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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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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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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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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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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My Window and Mi Compañeros a Sur: Season’s Greetings!

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Guadalupe #41, El Paso – Dec. 18, 2009

This third floor window looks out onto the Cordova Bridge to Juarez, three blocks to the south. It’s the Season. Guadalupe, I will light you every night -and a string of Christmas lights too- for the rest of the holiday. If anyone in Juarez sees this, please wave at me, say hello, know I am with you and I am waving at you, too, and I will be visiting with you, soon.

Andale compañeros. Vida sobre todo.

Note: Yes Victoria, I tilted the frame!

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A Warm Farewell

A piece written to my photography students at the end of a fine semester at New Mexico State University. Forgive the “first person.” Originally posted on their class website at www.nmsu.documentaryshooters.com:

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Brucini w/New Blan­ket from a Good Friend, El Paso –Dec. 9, 2009

So it comes to this, the semes­ter ends, we go our own way, we know more for hav­ing known each other.

We have had our ambi­tions and we have had our dis­ap­point­ments but, what we mostly have had, I think, is a jour­ney of discovery.

At least, it’s has been that way for me.

I was given some­thing won­der­ful today: a very warm blan­ket from a very good and thought­ful friend (she had heard that my Loft is frigid in the win­ters, a con­crete old fac­tory build­ing of a palace, not designed to be lived in).

I stopped on the way home for some Christ­mas lights. First time in my life I have bought any. How can one not suc­cumb to this Sea­son when such kind ges­tures are extended?

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I kiss you, SNOW!

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El Puente Cordova, El Paso/Juarez, November 30, 2009

Snow!

A rarity in this no-mans-land.

Hardship. No one is ready for it. Not man nor beast nor domicile. The aftermath will be unnavigable mud on some of the streets in Juarez: there’s always a fire from people using heaters they’re not used to using;  tons of $14.95 coats will be sold on El Paso Street and Stanton Street and the various Fallas Paredes tiendas all over town; car crashes aplenty; you can bet on it. The homeless freeze. Rich people buy juniper logs for five bucks apiece to have their moment of apres ski. Everyone will adapt eventually, but by then we’ll be back in T-shirts and shorts; my loft turns to a freezer;  life is anew. This is a place of the sun, not really set up for anything else.

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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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The Circle On Seventh Street

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Sagundo barrio, El Paso – July 14, 2009

Needed a trip to see someone “rich,” get to my home, my ‘hood, the epicenter.

A day -part of a day- in Americaland was enough for me. Felt sick. Left wobbly. Everyone comes to that place where you’ve got to weigh the illness of your certainties against the “healthiness (or lack of it)” of your insecurities.

I’m there.

I head to the pueblo.

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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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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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