6/29/11 – Entering El Paso, TX we began a new chapter in our journey. El Paso and Juarez, Mexico combined form the largest city on the border. Juarez is currently the most violent city in the world, mostly from the drug wars. There are approximately eight murders there a day and almost 40,000 deaths in all of Mexico since 2006. Near the border we visited an El Paso branch library and later the downtown main library. After cooling off with water in a street side cafe on the border, we watched the hard-working people of Juarez trudge back home carrying the goods bought in the US and later sold to the American tourists in Mexico. Chihuahuita is the fascinating neighborhood of El Paso on the border. The Chicano movement partly began here. It is almost entirely made up of poor Hispanics and some Asian merchants. We drove along the edge of he militarized border and eventually came to the Esperanza Acosta Moreno branch library in an affluent neighborhood on the edge of El Paso. After seeing the poor Mexicans in Chihuahuita it was surpising to see the wealthy Mexicans here living the American dream. Most of them moved here to escape the brutal violence of Juarez. Given this demographic shift, El Paso is becoming more Mexican and less Chicano. Their library was one of the most interesting modern libraries that we have seen so far. Their kids were playing soccer and the ice cream truck was playing “La Cucaracha” in the 100 degree evening sun.
6/30/11 – As we leave El Paso we fill up the car and fuel up with coffee. Heading east we listen to Buck Owens and encounter the long, straight roads and desert mountains of the region. The name changes here from Tejas to Texas. After going through a Homeland Security checkpoint on the highway we drop down out of the higher desert to the flat plains We immediately experience our first humidity. We enter a vast open region that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is the end of the Far West and the beginning of the Mid West. After several hours the coffee needs to be let out so we pull into the blasted-out town of Pecos to use the bathroom. We had not planned to photograph here because the library looked very plain on Google images. Thanks God for pit stops. The interior of the Pecos Library was crowded and fascinating and the librarian Sally Perry brought the story of Pecos to life. Originally, there had been a Carnegie library here but they tore it down. The new library was too small and they are looking to move. Sally explained how the downtown began to die when the WalMart opened and sucked the life out of the community. Sally was obviously interested in talking with us but, like all good librarians, went off to help a Hispanic grandmother and child instead. As always, the computers were all being used. I was looking forward to visiting the oil town of Midland, home of George and Laura Bush. Walker was not. The cowboy statue outside the Haley Library and History Center was kitchy enough to be great. But the main library in Midland turned out to be one of the best. The Librarian seemed indifferent at first but immediately smiled when I explained we were from San Francisco. She then opened the locked door to the Petroleum Archive Room which had an incredible mural of Midland with images of oil production and George Bush, Sr. prominently featured. I was like a kid in the a candy store. Later, Walker and I had dinner at KD’s Bar-B-Que. In the Texas spirit Fox News was on the big screen TV and photos of George Bush smiled down on us from the walls. My San Francisco presumptions were shaken as we had one of the best meals in recent memory. OMG!