LA FRONTERA EL PASO - CIUDAD JUÁREZ
A VIRTUAL TRAVEL BOOK FROM
BY ROMINA CENISIO
Our mission is to redefine how we interact with the environment in order to
here we discover the borderland of El Paso-Juรกrez, as well as a bonus story with interviews from four National Geographic photographers.
As part of a collaboration with National Geographic photographers, a capsule shows the beauty of Earth through four dresses that portray each element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each dress, made from recycled plastic bottles, takes you to a different part of the world, where interviews give details on the story behind the photo. For our first virtual road trip, we delve into the border of El Paso-Juárez, traversing both sides, from wild deserts to natural hot springs and woman-owned art studios. An eternal destination, Infinite Resort crosses boundaries, allowing us to discover the Earth more deeply. The locations in the dresses, as well as the border, highlight places most know of but have never been to, leaving much to be discovered. Nestled in the heart of the arid Chihuahuan desert, the sister cities collectively harbor 2.7 million people. The terrain of this borderland is made up of vast landscapes—the rugged mountains hold a quiet beauty in their timeless wisdom, much like the culture local to the area. Taking you on a journey to a place few people ever get to know outside of their social media feeds, and where most headlines speak of crises and violence, I’ll aim to show you the beauty of the place I call home.
Welcome to Infinite Resort - first stop, White Sands Desert.
31.7619° N ---EL PASO--106.4850° W
- Romina Cenisio
White Sands National Monument, NM
Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, Ysleta, TX
Hot Spring, Truth or Consequences, NM
Lincoln Park, El Paso, TX
Tequila’s Discoteque, El Paso, TX
Franklin Mountains, El Paso, TX
Malicia’s Funhouse, Ciudad Juárez, MX
Centro, Ciudad Juárez, MX
Ni En More, Ciudad Juárez, MX
Red Sands, El Paso, TX with Nat Geo Interviews
32.7872Â° N ---2. WHITE SANDS--106.3257Â° W
600,000 years ago, an ancient gypsum sea dried up and became what is now White Sands National Monument. What looks like sugary-white sand is actually gypsum broken down in sand form. Here, in a desert so big you can see it from outer space, the endless dunes are a recreational site for sand surfing, camping, seekers of spiritual experiences, and epic sunsets. Over time, the plants and animals have evolved to also be white and therefore camouflage with its surroundings. A truly unique sight, this desert has a rich history spanning indigenous vision quests, legends of hidden treasures, and even claims of holding portals to alternate dimensions.
33.1284° N ---3. TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES--1 0 7. 2 5 2 8 ° W
Truth or Consequences
In a tiny town located directly on the Rio Grande bordering Texas and New Mexico lies one of the richest ancient mineral hot springs in the world. Containing 36 minerals coming straight from the groundâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;T or C, as locals call itâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;has been attracting people seeking tranquility and healing water since the early 1900â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Many describe it as taking a bath in Mother Earth, and in the past was even said to heal all ailments with a 21-day soak regimen. Visitors to certain locales such as the Riverbend Hot Springs, pictured here, can go from soaking in the hot spring to jumping in the cold Rio Grande river, a truly exhilarating experience sure to make you feel brand new and connected to Mother Nature.
33.722428° N - - - 4 . T E Q U I L A’ S D I S C O T E Q U E - - 1 0 7. 3 2 0 0 3 2 ° W
My personal favorite spot to go dancing, Tequila’s is an El Paso staple for dancing to authentic Mexican music from El Norte. Cumbia, norteña, corrido and live banda keep the lasered dance floor pumping all night long, where vaqueros come out in their best looks - crystal cowboy boots and all. All ages above 21 can be found here - young couples, older couples, and families with their parents and extended family, Tequila’s never ceases to tug at my heart strings with newly made memories and wild nights.
Malicia’s Funhouse, Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico
The painting Camelia la Tejana, page left, is how she envisioned the woman in a famous corrido song by Los Tigres Del Norte. This song in particular told of a woman who shot her narco lover after picking up kilos of cocaine for him, only to be told to take her half and leave, so he could be with his love, another woman. Corridos, a poetic ballad and genre of Norteña music, are said to be real stories, and Malicia always imagined the woman took the money to Europe, bought Versace pants, but would stop on the way and get drunk in the desert, mourning the loss of the traitor. On the night we hung out in Juárez, we stopped in her favorite bar La Cucaracha, with old news clippings of Mexican trans women performing in the 1930’s, and climbed over trains while running from stones being thrown at us from... Well, we don’t know because we got away, but in a city where feminicidio is commonplace, this moment was an underlying reminder of the reality of danger here. Malicia is currently working on directing her first short film and is, quite possibly, one of the baddest bitches I have ever met.
33.722428° N - - - 5 . M A L I C I A’ S F U N H O U S E - - 1 0 7. 3 2 0 0 3 2 ° W
Malicia is a Juarense artist who describes her artistic style as “bordertown pop melancholic surrealism.” Growing up with the US only steps away from her house, Mexican culture and border life is a heavy influence on the melting pot of her art. Her progressive parents, witchcraft, rock n’ roll, and other classic icons of mainstream art are subverted in her surrealist fantasy.
Ni En More
31.723206° N ---6. NI EN MORE STUDIO--106.442926° W
Over the border in Ciudad Juárez, the brand Ni En More has created a safe space for marginalized women who have been victims of violence. For decades, Juárez has had a history of some of the highest rates of feminicidio and disappearing women on Earth, many of them found murdered on the outskirts of the desert. Ni En More represents a genuine connection to nature and nurture, making handmade clothes that are imprinted with flowers and plants, many local to the Chihuahuan desert. Using special dye processes that transfer the pattern to the fabric, the garments end up a soft, abstract print specific to the plant. The women are not just given jobs, but are taught the skills to build a career path, while immersed in a safe supportive space. Purchasing any of their lovingly made clothes means supporting the growth of their studio while also wearing an item literally infused with Mother Nature.
Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo - Tigua Tribe
The Tiguas are a Puebloan Native American tribe and the oldest community in El Paso. With a connection to the land spanning hundreds of years, they were able to survive in the arid Chihuahuan desert mainly because of Hueco Tanks, pictured below, a set of mountain sized boulders covered in natural hollows that fill with rainwater. A phenomenon of nature and spiritual sanctuary for thousands of years, it has more masked pictographs than any native site in the country, dating back to 6,000 B.C. Plants such as the mesquite tree have provided food and firewood for thousands of years.
Special thank you to Richard Hernandez and Rick Casado of the Tigua Conservation Counsel.
31.6832304° N - - - 7. T I G U A C U LT U R A L C E N T E R - - 106.319670° W
Tribal leader Rick Casado is working on an herbal medicine book passed down from the elders, which explains how the native plants are used. Today, the Tigua tribe is actively teaching their children about the importance of agriculture at a young age. On the weekends, the youth hold social dances, photo upper left, and feasts are held throughout the year where even a drum named Huanshiru, meaning Thunder, is treated as a live being and has been passed down since the 1600’s.
Dating back to 1981, Lincoln Park, or more locally known as Chuco Park - El Corazon de El Paso, is a symbol and epicenter of Chicano history located under the highway on Durazno Avenue, containing community-organized murals as well as the location of legendary low-rider shows. The term Pachuco, slang for a subculture of Chicano culture, and popularized because of the style, originated in El Paso-Juárez in the 1930’s. This term is an endearing reminder of the roots of El Paso’s nickname “Chuco Town”.
Here I met with Mr. Crazy Chuco Town, a local legend and rapero, who was in prison for 10 years for gang violence. Since his release, he’s been an advocate for spreading the message that you’re more than your past, and your past does not define you or your future. He describes the life of a Chicano as “life in turmoil”, not American enough for America and not Mexican enough for Mexico. The Chicano movement was and is, among other things, a way for Mexican-Americans to create their own space—a third party in the middle of both cultures, Chuco Park is a symbol of Chicano pride of past, present, and future.
31.776477° N - - - 8 . L I N C O L N PA R K- - 106.439067° W
PHOTO COURTESY OF MAT TIE KANNARD
PHOTO COURTESY OF MAT TIE KANNARD
31.911688° N ---9. FRANKLIN MOUNTAINS--1 0 6 . 5 174 3 8 ° W
The Southern Border of US-Mexico consists of 2,000 miles of borderland and is one of the continents most biologically diverse regions. Even though deserts may look mundane and even “dead”, they are very much thriving and alive. Plants, animals, and insects live in a fragile ecosystem that requires natural migrations along our border lines. Desert plants such as the ocotillo (next page, right), with the ability to grow 20 feet tall and live as long as humans, blooms with bright red flowers in spring, a source of water and food to hummingbirds and other desert creatures that have evolved with it for millennia. Anything that would possibly obstruct the natural migration of 2,000 miles of ecosystems would have devastating effects on our planet.
Cd. Juárez - Centro
The El Paso-Juárez border is a place of complex beauty, chaos, and culture. Those of us who have grown up on both sides have stories to tell that are unheard of, and so specific to the region that one has to have experienced them to understand. Ciudad Juárez is a city almost entirely untouched culturally by the outside world due to its remote location and reputation for violence. What people fail to see is its close proximity to El Paso, one of the safest places in the country; that it’s a one-minute walk from downtown, and that once you cross that line, everything you know about laws and government ceases to apply. The social issues in Juárez are deep-rooted. From the poverty, corruption, cartel violence, feminicidios, and natural influx of immigrants, the border is best described by lesbian Chicana activist Gloria Anzaldúa as “an open-wound, not of either country... but a Third Country all on its own.” The issues that Juárez faces have been here long before, and will remain long after, the headlines that announce the city’s sorrows, but we can only hope that we make progress in the right direction by focusing on strengthening the community and spreading positive change. However, if you dig deeper than what headlines suggest, you’ll find in Juárez a friendliness, resilience, and sense of community, where authenticity only begins to express the feeling in a city much unlike anywhere else in the world. Everyone has their own relationship with Juárez, but to be from here is to know a distinct way of life. Though I grew up on the American side of the border, I often spent time in Juárez; my dad worked in a factory there my whole childhood. He recounts memories of running behind trash cans while eating lunch at the taco stand, when the cartel would show up and open fire, and of women not showing up to work, never to be heard of again. It was quietly known that they had been victims of feminicidio. I have varied memories of Juárez: From wandering the mercado with my family on the weekends to dancing at the tiny cantinas and mega clubs with my friends. Nights would end eating from a street cart, retrieving stolen cars from the cops, and sometimes, fist fights and hospitals. Some of those places are now shut down because of shoot outs by the ruling cartel.e
Try and imagine the place you were supposed to go have dinner for your birthday got shot up in open fire, and that almost everyone you know has a story to this effect. And then imagine that your affection and love for this city is so much stronger, that the energy is so special, you still go regularly because what you feel and experience here is like no place else in the world. The border is at once so much worse and altogether so much better than anything you will ever see in the news, a confusing feeling of nostalgia and impending danger... Juรกrez is the realest place I have ever experienced, and to have grown up on the border is my biggest privilege, for there is nothing more humbling than getting your street smarts as well as falling in love in one of the most perilous places on Earth.
31.738851° N ---10. ciudad juàrez--106.483959° W
31.831466° N ---1.RED SANDS--106.079416° W
Red Sands is a local spot known for itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unmonitored off-road gatherings, where hundreds of enthusiasts show up on the weekend with their 4x4 vehicles or even horses. This location was where I spent many weekends as a teen, literally bouncing down sand dunes in quads and getting lost in the desert with nothing but a dead Nokia. The scene is out of a movie, with all types of vehicles zooming through, music blasting while bonfires light up the sky as the sun sets over the horizon. Here I shot the Earth Day look book, with dresses made of recycled plastic in collaboration with NatGeo photographers, featuring their work on each dress. Visions of desert goddesses taking over off road vehicles in the nature inspired collection, each represented their own element: Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
E L E M E N T
D R E S S
Who: Stephen Alvarez, longtime National Geographic photographer and founder of Ancient Archive (ancientartarchive.org) What: Virgin Rainforest in the Ora Doline Where: Island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea When: 2007 while on a long expedition for National Geographic Magazine exploring the caves of New Britain The story: “New Britain is a remote island in the Bismark Sea with some of the most dramatic caves in the world. I led a 3-month long expedition to the island to explore those caves. We spent most of the time working from a remote base camp carved out of the virgin rainforest on the edge of an enormous sinkhole. We would venture into the caves for days at a time then return to base camp to rest and resupply. The morning that I shot this image I had just returned from a 36 hour underground trip. Before crawling into my tent to sleep, the near constant rain stopped long enough for a clear view of the far side of the sink hole. The mist parted and it was so beautiful, so primeval, I felt lucky just to be able to witness a place like this.”
*A portion of profits will be split between the Nature Conservancy of New Guinea and Ancient Archives.*
Currently working on: “Since 2016 I have been working on a project called the Ancient Art Archive. It is a nonprofit dedicated to exploring and preserving humanity’s oldest stories. For most of humanity’s existence, we haven’t had written language. Our stories were recorded as images in caves and on rock walls. Many of those first stories are still around. The AAA uses photography and VR technology to record and share those stories. I firmly believe that those oldest stories help bring people together.”
E L E M E N T
D R E S S
Who: Frans Lanting, Published National Geographic Photographer, Conservationist, Author and Speaker. What: Monarch butterfly migration Where: Michoacan, Mexico When: 1980’s The Story: “Monarch butterflies migrate between the United States and their wintering grounds in Mexico. It’s an epic migration. They cover thousands of miles and reproduce as they go along. They will colonize North America from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast. But at the end of summer, newborn Monarchs fly south and gather at one place in the mountains of southern Mexico where they hibernate for the winter. When I first visited the Monarch’s wintering grounds in Mexico back in the 1980s, more than fifty million of them gathered there. That’s when I made this image. They turned the forest orange and branches broke off trees from the weight of butterflies. The Monarch population has declined by 80% in the last two decades and experts now advocate that they be listed as an endangered species.”
*A donation was made to the Frans Lanting Conservation Fund in exchange for photo usage.*
E L E M E N T
D R E S S
Who: Bruce Omori, conservationist and volcano photographer What: Active volcano of Kilauea Where: Near a vent called Pu‘u ‘O‘o, in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, island of Hawai‘i When: This particular photo was shot on 11/24/17, as I was documenting Kilauea’s activity. The story: “While flying in an MD-500E over an active flow from Pu‘u ‘O‘o, I noticed a fresh breakout, and directed the pilot to it. After descending to altitude about 30 feet above the molten lava, and hanging out of the helicopter, I was able to capture a one-of-a-kind abstract of the amazing patterns, textures and colors!” Currently working on: “I’ve been documenting Kilauea’s eruptive activity since 2008, as a photo journalist, and as a fine art photographer. I’m obsessed with lava. [Laughs.] Growing up with asthma and an allergy to sulfur, I was kept away from the volcano by my mother (she was a nurse), and that created this obsession with volcanoes! This mesmerizing force of nature is mind-blowing, as it can be so destructive, but yet it creates…. so powerful, and so beautiful!”
*A portion of profits will be donated to the Nature Conservancy, Hawaii Chapter.*
E L E M E N T
D R E S S
Who: Andy Mann, National Geographic photographer and underwater explorer What: Big Eye Snapper Where: Richelieu Rock, Thailand When: 2015 on assignment for the Waitt Foundation The Story: “A mesmerizing school of big eye snapper, which at times would totally encompass the reef we were diving, called Richelieu Rock, in Thailand. Like an underwater ballet, I sat for a long moment just observing the beauty before swimming into the school and making this picture. Moments like these are what draw me back to the Ocean. It’s an incredible honor to bring moments like this to people who would otherwise never see the beauty of the worlds fragile oceans.” Currently working on: “Currently I am working on multiple campaigns in Antarctica, Bahamas and Cuba with Sea Legacy working to create healthy and abundant oceans for generations to come.”
*A portion of profits will be donated to Sea Legacy.*
Custom boots made in collaboration with Alex Boots.
31.738851° N ---10. ciudad juàrez--106.483959° W
COVER: Video Still, Romina Cenisio PGS 1-2: Video still, Paco Ibarra PG 3-4: Google satellite PG 5-6: White Sands, Photo Romina Cenisio PG 7-8: Truth or Consequences, Photo Romina Cenisio PG 9-10: Tequila’s Discoteque, Photo Romina Cenisio PG 11-12: Malicia’s Funhouse Left page, original painting by Malicia @surreal_majestad; Right page, Photo by Romina Cenisio, original art by Malicia PG 13-14: Ni En More @nienmore; Photo Romina Cenisio; Models, Angelica Gutierrez Perez, Karen Benavides PG 15-16: Tigua Tribe, Left top, photo Romina Cenisio. Bottom left and right photo courtesy of Texas Parks Department PG 17-18: Lincoln Park, Pictured, Mr. Crazy Chuco Town @mrcrazychucotown, Photo Romina Cenisio PG 19: Mural unknown, photo Romina Cenisio PG 20-21: Photo courtesy of Mattie Kannard @newmexmattie PG 22: Mural unknown, photo Romina Cenisio PG 23-26: Franklin Mountains, photos Romina Cenisio PG 27: Boundary of US-Mexico, Photo Romina Cenisio. PG 28: Photo Sergio Acosta PG 29-30: Ciudad Juarez, Photo Romina Cenisio PG 31-32: Photo Sergio Acosta; Models - Ashley Evans, Cici Chavez, Adriana Manriquez, Valeria Alexandra, Britney Lizette, Naomi Garcia, Yanis Pacheco; Make Up - Yanis Pacheco PG 33: Photo Sergio Acosta, Model Britney Lizzette PG 34: Photo Stephen Alvarez PG 35: Photo Manny Soto PG 36: Interview, Stephen Alvarez PG 37: Photo Manny Soto, model Naomi Garcia PG 38: Photo Frans Lanting PG 39: Photo Sergio Acosta PG 40: Interview Frans Lanting PG 41: Photo Sergio Acosta, model Adriana Manriquez PG 42: Photo Bruce Omori PG 43: Photo Sergio Acosta PG 44: Interview Bruce Omori PG 45: Photo Manny Soto, model Ashley Evans PG 46: Photo Andy Mann PG 47: Photo Sergio Acosta PG 48: Interview Andy Mann PG 49: Photo Sergio Acosta, Alex Boots collaboration PG 50: Photo Sergio Acosta PG 51-52: Photo Manny Soto; styled by Ashley Evans PG 53-54: Photo Manny Soto PG 55-56: 35mm photo of me and my bff on her quinceñera day in 2002 CREDITS: page, left: Puente Santa Fe, Photo Romina Cenisio BACK COVER: Video Still. Interviews and text: Romina Cenisio. Copy Editor: Karina Zatarain. Special thank you to: my mom, Bruce Omori, Stephen Alvarez, Frans Lanting, Andy Mann, Alex Boots, Jacky Tang, Gerlan Marcel, Anna Trevelyan, Rollin Chan, Marisa Cedillo, Richard Hernandez, Ni En More, Mr. Crazy Chuco Town, Manny Soto, Sergio Acosta, Ashley Evans, Paco Ibarra, Naomi Yasuda, Raul Lopez, Karina Zatarain, Sammy Lopez, Cynthia Cervantes-Gumbs, Gia Kuan, Elvin Tavarez. Thank you to every person along the way who shared openly to help bring this to life. Thank you to the borderland of El Paso-Juarez that raised me, and to Earth, to whom we all owe every breath we take.
*Profits from this zine are being donated to the Fianza Fronterizx Fund to help bail out detained immigrants on the border.*