El Paso, Texas / Ciudad Juárez, chihuahua

Together, known as "Paso del Norte." Over 2.7 million people, this binational region is the second largest metropolitan area on the México-United States border. The Juárez-El Paso region is the largest bilingual, binational work force in the Western Hemisphere. While U.S. politicians in 2016 often spoke of erecting a southern border wall, the United States had already built this wall between the sister cities in 2008.

Image from NASA's "Earth Observatory" site, 2014. Click here to download a high resolution image (from NASA)


"While flying over the border between M[é]xico and the United States, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed these sister cities on the R[í]o Grande. The image shows the second largest metropolitan area (population 2.7 million people) on the M[é]xico-U.S. border. The centers of El Paso and Ciudad Ju[á]rez (image top right) lie close together on opposite sides of the [Río Bravo/]R[í]o Grande, and large residential areas cover the arid slopes in the rest of the scene. The river crosses the entire image as a prominent line and acts as the international border.... The name El Paso refers to a pass or gap in the mountains cut by the [Río Bravo/]R[í]o Grande (known as the Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico). "  

Text excerpted from NASA's "Earth Observatory." Part of the above serves as one of a pair of quotes introducing the collection For Want of Water: and other poems. (Accents and text in brackets added to the original.)



"Crossing the Mexican-American Border, Every Day" (from The Atlantic)

by ALANA SEMUELS, January 25, 2016 

"Padilla’s daily life, and indeed that of many people who live on the U.S.-M[é]xico border, makes vivid the weight of the fates that are determined by accidents of birth. Padilla has more freedom to move around than many of the kids she went to high school with in Juarez because of where her mother gave birth.

But what if Padilla had been born in Juárez? She’d still be the same person: Valeria who grew up in Juárez, who loves La Nueva Central, the old timey-café that serves lattes and pastries and Chinese food in Juárez just down the street from the cathedral, who prefers her beer with Clamato juice, absolutely loves her eyebrows and has never dated a gringo, as she puts it. She’d still be the Valeria who wants to be a film producer, to head to Hollywood after school if she can somehow find the money, who is working on a documentary on the strip clubs of Juárez. She’d just be that Valeria without a U.S. passport and with a harder life."  [more]

An Insider's Guide to Juárez (from The Guardian)

by LUIS CHAPARRO, December 5, 2016

"Juan Gabriel, known as El Divo de Juarez, was a prolific songwriter, flamboyant showman and icon of Mexican music who died this year at the age of 66. He wrote close to 1,800 songs during a career that spanned around 50 years, including the Ciudad Juárez pop anthem, Ciudad Juárez Numero Uno. El Divo was born in Michoacan, southern Mexico, but his artistic career was born in Juárez, where he performed at least one concert a year" [more]

Drug dens v safe houses: the fight over Ciudad Juárez's abandoned houses (from The Guardian)

by IRENE CASELLI, August 11, 2017

"On a particularly hot Saturday afternoon, a former gang member turned community activist, Israel Ríos, appears at the house. 'You are too young for this!' he scolds. Ríos promises to give the assembled kids English classes, despite El Botellas’ insistence that he is not interested in learning. 

Through his work in many abandoned homes, Ríos has become something of a father figure to the young men and women of Parajes de San José" [more]

This microburst crashed down directly over the NWS El Paso radar (from The Washington Post)

by MATTHEW CAPPUCCI, July 27, 2017

"[T]he storm was accompanied by a 73 mile-per-hour wind gust, as well as 1.12 inches of rain."  [more]

El Paso and Juarez know what happens when a wall divides two cities (from Los Angeles Times)

by NIGEL DUARA, January 25, 2017

"When men in olive coveralls began to install 18-foot-high corrugated metal fencing on the international border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in 2008, Carlos Marentes joined protesters who complained that building the barrier was like cutting off circulation to America's own limb.  [more]

Before the Wall:
Life Along the
U.S.-Mexico Border (from The New York Times)


"In this city of 680,000, the border fence juts up against neighborhoods, playgrounds and $400-a-month apartments. It is a two-story wire-mesh structure atop a concrete slab, with layers of older chain-link fencing in front of it. After school, the ice cream van makes its rounds parallel to the fence on Charles Road."  [more]

Four Migrants Die Trying to Cross Rio Grande Into the U.S. (from The New York Times)

by MATTHEW HAAG, July 25, 2017

"At least four people have died since Monday trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas, the authorities said Tuesday, another deadly sign of the extremes to which migrants will go to reach the United States.

Heavy rains have transformed the usually slow-moving stream near El Paso into a treacherous torrent, engulfing people trying to make the already-dangerous journey."  [more]

El Paso has 7th largest immigrant percentage (from El Paso Times)

by DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ, December 2, 2015

"El Paso has the seventh largest percentage of foreign-born residents out of 104 metros in the United States"  [more]

Pope Pleads for Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border (from The Wall Street Journal)

by DUDLEY ALTHAUS & FRANCIS X. ROCCA, February 17, 2016

“The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today,” the pontiff said at a Mass just a few hundred yards from the Rio Grande, which separates the world’s biggest economic power  [more]

Views of El Paso, Texas: A Slideshow (from New York Times Travel)

by MARK HOLM, December 30, 2012

"Looking out at El Paso, Tex., from Scenic Drive. El Paso, one of the largest cities in Texas, is situated at the intersection of Texas, Mexico and New Mexico."  [more]

The future of the US-Mexican border: inside the 'split city' of El Paso-Juárez (from The Guardian)

by SOPHIE EASTAUGH, January 25, 2017

"Between 2008 and 2012, Juárez bore the sinister mantel of world’s most violent city, the drugs trade leading rival gangs to murder at a rate that terrified the community. In contrast, calm, clean El Paso was for four years in a row named the safest large city in the US. The cartel battle in Juárez appears to have stabilised, for now—though October saw a sudden surge in violence. A new wave of restaurant openings and creative culture has brought colour back to the beleaguered city and gradually, El Pasoans once afraid to cross are returning.

At the University of Texas at El Paso, which has a large number of Mexican students, Josiah Heyman heads up the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies. He says El Paso’s residents appreciate the benefits of Juárez as much as the other way around. “The Mexican side is a social safety net for the US. There’s a huge level of use of private medical services [there] because people can’t afford them in the United States.” Around 10-15% of El Paso’s commerce derives from customers coming from Juárez, he adds.

For many, family life is so scattered across the border that no amount of violence could stop them visiting."  [more]

2 Cities and 4 Bridges Where Commerce Flows (from The New York Times)

by LISA CHAMBERLAIN, March 28, 2007

"Many of these people work in Juárez , live in El Paso and shop and dine in both places. Consequently, they cross the border regularly, speeding through the dedicated commuter lanes on two of the bridges that span the river (after passing a Homeland Security background check). [...] the El Paso-Juárez region is the largest bilingual, binational work force in the Western Hemisphere, according to a labor report by the Wadley-Donovan Group"  [more] 

Crossing Pattern

by KENT BABB, June 2, 2017

“Over there [in the United States], you just need to do things right,” she said recently. “I know he’s a good boy. He can commit a mistake, so I want to keep an eye on him.”

Raúl would be following a road map she had outlined for him, an outline shaped by her son’s desire to please and succeed — but perhaps just as much by Cirene’s own failure. More than a decade ago, the family lived in Texas while Cirene studied graphic design at the University of Texas at El Paso."  [more]

The fight for Duranguito continues (from The Prospect)

by ADRIAN BROADDUS, June 13, 2017

"'They said they don’t want to move because they don’t have the money to move,' [Yolanda] Leyva said. 'It’s accessible and affordable for them. So, they signed the contract that they would leave, but they don’t want to leave. [...] They signed these contracts under distress.' [...] 'Duranguito represents one battle, one challenge that we have to fight to preserve yet another neighborhood,' said state Sen. Jose Rodriguez at the protest. 'This is the heart of El Paso, this is the beginning of El Paso. It’s not only the historical buildings we are trying to preserve, we’re trying to preserve the history, the culture, the preservation of life'  [more]

Once the World’s Most Dangerous City, Juárez Returns to Life (from National Geographic)

by SAM QUINONES, June 2016

"Tonight four boys ages 11 to 15—Omar, Alfonso, Eric, and Antonio—hurtle against the ropes, which slingshot them into the center of the ring. They bound gleefully, learning the choreography for such classic moves as the “tiger jump,” vaulting melodramatically into the ring, and the 'scissors,' jumping from the ropes to wrap your legs around your opponent’s neck."  [more]

A Mexico Border Tour (from Americas Quarterly)


"This is the Ellis Island of the Southwest"  [video link]

Femicide in Juárez Is Not a Myth (from The Texas Observer)

by ALICE DRIVER, September 28, 2015

"'The reason it is important to preserve the label ‘femicide’ and not just ‘homicide’ is because there are qualitative differences in the ways in which violence is targeted and carried out,' wrote Roxanne Krystalli, the program manager for the Humanitarian Evidence Program at Feinstein International Center"  [more]


In the order by which they are referenced in the collection of poems:


You Are a Dark Body

by NATALIE SCENTERS-ZAPICO from Poetry Foundation: "of water with a bed of rock barely visible"  [more]

Al revelar lo que hay detrás de la primera cortina

por ADELMAR RAMÍREZ de Marcapiel: "Al revelar lo que hay detrás de la primera cortina"  [más]  

Leaving as a second language

by ANDREA BLANCAS BELTRAN from Gramma: "the wisteria washed out weeks"  [more]

Sobre la desaparición de La duquesa

por MIGUEL ÁNGEL CHÁVEZ de Ciudad Juárez Art and Poetry: "No se merece el sol ni un solo momento"  [más]


by ALESSANDRA NARVAEZ-VARELA from Acentos Review: "If the lord of the house is green, she is red"  [more]

The night before I move out of New York City

by ALDO AMPARAN from Río Grande Review: "I sit on a table in the loneliest corner of the Chelsea,"  [more]

The Spirit with Which It Was Offered

by JEFF SIRKIN from his book Travelers Aid Society: "The politics of the mixed tape demand territorial expansion" [more]

The Grocery Store Across the Tex-Mex Border

por ÉDGAR J. ULLOA JUJÁN de su bloga multimedia "Mi Juaritos": El Pee-wee era un fulano  [más]


by PAT MORA from American Lives in Poetry: "Mouths full of laughter,"  [more]

To the Desert

by BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ from Poetry Foundation: "I came to you one rainless August night."  [more]

In The Cold Ground (Tom Waits)

por EDGAR RINCÓN LUNA de Instituto Cultural de León: "pero hay algo que te mantiene cerca del cielo" [más]

Heritage Speaker

by ROSA ALCALÁ from Boston Review: "What good is it to erect / of absence"   [more]

La Casa

por CARMEN AMATO TEJEDA de la bloga "Antología Virtual": "La luz en la ventana es el indicio"  [más]

On the Transmigration of Souls in El Paso

by BOBBY BYRD from his book with the same title: "Maybe we will be elsewhere"  [more]

The Lost Letters of Mileva

by MARIA MALONEY from her book. "We are blind and delicate."  [more]


por ANDREA COTE de Círculo de Poesía: "A las cuatro y cuarto" [más]

Chio Sam

por SELFA CHEW de Poemas Poetas: "Dice mi madre que no es posible"  [más]

Seeking Oracles

by DONNA SNYDER from BorderSenses: "She gazes at the flame between" [more]


por SUSANA CHÁVEZ de la bloga "Primera Tormenta": "para Linda Escobedo. He perdido la cuenta de tus huesos"  [más]