description

Historias: Stories of El Paso
A virtual exhibition curated by our community

Courtesy of: Patricia Brunson
Title: Jesus Norman
Historia type: Photograph

I took this picture around 1979 while hiking around the mountains near UTEP with my nephew, Jesus Rene, when I was about 17. We were overlooking the Rio Grande into Ciudad Juarez. He was visiting us with my brother and his family from Van Horn, TX. Jesus and I talked about the differences in the rocks, about what the trains might be carrying - where they might be going, looked for quick-moving lizards and watched the slow pace of the river flowing below. In that river, we saw The Crossers moving cautiously in the shallow water, sack in hand, heading to “our side” of the world. Like the lizards, they’d quickly vanish out of sight. I tried to tell Jesus what my mother always taught us, say a prayer for Esos pobrecitos, but he was too little as he shut his eyes closed, to do more than move his lips saying nothing as I prayed, “Cuidalos Señor y que encuentran trabajo”.
My older brother had given me a Nikon camera. This particular day, Jesus and I went wandering for a photo adventure. This shot is weak in composition and quality, but I chose it because it sums up life here on this dusty border.
Here, what seems bleak and impoverished is -- not that. What you might see as dirt, to us, is life!
The border is that mystical place between here and there, where the winner of The Quality of Life Award – in my eyes, always ended in a tie. That side was fun, so how did we really have it better here?
As a little girl in the ’60s, it was always a thrilling adventure when my dad would take me to that side as his companion, for whatever reasons; to visit his friends who owned gas stations, food stands for groceries, and cantinas for what my dad said were “refrescos”.
As a young ‘Dancing Queen’ in the late ’70s, my friends and I would dance the night away “over there”, where life seemed so worldly, clubs so exotic. We’d order Brandy Alexanders, served to us on silver trays by older gentlemen with crisp white towels draped over their serving arm, wearing tuxedo jackets. They’d call us “mijita” like a watchful old uncle making sure no one got overserved or too friendly, yet gave us the freedom to shake our groove thing until we threw caution to the wind and drank a gallon of Juarez water.
By day, we’d spend hours outdoors playing sports in the world’s perfect climate. Too hot? Not for us desert rats who ran over Scenic Drive at 3 p.m. in September and drank from the hoses of lush homes on Rim Road.
Yet the best part of life was the gatherings with family: siblings, elders, and cousins. We’d have barbeques, baptisms, birthdays, weddings, and celebrations of service men coming home. Being with family was the best life had to offer. The elders would depart, kiss us on the forehead and say, “Dios los bendiga”.
Love was everywhere.

Uploaded on 06.04.2020 by El Paso Museum of History

Central / Downtown, (2020 - 2029), Cultural Heritage

  • Historias
  • women
  • desert rats
  • Juarez
  • Dancing Queens

Tag Women, desert rats, Juarez, Dancing Queens This is a beautifully written essay. I too am a desert rat. That lookout parking lot is used by many of us. See Author Pat Mora piece in The Desert is No Lady.

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