<–USA Side Mexico Side–>
— Elizabeth Perez
(Roxana Vasquez/NYT Institute)
Don’t be afraid of the south side. That’s what I tell people who have never been to Tucson, Ariz. Every city in the world has what it calls a bad side or a ghetto. Though these places may be seen as a rough side of town, the cultures that exist there are not all bad. The important thing is to respect the tradition and beliefs of the people who live on the other side of the invisible line. The south side is an important and beautiful part of Tucson. It represents the future, success, the old and the new.
I was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, but migrated to Tucson in 1988, so basically I’ve seen Tucson grow with me. The south side, to me, represents my Mexican-American culture and the rest of the people who share my identity. It holds within its streets and neighborhoods messages of how it has grown and changed.
Many buildings south of downtown Tucson, their paint peeling away with time, show how the architecture of the area has evolved over the years. Shrines from faithful individuals keep alive an ancient wall that has been up since the 1800s, where believers still share their wishes and stories by tucking letters into the cracks. How can we preserve such beauty and history? How can we show the world how much it means to maintain these old places?
Many people who come from Mexico or South America decide to stay on the south side of Tucson because of their fear of not being accepted in other areas of the city, like the foothills of Tucson, where the majority of the population is Anglo. Ely Muñoz, 28, from Oaxaca, Mexico, sells her oranges from a parking lot, helping her family with a little more money during the holidays. How threatening is that?
A hard-working mother raising a little more money is something inspiring. You’ll find sweet people hanging about the same way you might find bad people. Maria Lopez, 62, rests her arms on the fence in front of a house, waiting to speak to whoever will talk to her.
Many people who have moved from Mexico have been successful at the businesses they’ve established because they have catered their services to the local culture. But they have not denied or discriminated against anybody. They are there for everyone. You just need to cross the invisible line. Francisco Medina, 67, from Nogales, Mexico, owns his own barber shop on the south side, and he welcomes anybody who needs a haircut. With 42 years of experience, he’s unlikely to screw up your ’do.
Having people like Medina as a role model on the south side shows how dedication and hard work can make success possible. It helps members of the younger generation, like Martin Simpson, 14, to see those possibilities and understand there is a future for them. Simpson enjoys playing basketball, but he also enjoys working with computers — a great skill that will help him in the future.
There are many kinds of people on the south side. Don’t be afraid or shy to learn about a culture that has helped this great city grow.
— Roxana Vasquez
(Roxana Vasquez/NYT Institute)
The Mafia have a reputation for being intimidating. I know this. But at the funeral of Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno today, I found out that even the youngest members of a family can be so.
Bonanno, son of the New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, died recently at age 75 in Tucson, Ariz. It just so happens that I was in Tucson at the right time to be brushed by this man and his family’s legacy.
It was Monday morning, Jan. 7, and at 11 a.m. Salvatore Bonanno’s casket was set to arrive at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church along with hundreds of his family and friends. In town for The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, I was sent to cover the funeral. This was my first funeral, and I was nervous.
Bonanno’s grandsons acted as his pallbearers. I could see in their body language that they were deeply affected by their grandfather’s death. My camera was up and I was firing off frames as they carried the casket to the hearse after the ceremony. Everything seemed normal, but a young boy near the center of my frame, not older than 10, caught my attention. This kid was giving me one of the hardest faces I have seen from an elementary school enrollee. I kept shooting, and he kept staring. At first I thought he was interested in my gear, but then I realized that he was showing me who was boss — this kid was was staring me down.
To be honest, I was a little intimidated, especially with all of this child’s family surrounding me and my cameras. The funny part is, The Times had sent a freelancer out to cover the story. In the shot The Times ran on its Web site, the boy can be seen, a bit from the side, giving me the eye. In my shot you can see that eye straight on.
So keep in mind that there are interesting stories behind the photographs you see in the newspaper.
— Aaron Montoya
Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times