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Sister Cities Photos by Enrico Rodriguez

El Paso, Texas, 5/2/20. Gianina Rodriguez and Aaron Palacios pose for prom photos amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As with other Texas students, the prom that they anticipated for so long was cancelled. Gianina's family decided to put together a private prom for the couple to give them some semblance of a normal high school experience.

El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico are cities that have long and intertwined histories, resulting in a strong bond between the two. According to the El Paso Times more than 50,000 people cross the border each day to visit family, to tend to their business, or to attend schools, including the University of Texas at El Paso. This coexistence was disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak which brought crossings to a near halt and created an uneasy feeling in the borderland.

El Paso effected a "shelter-at-home" order restricting movements to essential activities. Juarez, on the other hand, advised residents stay home and prohibited large gatherings and events, but there were no individual shelter-at-home orders. Downtown El Paso emptied out, save for the odd person walking their dogs. Construction projects such as the West Star Tower in El Paso were left unfinished. In Juarez many street vendors and small business owners continued operations. However, dentists, doctors, and pharmacies in Juarez, which frequently serve U.S. citizens who cross the border for health care discounts, were shut down.

In both cities, life trickled on.

El Paso, 4/18/20. Texas Loop 375, a highway that forms a semi-circle around the city sits almost empty due to the shelter in place. The highway features multiple entrances and exits to cross into Mexico and is usually filled with trucks crossing over.
Juarez, Mexico, 4/23/20. A woman sells homemade face masks a few feet inside Mexico at the U.S. border. Usually the venders sell candy or offer to clean your windshield.
Juarez, Mexico, 3/30/20. Two women walk down the street holding groceries surrounded by closed businesses. Many of the local restaurants and shops shut down after the president of Mexico declared a state of emergency.
El Paso, Texas, 4/18/20. The incomplete WestStar Tower sits idle in downtown El Paso. Construction of the 18-story tower was planned to conclude by the start of the summer but has ground to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Juarez, Mexico, 4/23/20. An internet café near the center of Ciudad Juarez remained open amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to the internet, a lifeline to families across the border, is not common in this part of the city and the business remained popular.
El Paso, Texas, 4/25/20. Krisset Bodiford helps empty a cracked piñata of its candy, while her husband, Jason, holds the rope. The piñata was hung to celebrate the birthday of their son Asher, at right. Asher's two sisters, Aria and Skyla, were the only other celebrants to what would usually be a lively event with friends and extended family.
Juarez, Mexico, 3/30/20. A mother and her two daughters look at the selection at their local meat market, masks covering their mouths to prevent viral spread. Mexico along with the rest of Latin America was late to adopt safety procedures like these, but the wearing of masks caught on quickly.
El Paso, Texas, 4/18/20. The Socorro Mission, founded in 1640 and rebuilt in 1840, was closed to visitors amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Catholic church is an institution and pillar within the community and attendance at mass was replaced by televised services by the local diocese. The church suffered a reduction in donations. The buildings and priests who run them depend on these donations in to make a living and remain operational.
Juarez, Mexico, 4/23/20. A dentistry and pharmacy stand closed in Juarez, Mexico amid the pandemic. Many private health practices like these operate across the country and people in the U.S. frequently cross over the border to take advantage of cheaper prices for health and dental care.
El Paso, Texas, 4/18/20. Southwest University Park, home of the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team and the El Paso Locomotive football club sits silently on a perfect Friday afternoon.

Juarez, Mexico, 4/22/20. A statue of famous Mexican singer Juan Gabriel was adorned with a surgical mask. Juan Gabriel, popular on both sides of the border, was born in Ciudad Juarez and is a musical icon to the city and across Latin America.

Credits:

Photo Essay by Enrico Rodriguez