Friday, April 14, 2017

El Paso: Duranguito #1: The Posada


Father Rafael Garcia speaks at San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. December 2016.

December 2016

It was near Christmas and therefore time for posadas.

A posada is a Christmas tradition in which Catholic parishioners re-enact Mary and Joseph's attempts to find a room at the inn before Jesus is born. Details vary among local, regional, and national cultures. In the United States, posadas are most strongly connected to the Mexican-American community. More detailed story here.


Duranguito posada, El Paso, Texas. December 2016.



There are a number of posadas in El Paso before Christmas. I chose one. It happened to be the Duranguito posada.

Which is how I first learned of a struggle between Duranguito residents and business property owners, business developers, and the city of El Paso. The city intended to tear down much of the Duranguito neighborhood to build an arena. Many residents of Duranguito are elderly renters who had lived in Duranguito for many, many years. Some had already received eviction notices. A movement had begun to fight back against the destruction of Duranguito.


Duranguito posada, El Paso, Texas. December 2016.


The procession began at San Jacinto Plaza



and moved through the downtown plaza area ....



....  and toward the Duranguito neighborhood, sometimes called Union Plaza area. Its first stop was at long-time shopping mart, which was now - or would soon be - closed, because of the impending arena construction. 

Duranguito posada, El Paso, Texas. December 2016.


The posada went to its second stop, in front of a woman's home, where she'd lived for decades:




The posada culminated at The Rock House, a mixed-art venue that showcased visual and musical arts, and whose owners were among the opposition to demolish the neighborhood.





Below is a slide show of the Duranguito posada:


Duranguito, El Paso


History was unfolding.


Duranguito posada, El Paso, Texas. December 2016.







Thursday, April 13, 2017

El Paso: A Dead Day at the Library

Day of the Dead, Dorris van Doren Library, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


October 2016

The Dorris van Doren branch of the El Paso Library did up the Day of the Dead in right literary style, honoring authors who'd died in 2016 thus far.

There was also a whimsical art exhibit of ghoulish fashion dolls.

Ghoulish fashion doll art, Dorris van Doren Library, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

Ghoulish fashion doll art, Dorris van Doren Library, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Ghoulish fashion doll art, Dorris van Doren Library, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Maya Angelou, one of my heroes, is in this library altar to the year's dead.

An excerpt from her poem, Woman Work: 

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.



You can listen to Ms. Angelou's lush voice reading this and another poem here.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

El Paso: A Fire-Breathing Dragon


Fire-breathing dragon, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



October 2016

A lot was going on this October evening in El Paso. Las Cafeteras. Chalk the Block. The moon. Those alligators.

Plus the fire-breathing dragon.

Fire-breathing dragon, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


El Paso is definitely a family city, and San Jacinto Plaza, which is just outside of sight of the dragon, draws moms and dads, kiddos, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.

San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


A kiosk cafe in the plaza keeps busy most days and evenings. (But if you want coffee, walk a little further and get your fix at the Coffee Box.)

San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Back at the dragon, there is a zen thing in waiting for that which may or may not come:



There is the fire:






Fire-breathing dragon, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


A very satisfying evening in El Paso.





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

El Paso: UTEP: An Ocotillo Day


Ocotillo in April, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, UTEP, El Paso, Texas.



The stalky ocotillo may be my favorite desert plant. Seeing these April ocotillos at UTEP's Chihuahuan Desert Gardens was like seeing a cherished friend.


When dormant, the ocotillo is just a spiny, angular, unattractive reedy collection of gray stalks. But when it blooms and when it leafs out, oh, I admire how it preens so prettily against the sky.

Ocotillo in April, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, UTEP, El Paso, Texas.


An ocotillo I crushed on at Leasburg Dam State Park in New Mexico a few years back:

Ocotillo at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico. May 2013.

Ocotillo at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico. May 2013.

Ocotillo at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico. May 2013.

See that hummingbird up there?




Monday, April 10, 2017

El Paso: A Walk on the Agave Loop Trail


Agave Loop Trail, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

A Sunday afternoon hike in April, guided by Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin, as she shared information about cactus in the Franklin Mountains:

Agave Loop Trail, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

With her help, we saw quite a selection of cactus on this short trail, including:
  • Texas rainbow cactus
  • New Mexico rainbow cactus
  • Prickly pear
  • Barrel cactus
  • Early bloomer cactus
  • Bishop's cap (aka eagle's claw) cactus
  • Cat's claw cactus
Century plant, Agave Loop Trail, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.


We took a very steep route up to the trail zenith, which is also a paragliding base.

Agave Loop Trail, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.










Sunday, April 9, 2017

El Paso: Walking With the Moon


Full moon eve, Sunset Heights, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



Sister cities, El Paso and Juarez, are favorite children of the moon, I think.


Full moon eve, Sunset Heights, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


The moon likes to rise up, I think, and just look quietly upon the millions who've made their homes in the middle of a desert, ringed by folded mountains.


Full moon eve, Sunset Heights, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


One October evening, the eve of a full moon, I walked downtown from my apartment in Sunset Heights.


Full moon eve, Sunset Heights, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Often, I choose to walk downtown via Prospect. But on this evening, I chose Yandell.


Full moon eve, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Did I talk to the moon as I made my way down? Probably not. But I was pleased she was there.

I stopped on an overpass to watch the traffic on Interstate 10.


Full moon eve, Interstate 10, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

The many-lighted bridge across the way is Prospect Street, my usual route downtown.


Full moon eve, Interstate 10, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.




Saturday, April 8, 2017

El Paso: Mozart Requiem


Mozart Requiem, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.


The union of many voices or instruments to create a collaboration of sound is always so uplifting.

The El Paso Chorale and the El Paso Orchestra, showcasing four singers, performed Mozart Requiem in April on the Saturday before Palm Sunday.

Below is an excerpt, highlighting soprano Heather Dials, who begins singing at approximately 2:12:



El Paso has an impressive classical-music presence. There is, of course, the long-running, annual Chopin Festival. El Paso Pro-Musica promotes chamber music. UTEP has a music program with breadth and depth.


Mozart Requiem, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.



I had a superb seat at the Mozart performance.

Another excerpt below:




Friday, April 7, 2017

El Paso: Lurid Lagartos


Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


I'm afraid I'm not fond of the alligators in downtown El Paso. They lurk in the middle of the downtown plaza that some call the Plaza de los Lagartos (alligators) and some call San Jacinto Plaza. I prefer the latter name.


Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


They remind me of the godawful "art" at the entrance to an amusement park in Tbilisi, atop Mtatsminda. I took some shit for decrying the grotesqueness of the "art,"  but I stand by my verdict.

Mtatsminda, Tbilisi, Caucasus Georgia.


There was a time when real, live alligators were kept at the Plaza, beginning in the late 1800s and ending in the 1960s. There's even a Louisiana connection, with the arrival of "Jack and Jill, a pair who arrived in a cigar box from Louisiana."


Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



The fact was, however, that the alligators suffered regular indignities, not to mention cruelties and even death, at the hands of visitors.


Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



Here's a photo of a vintage El Paso postcard, showing the live alligators in the plaza:

Postcard of live alligators in San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. Postcard photographed by Red Oak Kid.



Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

Maybe I wouldn't find the durn things so objectionable if the colored lights didn't shout so loudly.


Lagarto sculpture, San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.





Thursday, April 6, 2017

El Paso: Las Cafeteras!


Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


October 2016

El Paso did not know what it was missing when it decided to do something other than enjoy Las Cafeteras at Trickey Falls on October 14, 2016.

Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Heck, I wouldn't have known what I was missing if I hadn't tripped over an NPR broadcast about "son jarocho" a couple of years earlier, before I had any inkling that I'd live in El Paso. That broadcast featured Las Cafeteras' cover of La Bamba, which they remixed and retitled La Bamba Rebelde, to proclaim pride in community, family, neighbors, being chicano, in being from East LA, in being no less American than anyone else here, and to signify solidarity with undocumented Americans.


Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


I am loca in love with the group's song, Luna Lovers, and I link you to their official video rather than the one I took (and posted on my youtube channel). Feeling distraught? Watch this video and feel tension fall away. You can't help but smile. Really. Try it.




I'm also crazy for the zapateo on the tamira.

Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Watch this example below:



One of the Las Cafeteras members said something that startled and enlightened me. I don't remember her exact words, but the gist was that humans move, we migrate, just as our fellow animals do. Our human movements, like those of our fellow animals, do not care about arbitrary, administrative border walls, tangible or intangible. Our movement as humans is a natural process we have practiced through millennia. Sometimes we are pulled to new homes; sometimes we are pushed out of our old homes. Some of our migrations are temporary; some are permanent.

The natural forces of migration are what will - already are - pulling/pushing us out to the stars.

For us to criminalize fellow humans who migrate is unhelpful. Indeed, one might say it violates a law of nature.


Las Cafeteras, Trickey Falls, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

El Paso: Accidental Art


Ladies' room, Cafe Mayapán, El Paso. March 2017.



Mmmmm, those greens.

Squares,
Angles,
Verticals,
Horizontals.

Metal plates,
Plastic plate.

Shiny,
Matte.

Wood,
Ceramic,
Metal.

Shadow,
Light.


Accidental, utilitarian art in the ladies' room at Cafe Mayapán.




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

El Paso: A Walk Among the Dead


La Llorona, Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



October 2016


What better way to spend a sparkling Saturday afternoon than walking among the dead, the undead, and the living?

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Well, I could have done without these. They are veritable demons when dead.

But otherwise, it was a day of beauty, both somber and playful.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.



Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Giant puppets danced through cemetery lanes:



A mariachi band serenaded; La Llorona made a cameo appearance. On the other side of the stone wall is the Chinese section of the cemetery:



Concordia Cemetery honors the Buffalo Soldiers.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Chinese residents of El Paso made their final homes here.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


The Franklin Mountains give the cemetery a sense of place and of calm reserve.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Natural flags paid their respects.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


Drummers drummed -- Echoes in the Park -- who you can find and join - at Upper Tom Lea Park on Friday evenings from May through October.

Day of the Dead, Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.


The Paso del Norte Paranormal Society hosts the annual Day of the Dead event at Concordia Cemetery.


One of Benjamin Alire Saenz' characters resides at Concordia Cemetery. From Carry Me Like Water (1995), about Diego's friend, Mary, who met a violent death:
“[Mary’s] going to be buried at Concordia. That’s where they bury them, the people who don’t have anybody get buried at a section of Concordia. At least they’re still saving spaces in the ground for the Marys of the world.”

… Concordia was filled with weeds and trash delivered there by the El Paso wind. It looked more like a dump than a cemetery. It was only cleaned once a year when the prisoners from the county jail were let out to clean it, but that wasn’t until the summer, and it had been almost a year since its last cleaning, a year’s worth of old newspapers lying up against the gravestones.

For a moment, Concordia Cemetery distracted another character in the same book:
Driving down Interstate 10, Jake took the Juarez exit. He took his eyes off the road for a moment and stared down at Concordia Cemetery, the dead disturbed now by a freeway the locals called the spaghetti bowl. As the freeway curbed around, Juarez was straight ahead. It was so easy to get there, just get in the car, take an exit – Mexico – so easy, he thought.



A slide show below:

Concordia Cemetery, El Paso