Welcome to the “filmmakers’ journal” blog! This site will be periodically updated on the status of the projects and our experiences as student filmmakers while we are in El Paso over the course of the next few months. We are looking to chronicle our experience as young filmmakers embarking on a new project, and the story of the border itself as we find it. Also be sure to check out our Vimeo channel at this link!
For the past week and a half, since June 7th, I have been living at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps house just outside of downtown El Paso, meeting with community members from city and the surrounding areas. It’s been an incredibly educational and challenging process of learning as much as I can about the context and circumstances that exist in colonias in this area, exploring the pitfalls as well as the creative solutions that residents have created for themselves.
As with any community, one can never isolate entirely a single part of the environment from its surroundings. Having also visited the El Paso region briefly for the past three years for spring break, I have gotten small glimpses of border issues, each time trying to integrate the new things I learn into lessons from previous trips. For the past two years in particular, the Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez, has been struggling to address a wave of violence brought on by a conflict between two drug cartels and more recently, the Mexican army, which was deployed to the area starting around 15 months ago and is now being retracted.
It is an incredibly complex and sad situation that I am not in a position to summarize or comment too extensively on, but I will say that the people of Juárez are in much need of attention and accompaniment from the international as well as local and national communities. All deaths in such a difficult context are something to be grieved and given due reflection, regardless of nationality or skin color, and yet the way the situation has been translated is as if the border represents some kind of definitive separation of the value of human life, and also as if the experiences, safety, and well-being of these two border cities are not connected.
In addition to getting a sense of the situation in Juárez, I have been learning a great deal about the history and present realities of agriculture, of housing, of culture, of U.S.-Mexican relations, and of the environment on this side of the border. To try to reproduce it all would take me as many days as I spent learning it. Needless to say, I have been extremely fortunate in these first ten days in El Paso, and have been lucky to have so many members of the community here open up to me, point me in the right direction, and give me so much of their research, their work, and their life stories – and yet we haven’t even begun the process of filming the documentary.
I would like in particular to thank (and probably not for the last time) Gina Núñez-Mchiri, Howard Campbell, and Irasema Coronado, all professors at the University of Texas, El Paso, for their support, conversation, and contacts; Nacho Martinez and Jose Camacho for letting me into their homes; Pema Garcia from the TAMU Center for Housing and Urban Development, for all her guidance; Sisters Peggy, Janet, and Carol, for their support; the wonderful Promotoras, Maria and Rosie, in Socorro; the great people at the UTEP Library Special Collections; Fr. Eddie Gros from Sacred Heart Church; and especially the residents of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps house, who have been incredibly welcoming, helpful, and great company who gave me a home as soon as I arrived. With their help, I feel like I have been able to create the beginnings of a foothold in understanding the communities we’ll be working with, and can’t wait to take the next steps of the project.
On a last note, our first piece of footage!