A sandy riverbed and a few bridges are nearly all that physically separate El Paso, Texas, from Juárez, Mexico. That short distance belies over a century of history that may seem insurmountable to some. But for Alfredo Corchado, that expanse can be crossed with a pen.
The son of a bracero (manual laborer), Corchado, 57, moved to the U.S. from Durango, Mexico, with his family at the age of six. As a kid, he picked crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and then went on to study journalism while working at the restaurant his family opened in El Paso. This upbringing is one of the reasons the award-winning journalist and author considers himself binational. “I always felt very much Mexican, but as you look back now … you realize that you’re really not one or the other, but part of a North American community,” Corchado said.
Strengthening those binational ties and helping residents on both sides of the border understand one another has been his life’s work. Now the Mexico City bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, he’s spent his career reporting from both countries. Corchado has covered everything from Vicente Fox’s historic election in 2000 to the drug wars that have impacted border communities like El Paso and Juárez, despite the death threats facing journalists who cover Mexico’s drug cartels. In addition to writing two books, he trains students on how to effectively cover the border and binational issues, through Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism.
And while the surge in nationalism and protectionist tendencies on both sides of the border concerns him, he is convinced that the ties between the two countries are difficult to erase. “It’s the cars we drive, it’s the music we listen to, it’s the tequila we taste. … We’ve become more one community than two separate communities.” For Corchado, the nearly 36 million Mexicans in the United States, and the roughly 29 million U.S. tourists visiting Mexico annually, effectively make the border a bridge linking a single North American community, rather than a barrier between two different worlds. That’s one reason he chooses to be optimistic about the future, even in today’s strained political climate.
And his journalism serves as a vehicle for crossing that bridge. Corchado calls it the perfect tool to “humanize” the issues that currently divide the two countries he calls home. “I was born in Mexico, raised in California and Texas,” he said.
“The border defines me.”
García is a production and social media editor for AQ