KTEP - El Paso, Texas

El Paso

Border fence at sunset
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

A lot has changed along the border since September 11, 2001. The attack led to the creation of the massive, cabinet-level, Department of Homeland Security and disruptions in daily life for those who cross back and forth. An estimated $330 billion has been spent ramping up border security including doubling the size of the Border Patrol, now the largest law enforcement agency in the country. There's also more technology for U.S.

informal workers window cleaner
Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters

 

EL PASO -- A year after the U.S. border was closed to all non-essential travel, the pandemic has underscored an informal economy that many fronterizos prefer not to talk about even as they struggle to adapt to a new reality.

 

“We were quickly trying to scramble and figure out what we do next,” said Patricia, a single mother of three in El Paso. Her family relied on a woman from Ciudad Juárez to help care for her ailing grandmother.  

 

Border Shutdown Paso del Norte Bridge
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

CIUDAD JUAREZ --It’s been more than six months since the U.S. and Mexico border closed to all but essential travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. The disruption of lives and livelihoods has been widespread on both sides during the pandemic. 

Marco Antonio Corral, 60, has watched it all unfold from the middle of the Paso del Norte Bridge where just over the borderline on the Mexican side he peddles potato chips and cold water to drivers and passengers stuck in idling cars calling out “Papitas! Agua!”  

Ringside Seat to a Revolution by David Romo
David Romo / Cinco Puntos Press

KTEP's Angela Kocherga and guest co-host Alfredo Corchado, Mexico border correspondent for The Dallas Morning News  based in El Paso continue their series of COVID-19 conversations with authors, historians and researchers. Borderland historian and author of Ringside Seat to the Revolution David Romo discusses the health, economic and political implications of pandemics then and now and lessons as El Paso and the region copes with COVID-19.

 

Carmen Lugo and her dog Bunny in the courtyard of the apartment complex where they live.
Angela Kocherga / KTEP

El Paso -- Carmen Lugo cannot imagine being cooped up during the COVID-19 quarantine without her best friend. 

“She’s turned out to be the best little dog. She does everything but talk,” Lugo said. 

Bunny was a “ball of fluff” puppy when she arrived Easter morning 2013. Lugo and her white poodle terrier mix have been inseparable ever since.

“Don’t ever underestimate the power of a pet. They make you think. They make you move. They give you a lot of love,” said the 75-year-old retired hairdresser. 

People walking across Paso del Norte
Angela Kocherga / KTEP

As testing increases in El Paso, contact tracing is the next critical step to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On the border, those close contacts can include relatives, friends and coworkers in two countries.  

“This morning I contacted the health authorities in Juarez to refer them individuals that were exposed to cases that are in El Paso,” said Fernando Gonzalez, lead epidemiologist for the El Paso Department of Public Health.