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The Stranger.  

"The stranger is thus being discussed here, not in the sense often touched upon in the past, as the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the person who comes today and stays to morrow. He is, so to speak, the potential wanderer: although he has not moved on, he has not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going.​"

Georg Simmel

We stayed three blocks up from Barrio Duranguitos, behind the current baseball stadium which seemed sparsely populated. We walked down the overpass behind the stadium, along the  murals made by the Jellyfishcollectivo-- which are amazing. The battle betwixt business interests from both sides of the border who want to build a new ball park and tourist center and local activists who want to preserve this historic neighborhood.


The idea of building a new ball park, which seems dated even for this dusty, sleepy city brings to mind the first photograph I took of El Paso back in June. A smart car, and an 80's Buick wait for an endless train of military equipment-- Jeeps and Tractors, Earth Movers and Red Cross Trucks roll by for nearly twenty minutes. It reminds me that cities are always in battles between the modern and the traditional ways of life. In this struggle our lives, complicated and difficult and full of suffering are each little pieces of global price-points, underground exchanges and the economies of war. 

So who is the stranger?  Maybe that is a question that is important when we think about immigration, refugees, borders. There's no way someone like me is anything but a stranger to El Paso. I show up here and wander around aimlessly, I stare directly at stuff like this large metal fence dividing everything and ask questions like, "Wait. What's going on, there's already a wall?" These conditions of border existence which have become crud in the corner of the eye for locals, just like border guards and my totally inadequate Spanish. 

But on another scale, the inequities of nationality and ethnicity, mean I walk anywhere in this country with the privilege of being more 'at home' than many people who live here. For instance, I don't have a passport. Every time I come back to Boston from El Paso, I intend to do the paperwork and then get busy and fail at it. Like most people, I hate standing in lines, I'm afraid of official buildings and I don't like paying for expensive documents, so still no passport. Even though I don't have the many hurdles that any immigrant faces. So, I figure I just won't go to Mexico. But everyone I talk to in El Paso tells me I should go. Tells me that not having a passport is no big deal. That they won't give me a hard time at the border.  At very worst a ticket. Its obvious I'm American and the border guards won't hassle me. Not such a stranger after all. I'm kind of aghast and just keep asking, "you mean, because I'm white?" People nod. Still I'm too afraid to do it. 

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