Monthly Archives: October 2015

La Mujer Obrera and Día de los Muertos

In El Paso, Texas- La Mujer Obrera, a local non-profit, women’s empowerment organization invites the community to celebrate Dia de los Muertos: Cosecha, Maiz y Mitote on October 31st, 2015 from 3pm-10pm at Cafe Mayapan, 2000 Texas Ave 79901. They’ll be featuring live music, traditional foods and artisans.

For more info, follow the link:

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Notes on Dr. Michael Wolff’s presentation: “Pacifying the Slums: Police and Gangs in Rio de Janeiro”

In today’s guest post, Dr. Brandon Morgan, who teaches at Central New Mexico Community College, writes about the recent talk Michael Wolff gave on campus at the University of New Mexico. For more from Brandon, you can follow him on Twitter: @CNMBrandon His most recent publication, “Colonia Díaz and the Railroad that Almost Was: The Deming, Sierra Madre and Pacific, 1890-1896” appeared in the edited volume Just South of Zion: Mormons in Mexico and its Borderlands.

On Wednesday, October 22, Dr. Michael Wolff, Visiting Professor in the Political Science department at the University of New Mexico, gave an engaging talk on the recent history of conflicts between police and gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The presentation was the second in the fall speaker series to promote the collaboration between the University of New Mexico’s Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) and Central New Mexico Community College (CNM). As such, the talk took place on the CNM campus, and students and faculty of both institutions attended. I am one of the faculty members working to develop new LAS courses at CNM, so I was very happy to see robust attendance at Dr. Wolff’s talk.


Due to my borderlands history background, Wolff immediately caught my attention with his definition of favelas as places that are just outside the attention and reach of state control. Although common perceptions persist of favelas as impoverished shantytowns (which in certain respects they are), the rise of organized drug trafficking since 1993 has driven the creation of developed micro-cities within the geographical boundaries of most favelas. Between 1993 and 2008, criminal governance allowed for the construction and growth of such micro-cities. Rising rates of violence and the increasing power of drug trafficking groups meant that authorities largely ignored events within favelas.

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Queer History, Spaces, and Rights on the Border

Filodiversidad (1)Friday, October 23rd the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Cd. Juárez Campus (COLEF), hosted the “Jornada sobre diversidades sexo-genéricas: Filodiversdad.”  The event featured a press conference promoting the Cartilla LGBTTTI, a Mexican federal legal tool designed to articulate the rights of queer people and victims of sexual violence. Following the press conference, the COLEF presented an academic panel, “Diversidad sexual y derechos humanos”; a presentation of the newly published Queer Geographies; a live performance of Juarez artist, Ramón Padilla; and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the COLEF installation of the Engendering Community Project.  The jornada serves as an excellent example of the intersection of public history, interdisciplinarity, and activism in a borderlands context.

The headliner of the event, Ana Suárez from the Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, joined Alfredo Limas of the Universidad Autónoma de Cd. Juárez and event coordinator Salvador Cruz (COLEF) for the opening panel on sexual diversity and violence.  Cruz, a social scientist interested in masculinities, youth, and violence, offered a theoretical context for the event’s discussion.  Limas, whose work focuses on gendered violence in Juárez, offered a discussion of alarmingly hateful online response to media coverage of LGBT civil rights advances.  Providing a policy-based perspective on gendered violence, Suárez described the Cartilla and its function as a legal standard.  Though she emphasized that civil rights are not negotiable, she recognized the challenges LGBTQ Mexicans face and lamented that many of them feel exercising their civil rights is a far-fetched dream.


Joining the event to promote Queer Geographies were project coordinator Lasse Lau and contributor Felipe Zúñiga-González.  Blending provocative short essays and striking photography the self-published work explores queerness, activism, and visual arts in Beirut, Tijuana, and Copenhagen.  A must-read for folks interested in queer theory, space, and sexuality, this gritty work even takes the reader cruising for sex in the bushes of a Copenhagen park and in the online chat rooms of Tijuana.  The book’s most innovative feature, “A Hands Routine,” comes in form of a folding map.  Describing a different type of clandestine rendezvous, the timeline of in-car hand holding documents Lebanese artist Omar Mismar’s everyday decisions to hide or come out.

11063580_10153179791150823_8132968282906796884_nLike Queer Geographies, the Engendering Community Project aims to celebrate the experiences of queer people in marginalized spaces, notably the border community of El Paso-Juárez.  Started over five years ago as an oral history project by the former director of women’s studies at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Brenda Risch, Engendering Community evolved into a hugely successful public history exhibit which ran from June through September at UTEP’s Centennial Museum.  Explaining the project’s trajectory and the feminist/ethical impulse to have the project available for participants and the public on both sides of the border, J. Aaron Waggoner (this author) inaugurated the COLEF opening.  Though the exhibit will be only be available at its current location through early December, it will provide a space for ongoing conversations and organizing.

J. Aaron Waggoner is a Doctoral Candidate in History at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Categories: Book and Journal Reviews, conferences, News and Announcements | 1 Comment

Sunday Reading Suggestion: Fuentes and the Forsaken Borderlands

In 2012, writing for the New York Times, Kyle Jarrard reflected on the life and literary contributions of Carlos Fuentes shortly after the author’s death in May. The crux of this article considered how Fuentes wrote about the border and he described its significance for Mexico and the United States as a liminal space of personal interaction, violence, and escape. As Jarrard described it, Fuentes wrote about the “ghosts” of the region and the stories they carried about a place on the periphery of the nation-state:

But it is not a romantic sojourn: He hits hard at both Mexico and the United States for letting the borderland sink into hell, and gets grief for it, of course, from the North, where they somehow doubt his convictions. “When I satire Mexico I’m a great satirist. When I poke fun at the United States, I’m a mean, clichéd caricaturist. It is curious that one should always get pallid anemic WASPs as critics.”

Those aren’t the words of a man who doesn’t believe entirely in all he writes, of the power of the people on his pages, of their absolute reality: They are you and me, and there is no space between them and us.

This is the vicarious joy Carlos produced: A love for the tragic fact of life here and now, for the auténtico, and for the unending voyage through history to see again that so much never changes. Generals or their progeny will always occupy the president’s office; gringos will always come over the border, drink and then go off into the perilous night in search of finality.

For the full article, follow the link:

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A Paradise from Some, Harsh Reality for Others

The Guardian reports on the heartbreaking reality of everyday life along the border. At Organ Pipe National Monument, there’s a tourist boom underway with visitor rates increasing by 30%. The landscape in this part of southwest Arizona is beautiful and certainly should be known by more people. Yet, it’s also a very dangerous area for migrants arriving via Mexico, and many risk their life to do so. As the article says, two very different pamphlets, one in English, the other in Spanish, underscore the sharp contrast between tourists and migrants at this park:

“Immerse yourself in a photographer’s paradise!” advises a glossy tourist brochure. “Explore the abundance of plants and wildlife unique to the Sonoran desert. Guided walks through the park, as well as hiking trails, camping and picnic facilities, are available. Drive the scenic 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop … star-studded night skies wash away the modern world.”

An identical-sized pamphlet on cheap paper, which you find in Mexican towns bordering the park, offers starker tips in Spanish.

“Use the north star and the movement of the moon to guide you towards the north during the night. Carry one gallon of water in each hand and six litres in the backpack. You can drink cactus fruit but the skin has nearly invisible spines. Peel carefully. If you have no water, drinking urine can sustain you for a while. Don’t do it repeatedly because it will become toxic.”

For the full story, follow the link:

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Michael Wolff to Speak at CNM

If you’re going to be in the area, Dr. Michael Wolff will be speaking at Central New Mexico Community College, next Wednesday, October 21. The topic he’ll be presenting is his work on the “pacification campaigns” in Rio de Janeiro’s slums by state forces against local criminal organizations. It should be a great talk. Dr. Wolff, who teaches at the University of New Mexico, has also researched the politics of violence and organized crime in Mexico, particularly in Ciudad Juárez.

For more information, check out the flyer. The talk is part of the Latin American Speaker Series, hosted jointly by CNM and UNM.


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Call for submissions: Edited volume on U.S. Internal Borderlands by Center for Western Studies

Dear readers, we’ve learned from Augustana University that the Center for Western Studies is looking for contributors to a new collection edited by Jon K. Lauck. The subject matter is the American Midwest and the Great Plains; the project is titled, “In Search of the Interior Borderlands Where does the Midwest End and the Great Plains Begin?”

The deadline for proposals is 20 November 2015 and chapters will be due on 21 October 2016. For more information, as well as how to submit your topic and CV, follow the link:
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Sunday Reading Suggestion: All Borderlands Are Ghost Lands

Dear readers, we wanted to let you know about an excellent new essay Ranbir Singh Sidhu has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books titled, “All Borderlands Are Ghost Lands.” He reflects on the refugee crisis in Europe informed by his own family’s history, when his mother and relatives were displaced by the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Writing eloquently and powerfully about the plight of refugees and how this ordeal scars the historical memory of one’s family, readers may find parallels with the regional crisis occurring in Central America and along the U.S.-Mexico border. From the essay:

In the end, all borderlands are ghost lands, and every border is painted in blood. Many of those fleeing today, caught in their exhaustion and despair on our television screens, carry with them similar stories. Behind those faces, that far too many in Europe are demanding to be shut out or deported, are often epic and tragic tales. The vast majority of people do not leave their homes, their memories, and their hopes to face the prospect of death by drowning simply for the possibility of economic gain. Real desperation drives them, and the near certainty that their lives, should they stay and somehow survive, would be lived among ruins.

For the full read, follow the link:

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Oscar Martinez to Speak at UTEP

FYI, for readers who will be in the area…

Flyer-Oscar Martinez

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Fellowship in Latino Studies from The School for Advanced Research

Good day, BHB readers! We just came across an interesting fellowship opportunity and wanted to share it with you. The School for Advanced Research, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is accepting applications for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship in Latino Studies. Qualified applicants will have completed their PhD in anthropology, history, sociology, religious studies, Latino/Chicano Studies or related fields by the application deadline, which is November 2, 2015. For more information, follow the link and good luck!

Details for the fellowship:

How to apply:

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