Monday, March 6, 2017

El Paso: Stopped at the West

The end of a road over Segundo Barrio, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

An El Paso buddy of mine is an American of Yaqui, Spanish, and Mexican descent. Maybe a pinch of Mescalero Apache.

When he was young, his parents moved from Segundo Barrio out to the Lower Valley, which is in southeast El Paso. His was the second family to move into a brand new subdivision there, where they bought a house.

In the 1970s, when he was an adolescent, he would, from time to time, ride his bicycle to El Paso's West Side. Let's say the West Side boundary, at that time, sat just north of the current UTEP campus.

I'm a little blurry on where the west/east boundary was, but I'm not fuzzy about this: Each time my friend rode his bike to the west side of the city, a police officer stopped him and told him he could go no further. He had to stay on the east side of the city.

In He Forgot To Say Goodbye, Benjamin Alire Saenz touches on the geographical demarcations in El Paso in the not-so-distant past:
[Ramiro] We have our own house on Calle Concepcion. …. Mrs. Herrera, my English teacher. She … thinks we’re just a bunch of dumb-ass Mexicans good for nothing but flipping burgers and making breakfast burgers at Whataburger, and that I’ll grow up to be one of the better burrito-makers. Yup, that’s what she pretty much thinks, we’re all a bunch of burrito guys.  … Thomas Jefferson High School [in South-Central El Paso]… “La Jeff.” .. And our rival school, well that would be “La Bowie.” .....

There’s a pre-med magnet school that they built right next to our school …. all the pre-med students that come from the other parts of town all go to their classes in their nice separate building and have their nice separate classes. Put it this way: The good, intelligent pre-med magnet school students attend their classes in a separate facility. So we don’t even have “contact.” That’s the word they use, too. “Contact.” Like they’ve landed on the moon. … What are we gonna do to those kids, kill them? Touch them? Infect them with Mexican ways of thinking? Make them ride burros? Take their English and put it in between two pieces of corn tortillas until it sounds like Spanish? …

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