Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Border Life

In her book, On The Border Of Opportunity, Marlean Pugach writes: "I want to cross, I want to know the other side, I want to see how life is or is not like mine when I get there, or at least I want to think about it." This pretty much sums up my philosophy toward other cultures. I love to go and explore the differences, the contrasts. I love to see a new way of viewing the world and note how that differs from my own. I love to discover things that break me out of my box. I love to learn and grow.

I have not lived in the borderland very long. But over the past few months here, and several years traveling to and from this area, I have been a bit surprised about the attitude many people here have toward the border. I am aware, having grown up in the Midwest, that many Americans do not share my fascination with other cultures or people who are different from them. Many American shun it and simply write it off as strange and ignorant. I guess I expected people who live in the border region to be a bit more open. I figured crossing over was more of a part of daily life than it seems to be for many people. Instead, people avoid it. Partially, this is due to violence, which is understandable. But even the information on that is so biased and not representative of reality that I find it sad more people are not interested in the larger city just a few minutes away by car across a few bridges.

We love going to Juárez. In fact, we have not gone enough. I am looking forward to my classes starting in two weeks so I can go over once a week. We went there when I taught in June and to buy some groceries. But when we go, we are excited to explore. We like the new foods, musical sounds, etc. We like to explore what's different from what we know and what's similar. For my wife, this takes on different shades than for me, because she's from Brazil. The similarities to what she knows are different than the ones I see to my world. I don't find driving in Juárez as scary as I had been told. We have never felt in danger. And we generally enjoy the hospitality and friendliness of the locals.

I hope people outgrow the fear as the violence calms, which inevitably it will some day. I also hope that some people will start being more interested in who we are as a region. You can't really hope to understand the culture of this place without understanding something about Mexico and the Mexican people. Not to mention Spanish. It's just too interwoven into life here. We have Mexican sections in grocery stores, even whole large stores of Mexican groceries. Spanish radio stations galore in every format. We have more Hispanic faces than Anglos. It is a part of El Paso's identity and it's sad to see people shunning it.

I am looking forward to learning more. Reading every book I can find. Asking questions of people. Exploring. And I plan to continue doing that. To me, it makes me feel a part of things. I wish more others wanted to do the same.

For what it's worth...

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