When two border cities were one

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

My column for this week details the story behind a family photograph, taken in 1933 in El Paso. I tell the story of another era of border life, when people crossed easily between the United States and Mexico -- and could, without too much difficulty, obtain permission to migrate to the U.S. legally.

The photograph shows Luis and Guadalupe Chavira, my wife’s grandparents, at the intersection of Mesa Street and Texs Avenue in downtown El Paso. They were then residents of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Luis is wearing a Mexican postal workers’ hat -- he worked as a mail carrier then -- and has apparently decided to take a stroll with his girlfriend after a day of work. Crossing the border to El Paso was a much easier task back then for Mexicans -- a trolley linked the cities.

Luis and Guadalupe migrated to L.A. in 1945. In my column, I pointed out that thousands of L.A. families have an El Paso/Juarez connection. And, indeed, several readers wrote to tell me their stories from those border towns.

Mike Coyazo sent this picture of his mother, Esperanza Cordova, taken in 1939. It’s on the very same stretch of sidewalk as the photograph of the Chaviras, suggesting that it was a regular spot where photographer/vendors snapped pictures and sold them to passersby.


It’s the windows in the background that allow the pictures to be matched -- see the one arched window and another narrow one? All the buildings are still standing in downtown El Paso, as I discovered on my journey there last week, though the area is in decline.

-- Hector Tobar, in Los Angeles.