Morning glories! This month my Tell Us About (TUA) co-hosts are getting together to write to Marsha’s theme choice – hometowns. It was also Marsha’s turn to select the theme for the Ageless Style link-up this month. That post goes live today, too. You can check out my October outfit, here.
Tell Us About
Are you new to the Tell Us About series? Let me tell you about it!! TUA is a global writing challenge where bloggers from all around the planet(!!) respond to a different prompt on the third Thursday of each month. I joined the group about 4 months ago and have so appreciated the invite to do so, and the opportunities to do some creative writing on my blog. You can find my other TUA posts here:
Tell Us About –
- Gardens and Gardening
- Ways I’m a Curiosity
- and my theme choice for last month, Legacy
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Please find the places and posts where I link-up on this page.
Tell Us About 10.2023: Hometowns
When I first started thinking about the hometown prompt, I asked myself, “Self, where is YOUR hometown?” Is a hometown the place you are currently living? Or maybe the place you were born? Might be the place you’ve lived longest. Could be the place that feels most like home. Even the place where your parents or siblings live.
In my case, those would be a number of different locations.
- I was born in Buffalo, New York and lived there 4 years
- From there, we moved to Brookline, Massachusetts where we were for 6 years
- When I was going into sixth grade, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee (actually, Bartlett, outside of Memphis) and I lived there 8 years until my sophomore year of college
- moved to Knoxville, Tennessee for 3 years to finish college
- back to Memphis for a year after graduation
- off to the Republic of Panama for 3 years
- Ft. Hood, Texas for 9 months
- followed by 3 more years in Panama…then…
The Final Hometown
Finally, on Thanksgiving weekend, 1988, we drove into El Paso, Texas from the east side of town. We (my daughters, their father and I) had returned from Panama earlier in November but spent time visiting both of our families before reporting to our new duty station at Ft. Bliss.
It was 101* on the Wednesday that we pulled into town. Our first priority was to get lunch for the girls. We drove west on I-10 until we came to a McDonald’s on the side of the interstate. I was a little taken aback that almost every sign and billboard in the area was in Spanish. Daniel and I began to think we had somehow inadvertently crossed into Juarez, Mexico. Tired from the drive and needing to stretch our legs, we decided to go into the restaurant to eat and use the restroom.
At the counter, the employee greeted us in Spanish and continued to speak Spanish as we placed our order. With some concern, we asked the cashier if we were in Mexico and she laughed, explaining that were in the U.S., about 2 miles north of the border. I quickly determined I would frequently be using the broken Spanish I had picked up in Panama a lot while living in El Paso.
I ❤️ El Paso
From the moment I drove into El Paso, Texas on that Thanksgiving weekend I felt like I was home. This big little city has a rugged beauty with the Franklin mountain range towering over it and dividing it in two. The people are humble, hardworking and friendly; accepting of all cultures and ethnicities.
There is a decidedly Tex-Mex flavor to much of the architecture, the food scene, entertainment options and even the language. We have mom and pop (or mami and papi) Mexican restaurants on every corner. Our Triple A ball club, the Chihuahuas, embraces El Pasoans’ love of that nervous dog breed. The University of Texas at El Paso or UTEP Miners represent the industry that helped build this city. And Ft. Bliss, a 1.1-million-acre Army base where the 1st Armored Division is stationed [source]. Seven percent of El Paso’s 678,049 residents are retired military – just like us. Folks who were stationed at Bliss, retired and decided to stay.
Crossing the Border Before
The first bridge crossing the Rio Grande at El Paso del Norte was constructed more than 250 years ago [source]. There are now several bridges serving the border. For years it was safe to walk across the pedestrian bridge to spend the day shopping, eating and meandering in Ciudad Juarez, El Paso’s sister city, then walk back into the U.S. before dark. Almost all of the children I taught had pleasant memories of visiting grandparents and other family in Juarez, playing outside, going to the mercado. We used to watch the ‘mules’ carrying women from Juarez – dolled up in pretty dresses, carrying their heels in their hand – on their shoulders to the El Paso banks of the Rio Grande. But beginning in 2008, a drastic increase in drug violence changed all of that. People had visas, day passes and passports to travel legally between the 2 countries. Even with the rio-crossing mules, there was some control over it all.
Now I have no idea what is going on with our current immigration policy or lack thereof. I understand that there but for the grace of God go I. I am blessed beyond measure to live in the United States, with all her imperfections. But there is a right way and wrong way to do everything. And what is happening now in the border cities of Texas, and my precious El Paso, is not working.
My 💔for El Paso
This jewel in the desert southwest is being crippled by the incredible number of people crossing into this border town and impacting an already financially strained and impoverished community. My heart is breaking for my hometown. The overall poverty rate is 18.31% [source]. Only 59% of El Pasoans own their own home so it falls on the shoulders of those people, and their property taxes to sustain the city and her people in many ways [source]. As it is, we struggle to take care of our own. And now, we are seeing as many as 2,000 immigrants cross into our city a day [source].
Our airport, recreation centers, vacant public schools, hotels, and shelters are full. Emergency funds are depleted. The men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency no longer understand their jobs. Rather than protecting our border with Mexico, they are now serving as the welcome wagon for immigrants turning themselves over to officers every day.
Those Who Turn Themselves In
And what happens to those who do turn themselves in? For more than 2 years, there has been a constant stream of immigrants going through security at the El Paso International Airport. The airport gates have become ‘dormitories’ where immigrants sleep waiting for flights. Early in the crisis, the people who turned themselves in were fitted with ankle monitors and given court dates to return to El Paso for their immigration hearing. Some were put on planes – our airport was opened to immigrants who camped out inside – but closed to family members of travelers coming to or leaving the city. Immigrants continue to fly out of El Paso, but our Greyhound bus station and now our Amtrak train station are also being used to transport immigrants.
Where are the ankle monitors now? The court dates?
Within a 5-mile radius of my home, there are at least 3 immigrant shelters. U.S. Customs and Border Protection – El Paso Border Patrol Station, Nations Tobin Rec Center, and a huge tent city, 3 miles from my home, which won’t come up on Google Maps but is out by the Texas-New Mexico border and the Edge of Texas restaurant.
We are being overcome. If you want to see the real story of the El Paso border immigration crisis, click here, and here, here and here. Skim the headlines of the immigration articles on El Paso Matters.
And have these people been vetted? Have we investigated their background, done security checks? Who are these people? Would you or I be allowed to just march into France or Germany, Australia or Great Britain and demand food, lodging, clothes without proper paperwork, without a visa, a passport, proper immunizations? Who is paying for all of this? Before you answer the federal government is paying for all of this, please read this article, here.
And why are we suddenly opening our southern border to just anyone? To mostly young men under the age of 40. Why?
This was the scene at the border earlier this month. It is terrifying to me.
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When we went to Chalk the Block downtown last Sunday, the train station had been turned into a processing center for immigrants.
When I took Purrcival to the vet clinic 2 weeks ago, there were immigrants begging on every street corner around the clinic. One of the middle schools where I have worked as a substitute librarian has become a shelter. We took these pictures 2 weeks ago.
My💔 Breaks for the People
But what about all the getaways? Those people who cross into the border without turning themselves into CBP. Our city streets and parks are home to hundreds of these people. Downtown, city blocks have become tent cities at times…until officials make a grand sweep to clear them like the one done before Biden’s momentary visit a few months ago. This past week, the park in the center of downtown hosted the annual Chalk the Block event in San Jacinto Plaza. Until last weekend, that area was home to hundreds of immigrants who did not surrender themselves to CBP, camped out on the sidewalks and grass.
Before Chalk the Block –
Days before Chalk the Block –
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Did this family turn themselves in? Or are they getaways? Chances are they are the latter. Or they would turn themselves into CBP without crawling under concertina wire. This location where they are crossing is along the Border Highway. With the gates and doors and walls wide open, why are they crawling under concertina wire to enter the country?
Then there’s the stash houses all over our city for those smuggled over the border and those getaways looking for someplace to go.
In FY23, agents in the El Paso Sector encountered 280 stash houses with 3,640 migrants, up from 240 stash houses with 2,618 in FY22,” CBP said. The El Paso Sector would like to remind the public that criminal organizations place migrants in harm’s way and often hold them in undesirable conditions.
And the smugglers fleeing pursuit with no regard to safety. Their safety, the safety of the people they are smuggling and the citizens of El Paso with whom they are sharing the road. This happened last night! Officers conducting a pit maneuver during a chase of illegal immigrants in El Paso’s Upper Valley.
These kinds of things are happening on our streets at an increasingly alarming rate. The DPS warns about watching for unexpected pedestrians on all of the major thoroughfares near the border.
I took this photo on the way to PC’s ball game. This is Border Highway. The red X is a building in Juarez, Mexico. This particular area has been very popular among getaways crossing the border. A number of immigrants have been killed running across Border Highway at night. This is the area where the South American family was crawling under the concertina wire in the video above. Check out this video.
Another popular area for the getaways to cross and disappear into the city is along I-10 near the University. This video footage was taken around the UTEP campus earlier in the week.
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A pedestrian was killed in the early morning hours today attempting to cross I-10 near UTEP. The pedestrian is suspected to have been an immigrant.
Earlier this year, Lauren and her family were traveling one evening in this same area, returning home from dinner, when a fleeing immigrant had just hit by several cars. The body of the individual was in several pieces on the interstate. She and the girls were unable to look away in time. I am sorry for the immigrant who put himself in such grave danger but I am also sorry for my daughter and her young children who had to experience this. Equally sorry for other El Paso motorists who have been involved in similar pedestrian accidents due to no fault of their own.
I will never forget a little girl I noticed at the El Paso airport before departing on one of my last flights to visit Mom. There was something about her. She was with a young man but the 2 of them barely interacted. The child had no belongings, just the clothes she was most likely given at one of the shelters. The young man was better dressed, and held a packet of papers, a manilla a folder that he consulted over and over. Maybe it was the mom in me or the teacher in me, but something just didn’t look right, seem right between them. I pray that child is safe wherever she is.
Home, Sweet Home
I want to end this post on a positive note. El Paso is a wonderful place to call home. I have raised 2 children here, and they both would call El Paso their hometown. As a single mom, I was able to buy my first home in El Paso because housing is affordable.
The El Paso Independent School District gave me my first real job, 10 years out of college. And even though my major was art ed, with a minor in library science, and very little experience, they hired me as a librarian. That opportunity morphed into a career I loved that spanned 25 years+. A career that had me working with the poorest children in the most impoverished communities of our city. Speaking my little bit of broken Spanish always punctuated with a smile and a hug. The people of El Paso welcomed me with open arms: my students – even the members of the Fatherless, Diablos, and Tularosa gangs; the parents, the teaching community, my neighbors.
Our climate is a bit extreme in the summer. This past summer had everyone grumbling when we surpassed 70 days of triple digit heat. But fall, winter and spring in El Paso are all amazing.
When the girls’ father and I divorced, I had only been here a little more than a year. But El Paso had become home. My parents thought I was a little crazy (and I still am) for staying here and not moving back home to Memphis once the divorce was final. However, in that short time, I had made friends, created a home, started a career and watched my daughters blossom. How could I leave?
Hometown or Home Town Round-Up
Are you still there? I hope so. For enduring this long-winded, video-heavy post, your reward is popping over with me to visit the hometowns of the other Tell Us About hostesses. Won’t you join me? You don’t even have to leave your chair, just click on the links below!!
- Marsha who blogs at Marsha in the Middle admits that even though this month’s prompt was her idea, she wasn’t quite sure what road to follow. She decided to just meander her way through memories and places from her hometown.
- Deb at Deb’s World lives in a very small rural town in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW Australia, with the captivating name of Tumbarumba. She’s made the town her home, with her husband and three daughters (now grown up and flown the nest), for over 30 years and is almost considered a ‘local’. It has a poem all about Tumba-bloody-Rumba.
- Gail at Is This Mutton explains why she’s a Janner as she takes us on a tour of Plymouth in the southwest of England. The city is famous for the Pilgrim Fathers and felled trees.
- Throughout her childhood, The Frugal Shopper, Penny lived in 3 very different places but could hardly call them her home towns but she thinks what she does remember of them might be of interest. On reflection, after writing this piece, she now thinks there ought to be a Part 2 where she reminisces about the many other places she’s lived in, but Part 1 will have to do for now!
- From Mary Katherine at MK’s Adventures in Style loves her hometown, which is quite different from its famous namesake, and pronounced differently, too!
- Suzy at The Grey Brunette’s journey from Rotherham to Portimao, her cozy Portuguese hometown, unfolds a tale of seafront serenity and the vibrant life of Praia da Rocha, offering a slice of Algarve charm.
Our friend, Sue at Women Living Well After 50, won’t be joining us this month or next but will back with us soon.
What does hometown or home town mean to you? In preparing for this post, Gail created 2 graphics because we in the U.S. say ‘hometown’ – 1 word. But apparently practically everyone else says ‘home town’ – 2 words. Which is it for you? And where would your hometown be?
Thank you for coming by. This post was a long time in the writing. It took the stuffing out of me to put it all down in words and pictures because my heartaches for the immigrants who long for a better life and the people of El Paso. This open border policy is not working.
As children, both of my son-in-laws immigrated to the U.S. with their families. Francisco, Lauren’s husband, lived in Juarez, Mexico and he and his parents and sister immigrated to El Paso when Francisco began college at UTEP. They have become American citizens since.
Mustafa, his mother and sister fled the Taliban in Afghanistan for Pakistan when his father was killed. When Mustafa was an adolescent, they immigrated to the U.S. They have become American citizens.
They immigrated the right way.
There should be a legal process for immigration that is safe and fair for everyone. I pray we (re)adopt such a process soon.
Coincidentally, and yet not so at all, God put this Bible verse in my path this week.
Hugs and kisses,