The X of Juárez, May 19, 2013 by Bruce Berman
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.
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!).
Please view this video about Rigoberto Gonzales. His paintings are horrible and important.
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?
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.
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.
One sees the world through one’s own window. This is the Low Rider’s punta de vista. What’s your’s?
Rato Vato….I’m back!
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!
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.
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?
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):
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.”
Photo and Text by Bruce Berman
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.
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!).
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.