We met Karen when we stopped at a small railroad / Pancho Villa / local history museum in Columbus, New Mexico. Karen has made a semi-permanent home in the small town, crossing the border to Mexico often for dental work, medical exams, and all around cheaper care and medication.
The relationship between the town of Columbus and Puerto Palomas, Mexico is symbiotic - while the retiree population of Columbus relies on affordable medical care, expecting families in the town of Palomas travel across the border to give birth, legally, in Demming, New Mexico. These young American citizens often choose to travel to Columbus for schooling.
As Karen put it, “they take care of our elderly, and we take care of their youth.” This reciprocal relationship is one we’ve found throughout our time in El Paso and the Southwest. It’s also an idea that is at the cornerstone of Karen’s philosophy.
Many years ago, Karen was traveling through a remote area of Mexico with a group of foreign academics. When it came time for Christmas dinner, Karen received directions to the only restaurant in town. She approached the restaurant and asked if they’d be able to serve a Christmas dinner for her group - the restaurant replied “of course!” and simply asked for a small sum of money to help cover the cost of purchasing the food.
On Christmas they feasted, sitting around the large table with members of the restaurant’s staff.
It was only days later that she learned they weren’t at a restaurant at all, but at a private home. That amount of hospitality - the willingness and kindness to welcome a group of strangers into your home for Christmas - is something Karen hopes we can all offer to travelers, outsiders, and to those within our own community.
Pictured here is Jordyn and Justin with Karen - she was open to having her portrait made, but only if we’d join in. For a story about community and friendship, a photo of our vagabond team of wanderers seemed appropriate - so we grabbed a tripod, set the timer, and smiled.
Columbus, New Mexico. April 2018.
With lowered blocks, cut spring coils, dropped spindles, hydraulics, and painted bodies, lowriders are a work of art and a feat of engineering - as well as a political statement.
When you think of lowriders, what do you think of?
For the lowriders in El Paso who gather every Sunday for “the cruise,” the key word is family.
Over and over we heard it:
“this is a family event,”
“my son and my daughter have their own rides,”
“I built this car with my father,”
“I’m here watching with my mother,”
“my cousin and I came on down here tonight,”
“it’s like a family reunion when we come on down!”
There are over 40 car clubs in the El Paso area, all part of the distinct lowrider culture. According to an earlier interview with Javier, Slow and Low club founder, “El Pasoans have our own style of lowriding. We’ve got a lot of crusiers, a lot of hoppers. We’ve got a lot of show cars. Overall, we’ve got a different variety of custom. We’ve got street custom, mild custom, full custom, radical custom. But when it comes down to it, we’re just one big family. All the car clubs get along. We’re like a big united family. Different names, same game.”
[More photos on our Patreon page.]
El Paso, Texas. April 2018.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we entered the auditorium at the El Paso Shriner’s Temple for a night of wrestling. Lucha Libre, a Mexican form of wrestling, is known for bright masks, gymnastic-like maneuvers and tumbles, and dramatics in the form of both rivalries and wrestling holds.
We arrived early last Friday night, paid our $12 for front row seats, and watched as the room filled up. We noticed large families with young children, soldiers from nearby Fort Bliss, and self-proclaimed wrestling nerds.
Next to us was a Dad with his young daughter, D. He explained that not only did he have 40 different wrestling masks, but his daughter had quite the collection as well. Several years ago, back when the local El Paso Lucha Libre scene was starting to pick up, he dragged his unenthusiastic daughter to a match. By the time they left, she was in love with the drama and athleticism of Lucha Libre. (That love was clear from both the giant grin and the purple sequined mask D wore.)
Before the first match even began, the energy in the room was contagious. Fans chanted the name’s of their favorite wrestlers and jeered at the villains. An older woman held up a homemade sign reading “YOU SUCK.” Shriners moved through the crowd, selling raffle tickets for a “life-sized” wresting action figure. Even knowing nothing, we soon found ourselves hooting and hollering.
El Paso, located with one foot in the American Southwest and the other in Mexico, is home to a unique brand of Lucha Libre. Here you’ll find strands of American wrestling mixed with the traditions of Mexican wrestling. Wrestlers jump out of the ring and bring the activity into the audience - throwing each other into tables and high fiving spectators. In one particularly heated match, one wrestler grabbed a trashcan and threw it at his opponent, sending old nachos and trash into the crowd.
If you find your self in El Paso, check out New Era Wrestling ent. Their slogan - the best of the very best in the Southwest - checks out.
You can find even more photos over on our Patreon.
James is a true El Paso native. Born here 50 years ago, he remembers when the rivers of the Rio Grande would flood in the Springtime, continually shifting the border between Mexico and Texas.
He grew up speaking Spanish - using El Paso’s distinct Spanish slang - benefiting from family-oriented neighborhoods and the Abeula driven culture of the area. Before increased security and, as he put it, the “tortilla curtain,” Ciudad Juárez and El Paso functioned as one large city.
James left after college, traveling to Europe for grad school and eventually settling into the tech world in Silicon Valley. 10 years ago, with his father ailing James returned to his hometown. Now, seeing the area through new eyes, he’s fallen in love again with El Paso. (Although, he does admit that he’d kill for good Indian food - and, he pointed out, there is a reason “as useful as another Mexican restaurant in El Paso” is a saying.)
We connected with James after first seeing him at the Women’s March El Paso; yesterday morning he found us at Hillside Coffee & Donut Co., noting that a “long-haired, bearded guy with a camera” stands out.
El Paso, Texas. April 2018.
Not only is tomorrow Earth Day, today kicks off National Park Week!
Traditionally, National Parks were free for all visitors during Park Week, although this year they are free only *today*. Which means today is the day - get out and explore!
Our photo is a flashback to our trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, the most remote National Park there is! Located about 70 miles away from Key West, we were lucky enough to visit this past January. Naming a favorite National Park is a tall task, but Dry Tortugas is up there on our list!
Hey, as long as we have you here, and we’re already talking about National Parks, now might be a good time to spring some news: we’re spending the summer working with the U.S. Forest Service - Umpqua National Forest in Oregon! We’ll be the official liaisons between the campground hosts and the visitor’s center, as well as helping out with the Saturday night lecture series. We’ll also be photographing all of the wonders the park has to offer - from waterfalls to the Pacific Coast Trail to hot springs!
Next week we leave El Paso and head back to Florida to finally pick up Saul Goodvan from the shop - and, we’ll spend the next month working our way up and through the Pacific Northwest. We can’t wait to share the journey with you here!