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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Border Magic Eye


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.


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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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


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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Mist and mirrors: facts and fictions


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


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?”


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Mexico’s other border




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


“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:

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Juarez: Music and bullets in the air

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


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


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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Polaroid no mas. Fotografos estan proxima!

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: April 11-18, 2008


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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Happy Halloween

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: March 7-14, 2008


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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