THE WOOD GATHERERS

The Wood Gatherers, Juárez, 01/01/2001,

photograph by Bruce Berman ©2017

The New Millennium

El Paso/Juárez has never been flat. It is a place of differences. Peeks and valleys. Yins and Yangs. The epicenter of this riddle is found at the river. Even the river has two names: El Rio Bravo/Rio Grande.

This is the early morning of the new millennium,  January 1, 2000, the first morning of who knows what.

It’s cold. The kids are hunting for wood for heat. They live in improvised sheds, mostly constructed from shipping pallets, some don’t have stoves, none are legal, if they have electricity or plumbing it is pirated. This colonia is a “first neighborhood. People squat on land owned by distant political landlords. They are called parachadistas, parachuters, landing as if dropped in from the sky. Their parents came to the border from México’s interior to work in internationally-owned factories

These kids don’t know me or I, them. They are busy and they are wary. Their mission this day is not me, it’s wood, heat for the family. I walk with them in the fine sand of the riverbed. I find a few scraps of wood and they seem to feel better about me and allow me a few photographs.

I turn to leave and see El Paso, across the river, close, a million miles away, another world. I wave goodbye. They wave back, our barriers shattered. We are friends now. Wood Gatherers.

I’m about a hundred yards away now and turn around. They stand firm, watching me. I feel like I’ve left home, going back across the river, like a parachuter, falling from the sky.

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SLEEP

 

 

Sleeping lady at CREAMAC, Juárez, 2012

This woman sleeps the sleep of the near dead.

She lives at CREAMAC, a refuge and shelter in the mountainside of the Juárez mountains in west Juárez, México.

There are many different kinds of people in this institution, ranging from homeless, mentally ill, epilepsy and other.

There is little treatment available, unless, the resident gets unruly and then there are injections to completely subdue the client.

There is no industry there, no skills to learn, just time to spend, safe from the streets but not from the various devils that afflict the residents.

Sometimes it’s just better to sleep.

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TIRE MOUNTAIN

Tire Mountain, Mesquite, NM, Dec. 7, 2016

Where’s the border? Where’d it go? Where did I go? I’ve been cruising out of El Paso and ending myself in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for eleven years now, returning to the border every night. I head back to El Paso in the evenings but the El Paso I know, is slowly, perceptively, emphatically, disappearing from sight.

Juárez is still there. A wave of murder, mayhem and mania  smacked it with deep contusions for a few years. Juárez survived. Its heart endured. Its people are still vibrant and robust, slightly uncivil, real, delightfully rough and raw, a Mexican city that’s six thousand miles from the USA, 20 yards away.

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AK TEEN

Appolino

Appollino, 16, Sandinista Home Guard soldier,

Jinotega Province, Nicaragua, 1987

Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

Appolino was 16 in 1987. His parents had died during the revolution.

In 1987 the old National Guard of Somoza was huddled just north of Jinotega Province, in Honduras, fighting with and being trained by the United States military, both Army, National Guard and elements of the CIA and other agencies. If you arrived in Nicaragua by airplane, it emptied out in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and most of the people getting off that airplane were anglo, in their thirties and forties, with short haircuts and heavy bags that looked like they carried more than clothes.

So, there was Appollino, with his Chinese-made AK 47, standing guard, in his country, awaiting nightfall, ready to defend his home and family, i.e. his country.

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RELIC #3/ICE TRUCK IN JUAREZ

Juarez Ice truck, 1975

Ice truck, Juarez, 1975

1975.

Ice trucks up and down Avenida Juárez.

Same routine every day.

Go to the municipal ice plant, over by the railroad, buy ice, get it on the truck, head to your customers, mostly saloons.

Get the day’s orders.

A half block will usually do.

Get it inside, let the baristas chip it down to cooler-size.

The runoff gutters around the base of the bar take the ice melt away.

Good to go.

All the ice trucks eventually die from a fatal combination of age and rust.

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LAST OF THE LAST

Last 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 (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, 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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