artist / argentine american jew / politician
When's the last time your socks got wet? Like drying crunchy, smelling funky wet? For me, it was in a summer shower courtesy of El Paso, TX. I admittedly had the wrong shoes on, University Red Air Max 1s. Despite knowing this, I bolted out of Peter's Ford Escape for the opportunity to say I had been in Mexico, even just for a second. We stood at border marker one and I saw a family walk by on their quest to scale a sandy hill to my right.
I had finished making a fool of myself for an Instagram story about having one foot in both countries when it started to rain. Peter motioned toward the car, it was time to go. As we started to move, the family was making their way back down and I asked if we could wait to take their photo.
The next words out of his mouth weren't even directed at me. He calmly walked over to the matriarch and said, "Señora, ¿puede mi amigo tomar su foto?" So yeah I got wet, but it was worth it.
"I think this El Paso is the final frontier."
"Home is a good meal. Home is food. I don't know how many cultures that's true for but certainly, in my Argentine Jewish household it was.
We would have Sunday asados (roasts.) My dad would grill steak, chicken and we had a little bit of wine or whatever. We'd have picaditas (little snacks) like cheese, salami and crackers. And that was Sunday.
It was very interesting because of the mix of different languages. There was some English. My grandmother didn't really speak Spanish but she spoke Yiddish. My grandparents didn't really speak English, they spoke Spanish and Yiddish.
Food was not just a place of nourishment. Food was a language. Food was a form of communication, of exchange and of love."
On El Paso
"El Paso is the final frontier. We had Jeff Sessions come here, a month or two ago, with his overblown and incorrect rhetoric about this being a beachhead/ground zero(against illegal immigration.)
I think there is a little truth in that. We are a beachhead, but we are a beachhead of economic opportunity. We are ground zero of the American dream.
There are countless families that have looked to El Paso as a place of economic opportunity and mobility. This is a place for immigrants and Americans to better themselves. We, here, value the ability to cross. We look at having another country/city next to us as an opportunity, not as a threat.
That's what it means to be from here. When you drive down the highway on one side you see UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) and on the other side, you see colonias. And growing up here, no matter who you are, that leaves an impression upon you.
You can't wall yourself away from the world. You need to be a good neighbor and you need to have compassion and empathy. Because our issues and our opportunities are shared."
On the border
"El Paso and Juarez are one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented cities and regions.
There are no two cities as large or as interconnected across the 2000 mile long U.S./Mexico border. Over two and a half million people live here sharing the same valley, the same air and water.
That's a tremendous story. And there's a tremendous economic opportunity here as well and a cultural one. We understand more than most how to treat neighbors, how to treat ourselves, how to live and negotiate in this world where borders are increasingly being put up.
The streetcars that we're renovating right now are the same ones that used to run 500 times a day between the two cities. Each one of the streetcars, which could be a museum piece, will soon be up and running and celebrating a time where the border was a different concept.
The fact that there used to be a streetcar that ran between both cities, let alone 500 a day, is incredible. It wasn't a tourist thing, it was the economic driver.
We had the highest grossing J.C. Penney's in the United States in the 1950s. It wasn't in Chicago. It wasn't in Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles. It was in El Paso, Texas.
You had Mexican national shoppers come day in and day out spending their hard earned dollars and pesos. They would come and then take the trolley back home.
The act of crossing is what makes this place unique. The same way jazz defines New Orleans, New York has its skyscrapers and Miami has its beaches.
And so when you have this sort of rhetoric of "we need to build a wall, we need to secure our borders," it's funny. We understand border security here more than anybody else. What we understand is that true border security is economic security. Plain and simple. You want to kill the cartels? Bring in 100,000 more jobs. That's how you make this region more secure. It's economic opportunity and investment. And that comes down to transportation and infrastructure investment."
"The relationship to Mexico is much closer and bigger than people realize. Mexico is the no. 3 trading partner with the U.S. and no. 1 with Texas. That's something to invest in and to celebrate."
On changing the world
"Action is where change can occur. You can't change things just by going on to Facebook and reposting and retweeting things. How you live your own life and how you engage with those around you can spur real change. Venting on Facebook without any action is the biggest scam."
"Judaism has this concept of Tikkun Olam, which translates roughly to heal the world. This is the central tenet that led to a lot of social justice action and movement within modern Judaism.
This is why you had a lot of Jews coming in from the northeast to the south to help register voters and help with the Freedom Rides. It came from this concept.
The idea is that we're supposed to leave the world a better place than we found it. This isn't just a belief. It isn't just something I believe. It's a call to action.
You want this world to be better? You've got to act on that."
From El Paso, TX
Lives in El Paso, TX