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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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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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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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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