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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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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Bad Boy In The ‘hood

1939 Chevrolet, Lincoln School Park, El Paso – March 2010

Sunday in Lincoln School Park. Everyone’s there: the vatos, the old low riders, the young low riders, Las Chicas, los ninos, las familias and me.

Got to get that building open again!

Fuzz cruised through, took a look, cruised out again (ándale).

As it oughta to be.

The parque was alive, tranquillo and sharp. El barrio vive otra vez…best it’s been in years.

As it oughta be…

For a slideshow:

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Ken Van Sickle!

all photographs ©Ken Van Sickle

Every once in awhile, when you’re not looking, and something new comes to you and you go, “There’s More!”

This morning, in my meanderings,  I came across this quote:

“A person often meets their destiny on the road he took to avoid it.*”

The quote led me -in that totally weird way that “surfing,” around the web sometimes does- to a photographer I have never even heard of, before, let alone, known.

And his pictures are Fabulous!

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Remnants del ‘Hood

Remnants del ‘hood, El Paso – March 14, 2010

There ain’t much left.

Mostly the pickins’.

This was the Grand Highway, the Spanish Trail, the beginning of the end of the long journey from East to West or vice-versa, the tip of the arrow into the dart board that was Downtown El Paso.

Interstate came and went around, population moved to new turf, businesses followed, but the old Highway 80  lingered, going from Consumer to Warehouse and beyond. A modern day Babitt, Ohio.

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Border Beauties

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February 13, 2010, the day before the Day of San Valentin – El Paso, Texas

Photographs by Bruce Berman

Pipo’s Hair Salon and School held a beauty competition and the best of the best turned out to coif, spray, paint and shape the “models,” in a competition that determined who was the most beautiful and who was the best beauty maker.

The night’s Dj, a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq was overheard telling the photographer (me), “I’ve seen a lot of things but I have never ever seen anything like this.

Not even in Iraq.

The border always has a twist. But this event, at least to your correspondent, seemed to make sense.

In journalism, they always teach you to ask, “Why?”

I guess the question here is, Why Not?

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El Paso Dreamin’

Town for sale, El Paso – Feb. 2010

From the movie The Border:

Marcy (Valerie Perrine) : (Showing her Border Patrol husband brochures about El Paso, trying to talk him into moving there, at their breakfast table, in Los Angeles) Honey sometimes you gotta dream.

Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) : (Pausing, furrowing his now signature brow) I never dreamed no El Paso.

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El Dia de San Valentin

La “MC,” Lidia, San Valentin Beauty Show

El Paso – Feb. 13, 2010

El Dia de San Valentin/El Paso, Texas

Candy? Flowers? Lingerie?

Furgidaboutit!

Beauty!

Big day on the border. Everywhere now. Billions in tooth decay. Billions in flowers grown in eco-destroying third world corporate gardens.

Bah humbug (or whatever malapropism you say on Valentin’s Day)!

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The ‘hood Is Still Good

Copia Street, Jan. 4, 2010

Four blocks to the bridge, to the border.

Lots of foot traffic. It comes and it goes, north then south.

The neighborhood is changing as the Medical Center becomes a reality, but it’s going to be hard to erase what the neighborhood is.

This mural, sneaked in on the side of a little building on a main street, in an alley, screams, We are alive!

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Black Cross and Anarchy

5:10pm – December 30, 2009

Last block of America. Or is it the first?

Fifth Street and El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas.

This used to be happy street. It’s still a busy street. It’s the street where the downtown bridge from Juarez exits or, conversely, it is the street where you leave the United States and enter the bridge to Juarez.

There’s a strange urgency on this block now, on this border now, if you’re looking and listening these days. People try to get back to Juarez before dark. Dark is when the heavy killing begins. At least that’s the way it’s been for the last year. Lately, things are getting even crazier in Juarez. Burrito ladies shot in the middle of the street in broad daylight, children executed in plain sight, house invasions and retaliations. Hard to know when a “safe” time to be in Juarez anymore.

Cartel War?

It was.

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Myths, Ghosts, And, This Window

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Ghost View south, Dec. 19, 2009

Three of the last four posts have involved this window. The view to the south. One block to Alameda Street, two more down Stevens and, voila, you’re at the bridge, then you’re in Juarez, then if you keep going you’re on the carretera to Ciudad Chihuahua, then Torreon, then Puebla and Mexico and then… well who knows where this ends?

This is the last one of this window for awhile. I’ve been clinging to it. Home. I’ve been shooting from this window and the roof right out my back door for decades. The view hasn’t changed that much.

I have.

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Alameda Street (Again)

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Alameda Street #91, El Paso- November 2009

This street is changing. New Medical School and renewed Medical Center just down the block. Oh yeah they have the Grand Plan.

But the south side has its own Plan  and the hot paint keeps coming!

Yeah man, this street is the Grand Plan dealing with the No Plan, the natural plan, the reality plan of the people who hang here, hanging onto the funk, south side people.

Like me.

Like Letty.

Been on this street for a long time.

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I Am Free

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Johnland,  El Paso – June 2009

Been thinking about this guy and borders and the idea of the Big Picture versus the small picture ever since I made it (the photo) this summer, on an almost rainy night, in the northeast section of town, out by the military base.

John Hughes.

Angry. Joyous. Funny. Dangerous. Sweet. Full of love, hate and ambivalence. Boozed up, half mad, half brilliant.

“I am free,” he shouts at the night. “I am free and I am in hell.”

I ask him if he ever goes across the border?

“I am borderless,”he replies, “aren’t you?” He shakes his hand and does a twirl, almost stepping into busy Saturday night traffic.

He does a little dance and steps so close to the edge of the curb that I go to grab him but he spins back onto the sidewalk and does a very theatrical bow. He is a tight rope walker and it looks like he has done this toe dance forever.

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World In A Pump

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Pumpa Monumental, FBA Project/El Paso -2009

It ain’t all war and drugs and deals.

Or is it?

Right here, in  the midst of it all is…this!

Who made this? Chinese hands? Sweat shop Haitian hands? Don’t tell me North Carolina hands! They did wingtips, right?

Who will end up with this radical pump? Where will they wear it (I think I can imagine)? Is there pain and despair there, or a  happy night? Baile, baile. I hope. Will this end up on the other side of the border or is there a place, close by, that will be dazzled by the wearer of this shrine?

Is this the scariest thing I have ever seen or the funniest and why is it this that provokes my thoughts and not the library or some archive or gallery? Why is it this that reminds me of those who toil without options of what is toiled at? Is everything always going to bring my thoughts to the Cartel, to class disparities, to the haves and the have nots, to the black magic of the border? Is that my fate: to see the most outrageous shoe in the history of my life and I can only think of slavery, not aesthetics?

Can I just let it slide? That seems like a long time ago.

Ah, all this in la pumpa monumental.

I smile. I gather the image. I harness my moment. What else can you do? We’re all stumbling around, teetering on some spiky platform or another. Making it look good. We toil at what we toil at, we dance with the partners we’re given, we all try to slick it up. What else can you do?

Otra vez, calle El Paso…estas el mejor!

I have loved you for a long time.

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Centro Family Train

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Family in Segundo barrio, El Paso – 2009

Thanksgiving Day.

Summer of 2009.

I see it every day.

That other day, the one in November, I guess it’s in there somewhere. Eating and stopping the world and traveling and the whole schmeer. That’s thankfulness, right.

What is the word for grinch in Thanksgiving-ese?

I see thanks every day in my barrio. I see thanks for the mere act of being alive and being safe and having someone who calls you Dad or Mom or Mijo.

Yeah, I’m a simpleton.

And I dig it, too.

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Welcome To Juarez

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Entrance to Juarez, June 2009

Militarization works two ways.

The bridges between Juarez and El Paso used to be friendly -although tedious if in a car- gateways to good times or better times, depending on which way you were traveling. Or is that just nostalgia?

Well, if not “friendly,” than at least not hostile.

Now they are reinforced pathways to go do what you gotta do. No joking. Get back by dark. All business. No fun or pleasure. Nothing lives. One endures the crossing. Rigid. Steel. Chrome molly tubes. Crash proof.

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There Goes Breakfast

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Rooster man of Chaparral, NM – 2008

He has been raising these birds since he was a teenager. Fighters are they, he and his birds.

Now, cockfighting is illegal in New Mexico. Outlawed. “Civility,” has come to the funklands. God help us. Now come the thiefs with pens. They been fighting this since Billy the kid.

The rooster man keeps raising his birds. Doesn’t know what else to do.

He speaks of the “Old Man,” and “Ralph,” “Juan Pedro,”and the others. Each has a name. There are hundreds.

When he speaks, he says their names softly, a Lover’s murmur whispering his loves’ names.

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Viva Los Viejos

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: JUNE 15-22, 2007

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Dignified man at the crossroads , El Paso, Texas / 2007

A man stands in the last light of the day at the corner of 6th and El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas. This is the first street of the United States after entering the U.S. from Mexico from the Paso Del Norte International Bridge. The bridge links Ciudad Juarez with El Paso and 6th and El Paso streets could be considered the crossroads of the northern part of the Western Hemisphere from south to north.

A lot of old folks (viejos) grew up in this barrio and are still there. They are the dignity of the barrio.

Imagine how people felt when a picture of an old viejo was used, by City planners, to show what was wrong with El Paso?

Los Viejos are what’s right with El Segundo.

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