day when the treasures of El Paso were either gone, carted off or just left to rot.

There are whole swaths of this incredible and authentic city that are gone, at least for the long gaze of a photograph: Alameda. El Centro (downtown). Segundo is shrinking fast, bordered by El Paso Street on the west (with nasty tentacles of them all over it) and Cotton on the far east, with old residents living out their days, youth getting out fast and them with their bulging eyes all over it. Off of Delta there are condominiums and some revamped industrial buildings, residents living an almost urban lifestyle (sans humanity). Even the Gay Bars have fled, a sure sign of urban renewal/removal.

It’s not my job to do anything about any of this. My job, as I saw it, at the beginning, in 1980, was to give face to a face that was not known and I have tried. As The Grid lays out its future in the city with two hearts, it’s clear to me that my mission isn’t to pick sides in land rights, power exchanges, or to watch -or judge- the inevitable blandification. But blandification has come. Oh happy day. Some loudly exhale and go, finally! The city is becoming presentable to visitors again. It’s cleaner. It’s newer. There’s baseball. Soccer is coming (watch out Chamizal! The final blow that started in the mid 1960s is finally here). There are restaurants with the preface Le with Foo Fo thing-a-ma-jig dishes with little portions of things that look like they squiggle -vegetables- on top of things it’d be hard to identify below. Fancy. Plates of Foo Foo. There are young people downtown again, well, the kind of  young people that look like they’d also be comfortable up in Kern Place on Cincinnati and the upper Westside.

Finally, there’s a Starbucks downtown near the Plaza and the Westin. The kids from the ‘hood can serve the hipsters that come in from outer Zaragosa Road and beyond.

Woman fleeing, El Central/El Paso
Family of Shadows, El Paso, Texas. ©BruceBerman2007

Boring? Not to everyone and I wish them the best. I am not part of this. I left this scene in three other places I lived before this very long stretch here. It’s the same message: you’re in the gentry or you’re equitied out of the gentry.

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Twitter Tweets Police Kidnappers in Jalisco

Editor’s Note:

Check this video out.
When Americans talk about the violence in Mexico they often view the situation through “western” eyes, thinking of Good Guys v. Bad Guys.
As this Al Jazeera report shows, the conflict is often between Bad Guys and Badder Guys and the public -the oppressed people of Mexico- have to stand on the sidelines, knowing but unable to alter the situation.
This video asks, Where do you turn when there is no one to turn to?

Commentary by Bruce Berman / Video by ©Al Jazeera 2014

There’s something happening in journalism.

When Aljazeera -who shouldn’t give a hoot about what’s happening in Mexico- publishes a well done piece on police kidnapping in Mexico, when Mexican journalists go ahead and publish their own work, under duress, knowing that to publish is to perish, and increasingly the xenophobic U.S. press dithers on entertainment and cheesy presidential inanities, we are talking about a new arrangement of the deck chairs on the the good ship journalism.

The truth is that most American newspapers and magazines aren’t undergoing the huge transformation they are experiencing in a vacuum. It’s not that hey are not irrelevant. They are merely irrelevant as the source for hard news (at a minimum) that relies on being the “go to” media.
For the most part, they are not that any longer.
If there is one source “out there,” it will be Tweeted or Posted on some social media site, within minutes, and then the fun begins. From there, people will Retweet it (RT), add links or complimentary sources and then the multiplier of social media begins. The question isn’t, Are you getting the news, but, rather, How much can you take?
Of course the eternal existential question remains, What happens when there is no longer a source of information (such as the New York Times. Sky News, CNN or Fox, i.e the “media giants?
This is not likely.

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El Toro bi-plane, Juárez

 

BiPlane_Juárez_LoRes

El Toro bi-plane on La Avenida, Juárez, 2008

Streets of Juárez are changing.

The murderous last few years are being replaced with growth. Planned growth.

The entire border is under development and there have been plans for decades that are now starting to happen.

It’s as if the violencia was a cleansing. Or was it a scrubbing?

In the “new” Juárez there won’t be any Bi planes. The era is gone. Anything from the 20th Century will become increasingly a rarity.

So be it. C’est la vie. Es la vida. What can one say?

Or was it a

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Segundo Barrio Yo Yo Boy

 

 

Segundo barrio Yo Yo boy, Halloween 2011

Text by Bruce Berman (in full snide mode)

Halloween is The Great Day in El Segundo barrio. The ‘hood comes alive. People are pouring over the bridges heading from Juarez on the candy quest. People in the neighborhood put on the costumes and come out of invisibility. The first block of America (6th and El Paso) is a riot of laughing and color and wild abandon.

Nothing is sure on this border in this neighborhood anymore. “They” are back! The Developers. “The 180s” aren’t around on this day. The Developers, their Pol puppies, the Gov. employee “Good Germans,” even the The Do Gooders (even if they are really the Do Badders). That’s what I have come to call them all. They say something and if you want to find out what they just said just think 180 degrees opposite from what it was. Most of them are up in Kern Place handing out candy, their yearly contact with the rabble. They’re all afraid of the people when they have fun.

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Lou Reed: R.I.P. On The Wild Side

 

Lou Reed opens his photo exhibition entitled ‘Lou Reed’s New York’ at gallery Serieuze Zaken Studios in Amsterdam on October 11th, 2007. photo by Olaf Kraak/epa/Corbis

 

 

LOU LOU LOU

The News floored me.

It’s like New York vanished.

Guilliani couldn’t scrub it.

Bloomberg couldn’t.

It’s your city Lou.

You were the grit and the soul man.

So now it’s time to fly away.

“How do you Speak to an Angel” you wrote and asked:

You just say – Hello, hello, hello Baby

Check it out. See you there. Say hi to Andy.

Miss you. The thought of you.

You were always a kick in my pants.

Walk on the wild side.

No doubt.

The great beyond.

Somewheresville.

See you there.

 

Read more on Lou: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/lou-reed-through-the-years-20120302/lou-reeds-new-york-0842024#ixzz2izX3o2uER.I.P.

 

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The Fast Disappearing Authentic Segundo Barrio: Mailbox Kids

ChucoStreet, Mailbox Kids in Segundo Barrio, 2012

Mailbox Kids, Segundo Barrio, El Paso, 2012

©Bruce Berman

The Shrinking Segundo Barrio

by Bruce Berman

 

El Barrio, The Segundo, is shrinking.

It’s getting the squeeze. The squeeze has been coming for a century or more but it’s a full assault now, and a generation that had roots in the ‘hood, that was born of a time and place that demanded they fight, is no longer there in numbers and possibly not there in energy and historic resentment.

The neighborhood is being squeezed from the north with the Dreamland Downtown Plan back on Premium and from within. A proposed Science museum in the old Armijo School would be the death blow.

If the deathblow can be delivered to an already dead corpse.

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Street Photographer In Nicaragua

Photographer in Granada, Nicaragua

Developing a portrait, Granada, Nicaragua, February 1986

 

This photographer in the Plaza of Granada in Nicaragua is developing a portrait that he just made. Inside the box are the normal developing chemicals of Developer, Fixer. Once he has the photograph captured -on portrait size paper- he goes inside the camera through the light tight sleeve and goes from one mini tray to the next until he has the image “fixed.” He then pulls the photograph out and washes it on a tray of water that he has set up in a little bucket attached to the tripod under the camera.

His process was not as fast as the 60 second time for a Polaroid, but, close!

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Nuts

Giant Pecan, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Giant Pistachio, Alamogordo, New Mexico, Jan. 2013

CORRECTION:

Just got a very welcome announcement from a Border Blog viewer. He pointed out that the above image is a representation of a pistachio not a pecan.

Correct!

We don’t have much of a defense, but really, when this was posted on April  24, your Border Blog photographer, Bruce Berman, wasn’t much Bruce Berman either. That’s what happens when one “does what one has got to do as opposed to doing what you do.”

We at Border Blog are pleased to announce that the real Bruce Berman is back, on the border, three blocks from the bridge, in his decaying ruin, tape -metaphorically- over his mouth, no longer talking about photography but living his life, and making images that, hopefully, will do, as we wrote almost a decade ago, stating our intention to (see the “About” tab above),  “…cover the news, opinions and culture of the 2000 mile border of Mexico and the United States, concentrating on the epicenter of El Paso and Juarez. The Border Blog is not meant to be a news source as much as it is meant to be a news ‘feel’.”

Thank you MB and thank you Bruce (but tsk tsk on your caption!).

 

-The Editors

 

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Centro Chicano Gone (In More Ways Than One)

Doroteo in front of the ruins of Centro Chicano

2011 ©Bruce Berman

Centro Chicano gone. Rosas’ place gone (goodbye early 19th century, hello Denver to El Paso bus station). Flea market gone (it was so, “messy”). Museo Urbano, barely here and now gone. Koreans on S Street seem to be throwing in the towel, going. Can’t sell to Juarenses that aren’t there. The bi-national plan rising like a phoenix, unchanged and in better shape than it was (thank you Cartel War).

I know where “El Paso,” is right now. Bright New World. Shiny. All’s they need is a theme park and it’s on its way.

But Chicano El Paso, the turf south of Paisano, south side, El Segundo?

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Flowers And Music For Juárez

Music and flowers, Juarez, 2012 –
©Bruce Berman

Commentary by Bruce Berman

There are many reasons for music and flowers in Juarez. Marriage, love, marking passages of accomplishment and age and transition. And death. Recently there has been little music and lots of flowers have been offered for goodbyes to loved ones, lost in the war. There are a lot of crossed fingers these days, lots of hope for better times, for the good. It’s been a long “winter” and it won’t go away right away. But there is still a Juarez in Juarez and the one we love is not gone. It had color and style and verve. It will again. There was the sweet smell of gardenias in the night air and thoughts of new possibilities and the violins played music of happiness in the skillful hands of roving mariachi. The Pop sounds of a new generation had begun to fill stadiums, singers emerged from as far away as DF and from within. Juarez was about style and boldness and defiance, a unique culture built over the past century, forged from a revolution and tempered by the shadow of a bossy and boasting neighbor. J town, Chihuahua. Strong, bold and pretty.

It’ll take a lot. A lot has happened.

It will be back. It is coming back (Estará de vuelta. Que se está recuperando).

It is, isn’t it? We hope.

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A Kiss For Asarco

Man In Flames, ASARCO/El Paso – 1987

All photos ©Bruce Berman

 La Calavera-1986

A Dear John Letter to ASARCO
by Bruce Berman

Au revoir ASARCO. You were the spine of the border, a big giant dong sticking up out of the river, pouring flames and sulfur, lead and smoke. The town grew up around you, fed off of you, then outlived you. You looked down on battles and traffic, always with the bifocals of looking at two countries at once. Looking east to El Paso,  you looked down on the dusty foothills of the Franklins that became Kern Place and Mesa Hills, the sheik and elite (in its own mind). On the other, looking west, down into the dust and turbulence of Juarez, you looked down onto Colonia Felipe Angeles, which, too was foothills, that became a shanty town which became a barrio which became (shhhh..not quite yet) a path to a port of entry into New Mexico. What a vantage point you have had.  When I first saw you I stood up straight, saluted and said, Wow, yes sir!

I dug you from the gitgo, had the pleasure of working inside you, being constantly re-awakened by you, of working inside you near those flames with the weather outside 105 degrees, feeling the comradie of your workers, the satisfaction of being inside something that wild and crazy and productive, a caldron of energy and raw power.

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Lost And Looking For Redemption In The Mountains of Juarez

Man#26, The Other Truth series, Juarez, May 2011

Christmas Eve/El Paso

A Personal Narrative

Lost and abandoned. Christmas Eve reminds me of that, right now, as I look out my south-facing window to Juarez (three blocks away) across the valley of Juarez, to the foothills of the Sierra Madre, where Creamac sits, CREAMAC, the “mental Institution” there, where the people huddle, people with trouble, trying to be warm, trying to make sense of the world, trying to live. CREAMAC, the House of the Abandoned and Troubled and Hurt.

I should be there. Today. Often. More often. I struggle with that. It’s snowing outside. Excuses to stay home, safe, just wrestling my own demons. I should cross the bridge (would my car get back over the ice on the bridge later tonight?), I should do SOMETHING!

Do I?

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Crossing the Rio without Confusion

Undocumented Women CrossingThe R2, Juraez-El Paso, 1984

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

The river with two names: Rio Grande/Rio Bravo del Norte. Depends where you begin and where you end and where you return to. These women are heading north. It was a long time ago. Everything has changed and nothing has changed and I suspect it will continue to change and not change forever.

The river with two names, the R2, is also the place of the personality with two halves.

Confusing, no?

It is the place of bifurcation. But even that has two sides: twice as much insight.

Where are these women now? Which side happened to them? What happened to me? What happened to Juárez and the U.S.?

What happened to me?

I know this: people will cross going north no matter what and no matter the year. People will cross less, going south, depending on the year.

The river will flow south from Colorado (a Spanish name) to the Gulf of Mexico (an English language name).

And none of it matters to anyone living here except that one government makes it hard for another people to do what they have done for thousands of years and another government makes it necessary.

Who’s confused and who’s doing the confusing?

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Man In The Segundo

Man in the Segundo, El Paso – Sept. 2011

 

Photo and Text by Bruce Berman

Man from Anthony, New Mexico, describing his younger days in the Segundo barrio.

The Segundo barrio is El Paso’s most historic neighborhood, hugging the border with Juarez, Mexico and architecturally intact from the 1880’s “railroad boom,” that brought fired brick architecture and “Chicago Brick (which is atypical red).” Some adobe structures go back to the early 19th century. This part of the city has had human habitation for thousands of years. Spanish travelers began European settlement at this place in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in the mid 1600’s.

The real significance of the Segundo barrio, however, is the Latino community and it is significant. The barrio, historically, was the first “stop” on the journey north to “El Norte,” whether it was a matter of days for rest or for a generation of orientation. Many people in El Paso trace their roots to family who lived in El Segundo barrio in their first years in the United States.

FOR  CAFÉ TACUBA VIDEO (and the rest of this article):

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Robot Geeks Attack El Paso

V.I.P. at Robo-Geek Fest, El Paso, Texas

all photographs by Bruce Berman

Robots at Robo-Geek Fest, El Paso, Texas

Robot attacks little girl at Robo-Geek Fest, El Paso, Texas

 

Story by Bruce Berman

El Paso —-

Four-wheeled robots wielding paintball guns took over the Western Technical College Northeast campus on October 15, when students from nine area high schools competed in the college’s first T-Robo Competition. The students design, program and build the robot vehicles.

The competition was part of a daylong event, which included a Geek Fest with demonstrations by area engineering and technology businesses, as well as Fort Bliss and White Sands.

There was a military flare to the event showcasing various careers in the STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Possible applications for the robotic vehicles would be non human operated military vehicles or “drones.”

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House of the Abandoned

Maria Full Of Grace, from The Other Truth (T.O.T.) series,

Juárez, May 2011

Photo and Text by Bruce Berman

Juárez —

 

Maria. Full of grace. And other emotions.

A permanent resident of CREAMAC, in the hills of Juárez, way up there, near the Guadalupe, the last place on one of the last streets, near the top. Some people call it an “insane asylum.” It started as a place the mayor of Juárez sent “street people.”

He took an old police station and created a shelter and ordered the tourist police to “get those people off the streets.” That was 34 years ago. There are still people there…from then!

I go there, driving through the anxiety streets of the troubled city, eyes are out, sharp, both ways. These days, if you keep up with the ever terrible news coming from the Cartel War, there’s a game you play, while driving in Juárez. You match up news with the locations where it happened, that you’ve heard about: “Oh, there, that’s where the drug rehab place is: 16 murdered in three minutes. Oh…there is where the mother and son got shot. Up that street, that’s where the family got wiped out but one kid hid under the bed and survived, yeah, and over there, that’s where they put the bomb inside the guy and dressed him as a cop and called in the Cruz Roja and Policia Federal and then blew him up, right there, over by the old market.”

And so it goes.

It could go on forever on a long ride, but we race through the streets, purposely. There is no leisure in Juárez, only meaningless purposefulness.

On this day, we’re heading to the “Insane Asylum,” which seems like a more positive mission than chasing down murder scenes.

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The Heart of El Paso/Alligators And Kids With Heart

Luis Jimenez’ Largartos (Alligators) in San Jacinto Plaza,

El Paso, Texas, July 2011 by Bruce Berman

 

El Paso —

by Bruce Berman

 

This is what kids do on their Quincineras in El Paso. They go to the heart of El Paso. They go to the downtown plaza, the “San Jacinto Plaza.”

This is what they want to record for a background, Los Lagartos, the alligators. They don’t go to the Mall. The Plaza theater around the corner really isn’t open to them (hey why not show movies? Why is it closed? It’s for “the people, isn’t it? Show movies in the daytime and they will come). Kids -and visitors- go to where their heart tells them there is a soul to the city: they visit Los Lagartos.

Do they even know why? Do they know that the artist who conceived and constructed the Lagartos was one of them, a local kid who once had  a rented tux(I’ve seen the picture), celebrating like El Paso kids do, joyous and robust, almost free for a day (well that Limo driver is just out of camera range and is -unofficially- going to pass on a little mini spy report to the parents and they know it!).

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Prom Night: The Boogie Man Is A Long Way Away

 

Prom Girl, El Paso, Texas -May 2011

 

Murder schmurder! It’s Prom Night in El Paso.

Those buildings in the background are downtown El Paso. The space behind, the mountain, that’s Juarez. That girl there, in the foreground, the one with the whimsy and the joy and the hopes and the fragility, she’s a million miles away from this borderland desert, that stupid and brutal war (Juarez), that trying parking lot monotony (El Paso), at least for this night.

What is the news anyway? Is it what “they (in my case, us)” say it is? Or is it the dreams of a young girl (or boy) on one of the most remembered nights of one’s life?

I’m thinking the news, the significant events of our world are days and evenings, like this. Viewpoint. Remember that (!) as we become addicted to trouble and stress and our live’s of “quiet desperation (you wouldn’t know it if you looked at TV commercials would you?).”

One can hope it’s that way.

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Gator Skin And Diamonds And Color

Gator skin and diamonds, El Paso – May 2011

©Bruce Berman

 

El Paso –Six blocks to the border. There are diamonds. Well, they ought to be diamonds. He says they cost $250. I believe him. Sunday drive. Family in the Dodge. Stylin’ on Paisano Street by Bowie (Boooie). If you know El Paso you know the references. If you don’t it wouldn’t matter. Chuco street.

One of the riddles of photography for me is that every once in awhile there is an image that must be in color. Most everything I see and shoot is in B/W, but every once in awhile…

This dude is in color.

 

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The Great Border Storm of 2011: El Paso – Juarez

The Great Border Storm of 2011, El Paso-Juarez

by Bruce Berman ©2011

EL PASO –It was an amazing storm. Hard to believe it happened. Zero temperatures (in El Paso!!!!). Ice. Snow. Irregular electricity. No internet. Intermittent Gas (for some people). Highways closed. Jobs (including mine. I haven’t been to NMSU since last Tuesday! Bummer! I like it) canceled. Everything closed. Voluntary curfew (requested). Went on for three to five days (depending on which part of this freaky happening we’re talking about, and, when it was all over, yesterday, it wasn’t over because there were major outages of water (I’m going to get that shower eventually…like today!).
Now I think it’ll be El Paso again and we’ll be in shorts T Shirts and swamp coolers, squishy asphalt, hoods up and steaming radiators and complaining about the heat in no time at all.
Like I said, it was like a dream and hard to believe it ever happened.

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Artist, Marine, Steelworker, Truckdriver, Hip Guy

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©2010 Bruce Berman

EL PASO  —  Grave is a Renaissance man. He prowls the city spraying paint, rapping with passerby (me included), dreaming of new projects, checking out vacant walls that he or his kids can awaken, always lining up the next stuff, sharing philosophy, Being.

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Juárez: Room For Everybody?

People, Horse, Van in Juarez  by Bruce Berman ©2010

JUAREZ, Mexico – Juarez still stands. It is still Juarez. It is a city of my heart. I am not alone. It is insane what has happened in Juarez. There is no reference or metaphor: it just stinks. I walk the streets and there are “tastes,” of the old city. The “new city,” the one of Malls and chrome and green eco-glass, the nightclubs and shiny new cars has disappeared more than the old city has.

This might say something about what the condition of the city was before “The Troubles.”

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Angelica Looks Up

Angelica, Segundo barrio, El Paso – Oct. 18, 2010

EL PASO –Angelica Alvarez. A true believer. A believer in her faith. A believer in a better day. A believer in joy.

I noticed her as she worked her way down the street, engaging every person that she encountered, leaving each person she talked with a smile on their face, enthusiastically waving goodbye to her, they no longer strangers.

I followed her.

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The Light in Juárez

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Is there any Light at the end of Juárez’s tunnel?

There are a lot of things in Juárez these days: widows, widowers, killers,  thugs, riddled bodies, drug addicts, every day normal people, kids going to school, people being married, bombs and death across the street (almost) from the old “City Market.” Everything.

There is very little Light.

The city seems to have turned from sunny and bright and colorful to Black and White, like an old photograph, one that wasn’t “fixed,” very well and is losing it’s contrast and fading away. The brightness is gone. Light is at a premium, right now, for sure, in Juárez.

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Letter to my friend: I’m On My Way Martin

Martin, man of dignity and courage, Lomas del Poleo, Summer 2009

Dear Martin,

I said I would be back to Lomas and I haven’t been back in a year now. It’s crazy. I drive to work in Las Cruces three times a week and I look to the west and I can see you, I can see Lomas, right there, the flat top mesa poking out from behind Cristo Rey.

No, I haven’t been back. I am sorry. Life caught up with me and I had to do my labors, take care of biz, run around like a chicken without a head. And, in the meantime, I have fallen in love with a photo project, far away from here, up in Nuevo Mexico, and I have given it a lot of my attention.

All weak excuses.

I said I’d be back and continue the work we began and I haven’t.

You -and sus vecinos, sus compañeros in Lomas del Poleo- are never out of my thoughts.

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Do You Have Shares In Hell?

Street kids on Avenida Technologico, Juarez – 2010

Pictures?

More pictures of dead bodies in the streets of Juárez?

Hard to want to do. I’m not visiting. I live here. It’s better when you have to get the images for your boss/editor and then high-tail it to the airport.

But, I’m not working for a daily paper anymore.

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Sequesterer(alleged) Sequestered

la acusación (perp walk) en Juárez, May 15, 2010

Iasi Emanuel Rodriquez Gamez , aka “El Enano (the dwarf),” 22, is led down a hallway, by a member of the Federal Police at the Ministry of Justice (Procuraduria de Justicia del Estado) in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

He is accused of being the leader of a kidnapping gang that kidnapped at least 19 people.  Authorities alleged Rodriguez, 22, took orders from suspected kidnappers Ernesto “El Neto” Piñon de la Cruz and Jesus Eduardo “El
Lalo” Soto Rodriguez. This group is accused of committing 39 kidnappings since December 2008. The “El Lalo y de Neto,” gang has operated in Juarez over the past three years.

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“El Paseo” (With Death in the Shadows)

Town plaza, Zaragoza, Chihuahua-05/08/2010

Sunny normal day.

In Zaragoza/Juárez?

Impossible!

I couldn’t work it in -excuses!- but beyond the Tarahamara woman and her brood, in the deep darkness of the trees, protected by yellow police tape and the Policia Federal -who shooed me away- lies a dead woman in her twenties.

Cause of death? Bullet wound.

Reason for death? Unknown.

Plaza Zaragoza. Gateway to the east valley of Juarez, the new turf of the Cartel who have all but emptied the towns there, clearing them like you’d clear a loading dock, which is what the Cartel has done.

Anything in the way is burned or buried.

Maybe this woman was in the way.

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Half Dead City Is Fully Alive

Zaragoza (Juarez), Chihuahua, street kids at scene of a murdered woman, 05/08

©Bruce Berman 2010

Two border towns.

El Paso and Juarez.

One city is half dead and the other is in a coma. Guess which is which?

As always, a trip to Juarez puts everything in perspective and raises big questions. For openers:  We don’t have to do all the things we think we need to do, there are worse things than physical death and injury, watch out for what you hear, and, we should never believe anything except what our eyes  feel.

My eyes tell me Ciudad Juárez is alive.

I salute you, injured Madame Juárez.

FOR SLIDESHOW, GO TO NEXT PAGE:

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At least 6 police and one sicario killed in Juarez

Dead Police and Murderer in Juarez by heroic

by anonymous El Diario de Juarez photographer

Today in Juarez. More of the same. If this were anywhere else we’d be sending aide and 120,000 troops. Instead we send DEA Agents (under the terms of the “Merida Initiative”) and clandestine military “trainers,” to train soldiers and police…to do what, exactly?

The last time I heard the term “trainers,” it was the early and mid sixties and the trainers were being sent to Viet Nam.

How’d that work out for us?

More importantly, how’d that work out for Viet Nam?

Watch out Mexico, there are many many dollars seeking calamities. Buy cheap, wait, sell strong.

Anyway, six Federales and one murderer (sicario), today, so far.

Same old…

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Bad Boy In The ‘hood

1939 Chevrolet, Lincoln School Park, El Paso – March 2010

Sunday in Lincoln School Park. Everyone’s there: the vatos, the old low riders, the young low riders, Las Chicas, los ninos, las familias and me.

Got to get that building open again!

Fuzz cruised through, took a look, cruised out again (ándale).

As it oughta to be.

The parque was alive, tranquillo and sharp. El barrio vive otra vez…best it’s been in years.

As it oughta be…

For a slideshow:

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Ken Van Sickle!

all photographs ©Ken Van Sickle

Every once in awhile, when you’re not looking, and something new comes to you and you go, “There’s More!”

This morning, in my meanderings,  I came across this quote:

“A person often meets their destiny on the road he took to avoid it.*”

The quote led me -in that totally weird way that “surfing,” around the web sometimes does- to a photographer I have never even heard of, before, let alone, known.

And his pictures are Fabulous!

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Remnants del ‘Hood

Remnants del ‘hood, El Paso – March 14, 2010

There ain’t much left.

Mostly the pickins’.

This was the Grand Highway, the Spanish Trail, the beginning of the end of the long journey from East to West or vice-versa, the tip of the arrow into the dart board that was Downtown El Paso.

Interstate came and went around, population moved to new turf, businesses followed, but the old Highway 80  lingered, going from Consumer to Warehouse and beyond. A modern day Babitt, Ohio.

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Border Beauties

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February 13, 2010, the day before the Day of San Valentin – El Paso, Texas

Photographs by Bruce Berman

Pipo’s Hair Salon and School held a beauty competition and the best of the best turned out to coif, spray, paint and shape the “models,” in a competition that determined who was the most beautiful and who was the best beauty maker.

The night’s Dj, a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq was overheard telling the photographer (me), “I’ve seen a lot of things but I have never ever seen anything like this.

Not even in Iraq.

The border always has a twist. But this event, at least to your correspondent, seemed to make sense.

In journalism, they always teach you to ask, “Why?”

I guess the question here is, Why Not?

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El Paso Dreamin’

Town for sale, El Paso – Feb. 2010

From the movie The Border:

Marcy (Valerie Perrine) : (Showing her Border Patrol husband brochures about El Paso, trying to talk him into moving there, at their breakfast table, in Los Angeles) Honey sometimes you gotta dream.

Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) : (Pausing, furrowing his now signature brow) I never dreamed no El Paso.

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El Dia de San Valentin

La “MC,” Lidia, San Valentin Beauty Show

El Paso – Feb. 13, 2010

El Dia de San Valentin/El Paso, Texas

Candy? Flowers? Lingerie?

Furgidaboutit!

Beauty!

Big day on the border. Everywhere now. Billions in tooth decay. Billions in flowers grown in eco-destroying third world corporate gardens.

Bah humbug (or whatever malapropism you say on Valentin’s Day)!

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The ‘hood Is Still Good

Copia Street, Jan. 4, 2010

Four blocks to the bridge, to the border.

Lots of foot traffic. It comes and it goes, north then south.

The neighborhood is changing as the Medical Center becomes a reality, but it’s going to be hard to erase what the neighborhood is.

This mural, sneaked in on the side of a little building on a main street, in an alley, screams, We are alive!

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Border Story: The Artist Flees

The Artist, 1st Day on el lado norte – 01/01/2010

EL PASO –

New Years Day. A time for “beginnings.”

I hope. Should be.

She is an extraordinary artist. A force of nature.  A giver. A maker of strong things and deep inspiration. Unmovable. A force.

The sicarios came to her studio in Juarez right before Christmas. The new scourge. “Start paying up or we’ll kill you and burn your studio down when we’re finished,” they said

This is the studio she willed into existence. Up against the mountain in Juarez she created a wall of tile and mirrors, mosaic sculpture, a thing for Juarez like nothing else. A monument. A love gesture to the city of her heart and to the heart of many of us in la frontera.

Their threat wasn’t idle. Not in these hard times in Juarez. Shortly before, the storekeeper down the street, refused to pay. She was murdered.

The Artist called her family in El Paso. They came with a pickup. All in a day. She took as much of her art as she could. She fled Juarez. Her Father, in 1910, a hundred years before, after Villa issued a death warrant, also ran from Juarez.  “Fleeing runs in my blood,” she says, as we talk,  in her new refuge, in El Paso.

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Black Cross and Anarchy

5:10pm – December 30, 2009

Last block of America. Or is it the first?

Fifth Street and El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas.

This used to be happy street. It’s still a busy street. It’s the street where the downtown bridge from Juarez exits or, conversely, it is the street where you leave the United States and enter the bridge to Juarez.

There’s a strange urgency on this block now, on this border now, if you’re looking and listening these days. People try to get back to Juarez before dark. Dark is when the heavy killing begins. At least that’s the way it’s been for the last year. Lately, things are getting even crazier in Juarez. Burrito ladies shot in the middle of the street in broad daylight, children executed in plain sight, house invasions and retaliations. Hard to know when a “safe” time to be in Juarez anymore.

Cartel War?

It was.

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Myths, Ghosts, And, This Window

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Ghost View south, Dec. 19, 2009

Three of the last four posts have involved this window. The view to the south. One block to Alameda Street, two more down Stevens and, voila, you’re at the bridge, then you’re in Juarez, then if you keep going you’re on the carretera to Ciudad Chihuahua, then Torreon, then Puebla and Mexico and then… well who knows where this ends?

This is the last one of this window for awhile. I’ve been clinging to it. Home. I’ve been shooting from this window and the roof right out my back door for decades. The view hasn’t changed that much.

I have.

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My Window and Mi Compañeros a Sur: Season’s Greetings!

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Guadalupe #41, El Paso – Dec. 18, 2009

This third floor window looks out onto the Cordova Bridge to Juarez, three blocks to the south. It’s the Season. Guadalupe, I will light you every night -and a string of Christmas lights too- for the rest of the holiday. If anyone in Juarez sees this, please wave at me, say hello, know I am with you and I am waving at you, too, and I will be visiting with you, soon.

Andale compañeros. Vida sobre todo.

Note: Yes Victoria, I tilted the frame!

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New Mexico Juke

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Las Cruces, NM/Dec. 14, 2009

Juke boxes.

They’re  a “warm fuzzy,” no matter how you cut it.

No?

I just wanna dance. It’s the holidays.

Time to dance. And stare at the wall (and the Web) and have luxurious long lunches (and personally enriching) with good friends, now, in the rush of my life, long overlooked.

I’m in New Mexico and there’s a lot of land here, still. Lots of space to dance, and write and spin and dream…in New Mexico, lots of space to scream at the sky and to yell, “No mas el mundo, basta!”

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A Warm Farewell

A piece written to my photography students at the end of a fine semester at New Mexico State University. Forgive the “first person.” Originally posted on their class website at www.nmsu.documentaryshooters.com:

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Brucini w/New Blan­ket from a Good Friend, El Paso –Dec. 9, 2009

So it comes to this, the semes­ter ends, we go our own way, we know more for hav­ing known each other.

We have had our ambi­tions and we have had our dis­ap­point­ments but, what we mostly have had, I think, is a jour­ney of discovery.

At least, it’s has been that way for me.

I was given some­thing won­der­ful today: a very warm blan­ket from a very good and thought­ful friend (she had heard that my Loft is frigid in the win­ters, a con­crete old fac­tory build­ing of a palace, not designed to be lived in).

I stopped on the way home for some Christ­mas lights. First time in my life I have bought any. How can one not suc­cumb to this Sea­son when such kind ges­tures are extended?

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Fuzz

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Alameda in Mist, December 2, 2009

The view south, across Alameda street, across the Chamizal, three blocks beyond, across the bridge, into Juarez, into Chihuahua, into Mexico, beyond.

Usually the view is razor sharp. The last few days have fuzzed things up: snow, rain, and, now, this morning, fog.

Been looking south across this razor sharp landscape for a long time and, finally, a little fuzz feels right. There will be no clarity. Better people than I have written and viewed this border, came up with “clarifications,” and “explanations,” and “revelations,” and yet it goes on, untamed, inexplicable, roque.

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I kiss you, SNOW!

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El Puente Cordova, El Paso/Juarez, November 30, 2009

Snow!

A rarity in this no-mans-land.

Hardship. No one is ready for it. Not man nor beast nor domicile. The aftermath will be unnavigable mud on some of the streets in Juarez: there’s always a fire from people using heaters they’re not used to using;  tons of $14.95 coats will be sold on El Paso Street and Stanton Street and the various Fallas Paredes tiendas all over town; car crashes aplenty; you can bet on it. The homeless freeze. Rich people buy juniper logs for five bucks apiece to have their moment of apres ski. Everyone will adapt eventually, but by then we’ll be back in T-shirts and shorts; my loft turns to a freezer;  life is anew. This is a place of the sun, not really set up for anything else.

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Alameda Street (Again)

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Alameda Street #91, El Paso- November 2009

This street is changing. New Medical School and renewed Medical Center just down the block. Oh yeah they have the Grand Plan.

But the south side has its own Plan  and the hot paint keeps coming!

Yeah man, this street is the Grand Plan dealing with the No Plan, the natural plan, the reality plan of the people who hang here, hanging onto the funk, south side people.

Like me.

Like Letty.

Been on this street for a long time.

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“Rats” in a bad spot (or is it pretty?)

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Pretty spot/bad times-Juarez 2009

Juarez / October 2009

Murders continue.

Record year.

Day of the Dead is coming. Like every day hasn’t been that.

The streets have an eerie decay to them. Litter. Boarded up windows. Still a lot of hustle but the nights are empty and in the shadows are things no one wants to see.

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I Am Free

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Johnland,  El Paso – June 2009

Been thinking about this guy and borders and the idea of the Big Picture versus the small picture ever since I made it (the photo) this summer, on an almost rainy night, in the northeast section of town, out by the military base.

John Hughes.

Angry. Joyous. Funny. Dangerous. Sweet. Full of love, hate and ambivalence. Boozed up, half mad, half brilliant.

“I am free,” he shouts at the night. “I am free and I am in hell.”

I ask him if he ever goes across the border?

“I am borderless,”he replies, “aren’t you?” He shakes his hand and does a twirl, almost stepping into busy Saturday night traffic.

He does a little dance and steps so close to the edge of the curb that I go to grab him but he spins back onto the sidewalk and does a very theatrical bow. He is a tight rope walker and it looks like he has done this toe dance forever.

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Dignity In Juarez

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Dignified man #7,  Juarez ©2009 Bruce Berman

Juarez/13 June 2009

So what else is there in Juarez besides murder and catastrophe?

Right now, it doesn’t seem like anything.

But, then, there are those moments.

Tender Mercies.

I walk the streets. I walk the beaten down downtown. I bus through the factory landscape with For Lease signs more plentiful every time. I walk through the night clubs on Avenida Lincoln, defying myself, defying my fear.

But it’s there. The noise comes out of the clubs, loud, but not the joyous sound, more like the power-driven sound of defiance and booze.

People wait for the situation to end. It will. Someday.

Daily, the murder rate climbs, like an upward missile, slicing through the inherent good nature of this state and city, through this sunny northern Mexico metropolis that was turned into, first, a factory for first world consumption and, then,  a monument to the future of world global wage reality.  It was that, just a few years ago.

Seems like an entire epoch ago.

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The Circle On Seventh Street

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Sagundo barrio, El Paso – July 14, 2009

Needed a trip to see someone “rich,” get to my home, my ‘hood, the epicenter.

A day -part of a day- in Americaland was enough for me. Felt sick. Left wobbly. Everyone comes to that place where you’ve got to weigh the illness of your certainties against the “healthiness (or lack of it)” of your insecurities.

I’m there.

I head to the pueblo.

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Murder Is A Teaching Moment (Editor Says…)

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Picture 10

Local TV Handles Vilolence In Juarez (at least Art about violence)

  • SEE FULL VIDEO ABOUT THE ART CONTROVERSY:
  • >http://www.kvia.com/
  • >Go to page #6 of videos
  • >Hit:”Controversial border art makes waves”

Your Editor Stumbles Into a Defense Of Decapitated Heads (Art) At El Paso’s Library

July 9, 2009

Editor’s Note: Here is what they left on the “cutting room floor”

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World In A Pump

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Pumpa Monumental, FBA Project/El Paso -2009

It ain’t all war and drugs and deals.

Or is it?

Right here, in  the midst of it all is…this!

Who made this? Chinese hands? Sweat shop Haitian hands? Don’t tell me North Carolina hands! They did wingtips, right?

Who will end up with this radical pump? Where will they wear it (I think I can imagine)? Is there pain and despair there, or a  happy night? Baile, baile. I hope. Will this end up on the other side of the border or is there a place, close by, that will be dazzled by the wearer of this shrine?

Is this the scariest thing I have ever seen or the funniest and why is it this that provokes my thoughts and not the library or some archive or gallery? Why is it this that reminds me of those who toil without options of what is toiled at? Is everything always going to bring my thoughts to the Cartel, to class disparities, to the haves and the have nots, to the black magic of the border? Is that my fate: to see the most outrageous shoe in the history of my life and I can only think of slavery, not aesthetics?

Can I just let it slide? That seems like a long time ago.

Ah, all this in la pumpa monumental.

I smile. I gather the image. I harness my moment. What else can you do? We’re all stumbling around, teetering on some spiky platform or another. Making it look good. We toil at what we toil at, we dance with the partners we’re given, we all try to slick it up. What else can you do?

Otra vez, calle El Paso…estas el mejor!

I have loved you for a long time.

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Lomas del Poleo For Now

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Tres niños before The Grid, June 2009

Lomas del Poleo/Juarez, Chihuahua/Mexico

June 20, 2009

Lomas del Poleo. The battle goes on. More people leave. People fight to stay.  A mean strip of ten lane highway has snaked its way through Lomas del Poleo (see previous posts or Google it). The Developers got what they needed and left what they didn’t, more or less. They don’t even blink as they plow ahead. This highway is going to happen, no matter what. The development will follow, is gonna happen, no matter what. Nothing stops the grinder. The Grid viene: Diamond Shamrock, The Chicken Colonel, Pemex, trucks full of electronic crap, three bedrooms, two baths, probably a Wal Mart (whoa..let’s not get too crazy!), the same vexing and stinking Grid that we hate and that people fight to have (Iran, Cuba, Libya, you, too, can have it!). There goes the texture, and, in the case of Lomas del Poleo, the isolation and faux rural vibe, the farm at the edge of the city, the special dream that has been Lomas: get out of the city, raise some chickens, leave us alone. A quiet hope on the edge of always possible chaos that is Juarez.

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Centro Family Train

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Family in Segundo barrio, El Paso – 2009

Thanksgiving Day.

Summer of 2009.

I see it every day.

That other day, the one in November, I guess it’s in there somewhere. Eating and stopping the world and traveling and the whole schmeer. That’s thankfulness, right.

What is the word for grinch in Thanksgiving-ese?

I see thanks every day in my barrio. I see thanks for the mere act of being alive and being safe and having someone who calls you Dad or Mom or Mijo.

Yeah, I’m a simpleton.

And I dig it, too.

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Welcome To Juarez

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Entrance to Juarez, June 2009

Militarization works two ways.

The bridges between Juarez and El Paso used to be friendly -although tedious if in a car- gateways to good times or better times, depending on which way you were traveling. Or is that just nostalgia?

Well, if not “friendly,” than at least not hostile.

Now they are reinforced pathways to go do what you gotta do. No joking. Get back by dark. All business. No fun or pleasure. Nothing lives. One endures the crossing. Rigid. Steel. Chrome molly tubes. Crash proof.

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There Goes Breakfast

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Rooster man of Chaparral, NM – 2008

He has been raising these birds since he was a teenager. Fighters are they, he and his birds.

Now, cockfighting is illegal in New Mexico. Outlawed. “Civility,” has come to the funklands. God help us. Now come the thiefs with pens. They been fighting this since Billy the kid.

The rooster man keeps raising his birds. Doesn’t know what else to do.

He speaks of the “Old Man,” and “Ralph,” “Juan Pedro,”and the others. Each has a name. There are hundreds.

When he speaks, he says their names softly, a Lover’s murmur whispering his loves’ names.

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Que Miras Musico: Change

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Musicos, El Paso – April 2009

Wary eyes.

Everyone’s wary, in El Paso/Juarez, these days. The border is at war, with itself, with it’s two yin/yang sides, with the Interiors of each of the two sides.

Everyone’s wondering where it’ll end, where they will fall on the have and have not scale, what’ll be left of this little rough Shangri La (not a Shangri La of paradise but a refuge for those who have fallen from paradise. Sort of a suburb of Shangri La).

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TEA Man

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TEA Protest, El Paso, Texas – April 15, 2009

This man was photographed in El Paso, Texas at a “TEA party.” At the TEA party are, mostly, the aged and, seemingly, the innocent, with much esoteric political discussion, predictions of the end of the Republic, impassioned anger and, to be fair, much sincerity. To my “”eye,” it seems a little sad. Sadness for what, I am still trying to process and determine.

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No Futbol War

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“Maleno,” Juarez – March 2009

Juarez, March 13, 2009/ Estado Benito Juarez, Juarez, Chihuahua/Mexico

The Juarez Indios are a professional futbol team(soccer). They are in the middle of the Cartel Drug War. Much of the city of Juarez has rallied around the Indios, finding some “normalacy,” in the middle of the troubled Juarez violencia. Julio Daniel “Maleno” Frias is a star of the team, a “striker,” a troubled city’s hero. The city loves him, he’s a hero in the middle of bad news caused by rats. When Maleno,” was younger he joined a gang. He got shot. He decided to change his life and he did. Maybe this is why the city fell in love with him, he’s a living metaphor for a city’s hopes. Maybe they just like the way he plays: smooth, quiet and intense.

Some players have left the team and others have sent their families back to the cities they came from (some in Mexico, one in Argentina), trying to avoid the touch of violence that has afflicted Juarez, Mexico’s third largest city.
The team is struggling to stay in the top tier of Mexico’s professional soccer league.
Attendance is sold out.

Futbol is trumping the war.

So far.

Life goes on.

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Border Magic Eye

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Cordula at the fence, March 23, 2009

Anapra, NM/Colonia Anapra, Juarez, Chihuahua

Yesterday I worked with an incredible journalist from Der Spiegel (the German equivalent of Time). She is German, from the north of Germany. Works out of the DC Bureau. Sharp and smart and witty and ironic and puro journalist. We did a story at Fort Bliss. She was bright and lively and brave and charming and funny and we’d had a successful day and did a great story together. She wanted to see “El Paso.”

So we head for the border (I’m a one trick pony. To me, the border is El Paso).

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Alameda Street Showboat: Blast From The Past

Alameda Street Showboat, El Paso-1987

Alameda Street Showboat, El Paso-1987

Alameda Street is about (what’s this “about,” stuff?) to get stomped. Progress. New Hospital and Medical School down the Street. Progress.

‘ta bien, really. Time to move on. One thing about Urban Renewal and Plans: we have had the best of it and now you can have the rest. The next “blight,” that I move to -older and wiser now- there will be no Forwarding Address.

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Blight? Schmite! Leave El Barrio alone.

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Guadalupe(s), Segundo barrio, El Paso-Oct. 2008

El barrio is a community. Bruised. Not what it was. Sitting on the border and prime target of speculators, er…ah…read that as “Developers,” but still standing. Go back and ask anyone in any American city, for the past 60 years if “Urban Renewal,” was about construction or destruction. If you actually need to, go ahead.

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Lady in red (one of everyone)

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Lady in red/Segundo barrio, El Paso-2008

Father Rahm Street. The Church is the backdrop. Backdrop for everything. Still, the heart of the Segundo barrio. This is a community that is a community where everything is there. No gates. No price tag. Fifty nine years after the Fair Housing Act of 1949 was enacted -the Urban Renewal Act- this barrio goes on, ethnically Latino, still a community, long after most American city’s inner cores have been cleansed of the “unworthy.”

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A Valentine (in Texas)

Cracked window in Valentine, Texas-Jan. 9, 2009

There I am, tooling through the vast landscape of West Texas, working for an English language newspaper working out of Abu Dubai, Arab Emirates. Don’t ask. I’m not sure I understand the assignment. Something about Bush returning to Texas and illustrating what two brothers, who were doing a road trip, saw (except, according to my editor, they were really bad photographers).  What that has to do with West Texas, I can’t figure.

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Spin Balance landscape

Spin Balance Landscape, Chaparral, NM-August 2008

Space. Glorious space. Wonk yer brain but we all need more space. Maybe because we wonk our brains so much. This is from the funklands of southern New Mexico. It looks right across at the slim tip of West Texas that is El Paso. Juarez, Chihuahua is the horizon.

Space. This is the Tender Mercy of No Man’s Land.

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Lomas del Poleo revisited

Protest for Lomas del Poleo, Jan. 2008

Protest for Lomas del Poleo, El Paso-Jan. 2008

It was only a year ago that the plight of the people of Lomas del Poleo was the highest priority of cross border activist politics. The people were systematically being robbed of their land, their court actions were, basically, being stonewalled, the injustice of the top to the bottom was blatant and a coalition of forces stepped up and, on this day did, a bi-national protest at the Mexican Counsulate in El Paso and the Mexican Counsulate in Jaurez.

That seems like long ago.

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Santa? Juarez needs one

Santa en Juarez-Dieciembre 2008

Venga Santa….come on!

If ever there was a place (other than certain parts of Africa right now) that need some kind of Devine Intervention, this is it.

Come on Santa! Forget the regalos. Paz, baby. Bring on the Peace.

If there is a Santa, bring on the Peace.

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Two way island

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FBA#20-El Paso/Juarez-Dec. 2008

First block of America (FBA).

El Paso Street. La Frontera. I’d call it Texas but it ain’t. Everyone knows it if they’re from here. Texans hold their arms out, full length. Americans think it’s part of Mexico…or hell. New Mexicans…furgidaboutit! It’s all they have to really feel superior to.

El Paso, the nation-state of nowhere.

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Tender mercy

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LBI #7 Pano.series-Carlsbad, New Mexico/December2008

Been working on the Land Before the Interstate (LBI) series for a long time. Every chance I get to go there I grab. Time machine. No Interstate. No giant concrete suppository running right through your heart. The kinds of places Duvall would crash down in in Tender Mercies.

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Dogs shake the shoe

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Shakin’ the shoe, Memorial Park, El Paso-August 2008

Sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. Well, in the park, there’s lots of things to smell. A dog’s life can be wonderful. Humans? Well, sometimes, not so much.

One thing for sure: grabbing milliseconds of time out of the megaseconds of life is still -with no great reason behind it- a lot of fun.

 

 

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The sword of Juarez

The sword of Juarez, Nov. 2008

The sword of Juarez-November 2008

There’s a sword hanging over Juarez. The sword of Juarez. Murder. 1500, this year and we have a month to go. A drug war? A crazy’s war. Get it over with. Somebody win the war for turf, already. Nobody cares. Get it over with, one side win, one side lose, then send your drug shit to the gringos and let the people go free, let them come out of their houses at night, let the undertakers worry about their bills, again. Somebody win, already, because nobody is winning at all.

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Angry princess/Princesa enojado

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Angry princess/Princesa enojado, El Paso-October 31, 2008

El Paso, Oct. 31 (Halloween), 2008

Halloween on El Paso Street, the first (or last) block of America. Everyone is dressed and laying a festival veneer over the street. 5:30pm, people still rushing to the bridge to Juarez to get home (especially these days, trying to get home before dark, before the murders begin).

Cookie is one angry Chihuahua.

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Ciego Musico/Blind Music

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Calle Juarez, Ciego musico/Blind Music, Juarez – 1982

Juarez

This man played in the streets of Juarez for all my first years in La Frontera. He was blind. He was small. He made music like a special desert bird, joyful to bathe in just a drop of water, joyful to sing, even to the passing and witless American tourists.

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Mist and mirrors: facts and fictions

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Mist and mirrors d’town, El Paso – 6:38:51pm/July 28, 2008

I am supposed to be packing right now. I have a job in another city. It starts in three weeks. I won’t be leaving. This corner, this light, these people, their shadows, have inveighed my life for an adulthood…a long time.

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Border fools and border delights: You gotta look hard

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Americo with prayer shawl, yamulke and guitar,

Segundo barrio, El Paso – July 26, 2008

Why do I ever leave my loft?

Went to the gym where a friend of over three years, a retired professor at the local university, someone who has never displayed anything but kindness and goodwill, out of the clear blue, no warning, told me “…the Jews got what they deserved after all the stuff they did as bankers in Germany, don’t you think?”

Wha-a-a-a-a-a?!

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Mexico’s other border

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SEE VIDEO: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/video/player?titleID=1372185572

 

Borders. North and south. Mexico is a yin yang of the first order.

See what’s going on on the southern border and get some insights into what’s going on on the northern one.

Article by the always interesting and powerful Charles Bowden with cut-to-the-bone humane photographs by superb Magnum shooter, Alex Webb.

 

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Immigration abuse never ends. Jacob Riis: Concerned Photographer

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“Slept In That Cellar Four Years,” 1890-92

“Slept in the cellar (of a Ludlow Street tenement)

where the water was ankle deep on the mud floor”

View more work -and hear an excellent NPR audio clip- by the great Danish-American documentary photojournalist. He was one of the first to use “flash,” (first introduced in Germany in 1887). Riis cast the mold for what a “Concerned Photographer,” is, and launched a century of relevant, motivating and society-changing “witnessing.”

Editor’s Note:

For more images and audio clip: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91981589

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Roof Cam: Borderlands Suite

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Roof Cam #8, El Paso – June 2008

I’m driving around my city. I’m moving my operation a little to the north of where I am now, north of the border, north of the borderline, north of my reality. I’m already feeling separation depression. So I drive around my turf of 30 years. I don’t have to look anymore, I know the bricks, the cracks, the fault lines. I’ve shot them a million times and re-shot them. I stick the camera out the sunroof and let the car become part of the camera. The car is the camera. and I tour my myth. This is between me and it, not meant for others. All of my work is getting there now, it’s between me and it.

 

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Moving day ( a bad pun)

PHOTO OF THE WEEK (#1): May 16-23, 2008

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Moving the man, Uptown (upper Broadway Street), Chicago, 1969

I have moving on my mind. I don’t do it often. When I do it is a reincarnation for the better or worse. I am about to do it. In so doing, I came up with this image from the boyhood of my life as a photographer. One of the very first. I still like the street puns.

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Juarez: Music and bullets in the air

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: May 9-May 16, 2008

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Juarez harps(?), May 2008

There hasn’t been so much gunfire in Juarez since 1910. Since Jan.1, there have been over 230 drug war-related murders.

There was a time in Juarez -bourgeoise and ugly Americano, for sure, but what the hell- that it was just the old fashioned sins: getting drunk, dancing, straggling around with whatever “date,” that’d allow you to put your hands on her ( or whatever) and, if you survived, you crawled home over the bridge to El Paso and woke up late the next day.

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Stuck in Juarez: Time warp (siempre es lo mismo)

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: April 25-May2, 2008

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Stuck in Juarez, colonia Avicola-1989

The Silva family came to Juarez with the intention of crossing the border, into the U.S. and then traveling to the Midwest, where a family member had preceded them. They intended to work in agriculture in the wheat fields of Kansas. A dream. The American dream. It wasn’t to be their dream.

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El Patron de Las calles: Robert Frank

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from The Americans

Robert Frank

b. 1924

“I am always looking outside, trying to look inside.”

This is da man! King of the road. He saw what everyone saw but he saw it through a 35mm camera and with a critical eye. To look at it now -the Global Village which used to be just America- needs a new eye. The question has been out there for awhile: What have we become?

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Polaroid no mas. Fotografos estan proxima!

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: April 11-18, 2008

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Polaroid no mas/Polaroid no more, Juarez – 2008

Polaroid Corporation announced in early February that they no longer will make Polaroid instant cameras or film.

This announcement, world wide was greeted, mostly, by a collective shrug of the shoulders and a “ho-hum.”

For Juarez street photographers the news was immediately alarming, living-threatening, and was a call to action for a new learning curve to transition to digital photography.

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Check the updated Blogroll/Photolinks. Great new sites!

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The mainstream of photography, from its inception, has been Documentary Photography, the straightforward act of visual description for distribution to an interested audience. Some would argue that its utility as a means of information has passed and that other media -video for example- serve that function in more effective ways.

Hog wash.

Still photography is the perfect abstraction of reality. It is based in reality, works best when trying to describe reality and becomes pure magic when used in the service of learning -usually beyond the control of the photographic practitioner.

Check out the new and updated Blogroll (right) and suck in the inspiration and knowledge that these documentary photographers provide. Nothing, for me, does information better than photography.

See and feel the work. That’s why it was created.

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Happy Halloween

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: March 7-14, 2008

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Woman in Juarez Maquila plant / Juarez, Chihuahua

Banks lend money to Americans to buy homes they can’t afford. The homeowners live in a dream bubble, the American Dream bubble. The lenders sell their paper and ride off into their millionaire dream. Everyone’s dreaming.

In Juarez they’re dreaming too.

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Leap #7

PHOTO OF THE LEAP: Feb. 29-March 7, 2008

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Leaping into the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, El Paso-Juarez

Leap into the river with two names

Leap Day in the Leap Year 2008. Let’s all take a leap. Come on…why not!

This boy and his friends use the river with two names as a playground, a swimming pool, a back yard.

Why not.

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Two Girls en la Colonia

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Feb. 22-March 1, 2008

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Two girls getting ready for school in Colonia Avicola, Juarez-2007

It’s the little moments that work for me.

It’s an exquisite privilege to disappear. It doesn’t always happen. It’s really great -for the photographer- when it does. Photography out in the open, in other people’s realities, nobody even noticing.

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Jesus With Trophy

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Feb. 15-22, 2008

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Jesus at the bridge, Feb 11, 2008-El Paso

Prounouns

Working on my series, “Lives Separated.”

Jesus come over the bridge from Juarez with this giant trophy.

“It’s the trophy we got for playing Juarez, we played Juarez football (soccer),” he says not saying who “we,” or,”they,” are.

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Play: Before The Fence

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Feb. 1-Feb. 8, 2008

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Before the fence, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, El Paso-Juarez – 1989

Notes from my Journal

Immigration. Swim, drive, and crawl. People do what they need to do and making them do any of the aforementioned things, put lives at risk.

The river is more than a highway of migration, though.

In the summers, when it’s hot, the river is a giant pool.

People play.

The river is polluted with chemicals from upstream pesticides from the farms, loaded with garbage and debris, has really tricky currents that, every summer, takes lives.

But people live in that river. That river is life for many in Juarez.

If the Jefes could see past their own little tight plans, this would be THE development that would be right for El Paso/Juarez: Play in the river.

Too simple, though, huh?

This girl is clinging to the El Paso side bank. ILLEGAL! La Migra comes and chases her away and she joyously splashes back to the Juarez side where her friends and family jeer and gesture at the Border patrolman. Everyone is having a good time. The Migra laughs, waves, knows he’s part of this great immigration farce, climbs back into his Suburban and drives off and the girl –and her friends- come back, swim to the U.S. side, pose for pictures, live the evening.

The sun sets. I go home. I played in the river, too.

One of the border Patrol’s favorite PR releases is about how their agents saved people from drowning. There’s one or two or three every year.

They never mention people caught playing. Before the fence.

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Roberta’s Glued Head

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2008

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Roberta’s glued head (Head #14), Las Cruces, NM, Jan. 18, 2008

You can leave the border but the border does not leave you. My head snapped when I saw Roberta Flores, up in New Mexico.

“Terrific hair,” I yelled at her. “Gelled,” I asked?

“No,” she said with a sly and proud smile, “Glued,” she shouted back, with a grin that sort of said, “gotcha!”

“Did you get that done around here? ” I asked.

“They don’t know how to do that around here,” she spat, friendly but gently ridiculing.

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Bull Boy

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Jan. 11-18, 2008

Bull boy, Juarez - 2002

Retratos de la Corrida, Bull boy, Juarez – 2002

I’m a little weary of border politics, for now.

I return to the streets and hope the disorder of life gives me shape and form.

Politics and News seem to work on a linear arc.

Facts. Information. Plenty to tell. Endless detail and weight and nuance. Narrative is interesting but one of the things I’ve always liked about doing photography is the occasional punch in the gut you get from just being somewhere (often where you shouldn’t be).

Photography can work as a fact machine, but when it doesn’t and it’s just image, impression, reaction, light, when there is more than the sum of the parts, I like it the most.

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Los Cartoneros

PHOTO(s) OF THE WEEK: Dec. 28, 2007-Jan. 4, 2008

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Cartonero Armando Hernandez Lamas, El Paso – 12/28/2007

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Cartonero Alejandro Gonzalez, El Paso – 12/28/2007

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Cartonero Hernandez in central El Paso

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Cartonero Gonzalez, central El Paso

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Armando Hernandez’ handmade tricicleta

Los Cartoneros

In a desert, on the border, nothing much gets wasted.

Cartoneros, paper haulers, collect discarded and surplus paper and card board from border streets and from border merchants and haul it on their customized ” tricicletas.” They then sell it to scrap buyers, located about a mile from the border shopping district in the Segundo barrio.

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Cameraphone session, 5:15pm, December 20, 2007 / Centro El Paso

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Dec. 21-28, 2007

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Cameraphone session, 5:15pm, December 20, 2007 / Centro El Paso

El Paso’s El Centro, the downtown, is packed with people at Christmastime. Unlike most cities of the southwest and of the rest of the United States, El Paso’s downtown is alive and bustling at all times of year, but especially during this season.

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Waiting in Juarez, 2007

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Dec. 7-Dec. 14, 2007

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Waiting in Juarez, 2007

Waiting.

It’s hard to remember the last time I was waiting for something and not pressured to be thinking about the next stop, the next appointment.

Leisure?

Barely remember that…

Slow time? Time seems to be on steroids, going faster and faster.

So I came across this guy and time seemed stopped. He was waiting for the grieving and the return of the dead to his vehicle.

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Tattoo, Juarez – 2007

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Nov. 30-Dec. 7, 2007

Tattoo, Juarez – 2007

Flying tattoo on the window. That’s what I was after. Beautiful.

What I got was the Universal Salute?

Priceless.

He didn’t like me? No, I don’t get that. I do struggle with why I shoot on the streets. What right do I have, who appointed me? There’s some kind of thing I got into my head about documenting and witnessing and leaving the artifact that has driven me for a long time. So I do.

I like the fact that the tattoo-ero sends something back. He’s got a right. We all do what we’ve got do.

So, I get my tattoo in Juarez.

It’s not always peace and love out there.

So be it. ‘Ta bien.

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Locked Out At Lomas del Poleo

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: November 11-16, 2007

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Locked out at the Human Rights Forum, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

October 20, 2007

A group of 150 people from different grass roots and human rights organizations from Juarez, El Paso, Guanajuato and Mexico City, arrived in a school bus and private cars at noon, October 20, to discuss globalization, displacement, human rights violations and femecide.

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Border Mass

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: November 3-9, 2007

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All Soul’s Day Mass at the border,

Sunland Park, NM/Anapra, Chihuahua

November 2, 2007

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All Soul’s Day, Border Mass, NM/Chihuahua border

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Nuns on both sides of border fence

Sunland Park, New Mexico/Anapra, Mexico

Today the Bishops of El Paso, Las Cruces, NM and Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico met at the border fence at Sunland Park, NM and Anapra, Chihuahua to protest current immigration policies and to promote understanding for immigrants from Mexico, as well as world wide.

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Musico del Centro

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: October 27-November 2, 2007

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Paricio Valazquez, musician for 49 years, El Paso, October 2007

Paricio Valasquez has played his guitar in the cantinas of downtown El Paso for more than 49 years. He is fully wired.

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Los Veteranos de Martino’s

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: October 12-19, 2007

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Veteranos de Juarez, December 2006

 Ramon Covarrubias Quintana(l) and Francisco Barraza(r) are waiters at the old Martino’s Restaurant on Juarez Avenue in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The restaurant is located two blocks from the Paso del Norte Bridge that connects downtown Juarez with downtown El Paso.

Martino’s – and these waiters- harken back to the “Golden Era,” of Juarez,

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Amada and Love

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: October 5-12, 2007

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Amada, Central Cafe, Juarez – 1992

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Amada, Central Cafe, Juarez – 2007

Amada has worked the counter at the Central Cafe in downtown Juarez, since the early 1980’s. The cafe is next door to the cathedral and is a major crossroads for buses -and most of all, people on foot- heading to all directions in the city. The cafe is a crossroads, the city’s heart, and a center of transition and change.

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Corn Rows In Armijo Park

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: September 21-28, 2007

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Cristo Rapper and his wife, Armijo Park, El Segundo Barrio, El Paso / 16 de Septiembre 2007

This was a 16 de Septiembre event in Armijo Park in El Paso. Armijo is in the heart of the historic Segundo Barrio. Armijo is a people’s park. This neighborhood is in, actually, the only”urban,” neighborhood in El Paso (hard to define but you know it when you see it: Life exists on the streets)

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Atronautas de Juarez

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: August 24-31, 2007

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Two girls on a field trip, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico / June 2007

Two Juarez girls hamming it up at the NASA traveling exhibition that was shown at the Centro Municipal de las Artes in downtown Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico in May through June.

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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: August 17-24, 2007

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Soy Un Oso, Hugo in El Segundo / Feb. 2007

Hugo(last name not given) shows his high school “colors,” on Father Rahm Street on El Paso’s south side. It is twilight and he has been working on a mural at the Sagrado Corazon church’s gym.

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The FBA

Black Cross on the FBA, August 2007

Summer on the FBA. Hot. 100.

This is Father Rahm Street, which is, actually, Fifth Street. Around the corner is El Paso Street which is the first block of America (or the last, depending on where you’re coming from).

Around the corner, to the south is where the Paso del Norte bridge from Juarez empties out. There are stories on this street, big life-journeys begin here. This is where dreams begin. Some people have called this the “Ellis Island of South America.” Maybe that’s the draw for me (my Father was born on that other immigration island in 1907). That was another dream. These are places where dreams can start.

The Black Cross mural for the violence against women in Juarez appeared a couple of years ago. Then they put a bus stop in front of it (dumb). Then they took the bus stop out but painted over the text (also dumb) about the violence to the women.

Whatever. Life passes and passes strongly. This is where I have spent a lot of my life.

Nothing stops the energy on the FBA. People are looking for their place, their direction, their dream. I’m looking. I’m there almost every afternoon.

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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: August 10-17, 2007

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The First Street of America #7, El Paso, Texas / August 2007

 

Sixth and El Paso Street is the first street in “America,” after crossing over the Paso del Norte Bridge from Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico into El Paso, Texas. This is the crossroads.

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Lost Musician In Juarez

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: July 27-August 3, 2007

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Musico perdido en las ruinas de Juarez / July 2007

El Centro, the downtown of Juarez, is going down.

La Mariscal, the zone of shops and bars and (say this quietly) brothels north of El Centro, the commercial zone north of El Centro stretching to the border with the U.S., is being demolished and is, mostly, gone.

The “Plan,” has come. Progress is here. Now there is hope for those who need the border to be “clean.”

It shall be sanitized.

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PHOTO TIPS

July20, 2007

“Candid,” photography brings up some decisions, ethically and technically. How candid do you want it? I try to be a “fly on the wall,” and not have eye contact at the moment of the photo capture, but, I also try to not sneak around and make sure everyone knows that I’m there, shooting.

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Snatched In El Paso

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: July 6-13, 2007

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Snatched Mexican day laborer sits in the back of a Border Patrol van, El Paso 1999

Most “illegal immigrants,” incarcerated in El Paso are laborers who’s immigration activity is, merely, a two way commute, finding them returning to Juarez, Mexico, at the end of a work day. Being incarcerated by the Border Patrol inconveniences the worker but does not deter the activity. Wages in Juarez average around $5 to 6 day. In El Paso a Day Laborer makes an average of $ 25 to 40 a day. The difference in wages makes the bureaucratic discussion of deterrence moot.

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Pit Bull(s)

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: June 29-July 6, 2007

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Pit Bulls, Memorial Park, El Paso, Texas / May 2007

Carlos (last name not given) in Memorial Park with his Pit Bull Zues. They both had a lot of scars. They both are fighters, and it appeared they had more in common with each other than either could have with anyone of their own species.

Pit Bulls.

Asked why he liked that particular breed of dog, Carlos replied, “They don’t give an inch. Neither do I.”

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Definat, Wary And Proud

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: JUNE 22-29, 2007

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Defiant, wary and proud, Carmen the maquila woman, Juarez/2002

Carmen Sotelo Rodriquez is the face of the Post Global economy. She worked at a Phillips plant in Juarez,Chihuahua, Mexico. The plant had moved from three shifts to one shift and by 2002 the company had migrated most of its assembly operations to China. She is shown standing in front of the plant on the city’s south east side. This photo was shot on assignment for Bloomberg magazine.

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Viva Los Viejos

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: JUNE 15-22, 2007

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Dignified man at the crossroads , El Paso, Texas / 2007

A man stands in the last light of the day at the corner of 6th and El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas. This is the first street of the United States after entering the U.S. from Mexico from the Paso Del Norte International Bridge. The bridge links Ciudad Juarez with El Paso and 6th and El Paso streets could be considered the crossroads of the northern part of the Western Hemisphere from south to north.

A lot of old folks (viejos) grew up in this barrio and are still there. They are the dignity of the barrio.

Imagine how people felt when a picture of an old viejo was used, by City planners, to show what was wrong with El Paso?

Los Viejos are what’s right with El Segundo.

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Cool Sneaks And Artifacts That Matter

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Photograph of Dorothea Lange,

Resettlement Administration photographer,

in California, c. 1936

The car is a 1933 Ford Model B (AKA “V8”).

She is -as well as Russell Lee and the other FSA photographers- the spiritual “Godmother,” of this site.

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This is a picture of Dorothea Lange, at work. She was one of my earliest influences (the other was Weegee).

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The Unintended Consequence Of Being Mean

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Drug cartels want migrants’ routes

Fight to control corridors on Arizona border turns violent

ALTAR, Mexico ˆ This village on the edge of the Sonoran Desert has been a supermarket for smugglers and the smuggled for nearly a decade. Migrants choose from an array of packages offered by coyotes and pick up day packs and anti-dehydration potions for the trek north.
Now drug smugglers want their route.

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New Day Viene: Fresh Paint and New Ambitions

 

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Day 2 / Christmas Eve eve

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Day 44 / Finished

 

by Nathan Zarate

photograph by Jaime Ojo

Artist Francisco Delgado, his brother Oswaldo, his friend, artist Mauricio Olaque and a large helping hand from Bowie High School students and neighborhood residents began the Sagrado Corazon Mural on the night of Christmas Eve eve, 2006.

The mural, with support from Sagrado Corazon, local businessmen, concerned residents and ex-residents of the Segundo Barrio,

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Not a Drop to Drink

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The Border(PBS) | About the Show

Not a Drop to Drink

Produced by Matthew Sneddon, KNME-TV, Albuquerque, New Mexico photo

The economies of Juarez, Mexico and its sister city, El Paso, Texas are driven by a system of assembly plants known as maquiladoras. There are more than 600 maquiladoras in Juarez, two-thirds of them owned by U.S. companies. Since the first maquiladora was built in Juarez in 1976, the population of the city has increased nearly five-fold to more than 1.25 million, making it the largest Mexican city on the border. The Rio Grande fuels Juarez and El Paso’s water supply.

However, the more than 10 million people who live in these desert communities have begun to exhaust the Rio Grande’s capacity to support them.

This segment focuses on one Rancho Anapra family faced with the realities of living in a desert community with no running water. It examines the factors that contributed to growth of this particular border region: the Rio Grande, the maquiladoras and the promise of a better life.

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U.S. Border Patrol in S. California developing deadly but ineffective Operation Gatekeeper/Interview with Roberto Martinez – In Motion Magazine

U.S. Border Patrol in S. California developing deadly but ineffective Operation Gatekeeper/Interview with Roberto Martinez – In Motion Magazine

rm_01.jpgRoberto Martinez is the former director of the U.S./Mexico Border Program. A lifelong Chicano activist, he has spent 30 years monitoring human rights in the San Diego/Tijuana area. In 1992, he was honored as an Intermational Human Rights Monitor by Human Rights Watch, the first U.S. citizen to be honored in such a way.The following essay, published here as a call for a humane U.S. immigration policy, was written as the introduction for the American Friends Service Committee 2003 human rights report.

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Election Views From The North (Of The Border)

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Blogmeister’s Note: This is a piece written by a friend of The Border Blog. He is a Mexican National, a university student who attends the university in El Paso and a good guy. Especially, if one is looking for an insight, note the second to last paragraph and multiple it by the millions.

The BB welcomes all viewpoints, especially this one . Thank you, Javier :

Why I Voted For Felipe Calderon

I was listening to my aunt Lupe while we were driving down Periferico
Sur highway about a month ago in Mexico City. She told me about Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (editor:AMLO), the presidential candidate (at the time), and how he managed to obtain the votes of lots of people in Mexico City by offering social assistance to senior (over 65) people and single moms while he was the city’s mayor.

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Was Christ Anti American (A Real Pinko)?

Lighted-Cross.jpg The Mexican Election: More Collateral Basura

I ran into a friend at the gym of the local university. He is from Mexico’s interior ( but the north). Smart guy, a brother. The university sits smack dab on the border and looks across to Juarez from El Paso. The university has many Mexican nationals mostly from Juarez but with a significant number of citizens from the interior, a majority of Mexican Americans and a smattering of Anglos. Like many things on the Border, it is physically the United States and pragmatically in Mexico (language, culture, food).
I ask him if he voted in the recent election.

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