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.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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?

Continue Reading

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?

Continue Reading

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?

Continue Reading

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):

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 6