Photos: the Borderlands free from stereotypes

Experience the banalities, triumphs and fragility of life on the U.S. - Mexican border.


Detention cell. Paso del Norte Bridge, El Paso, Texas, 1984
Bruce Berman

In Cutting the Wire, photographer Bruce Berman frees the Borderlands from its stereotype as a place where barbed-wire-topped walls loom over the poor and desperate, revealing a more complete reality where ordinary people experience the banalities, triumphs and fragility of life. In photographs taken over four decades, readers gain a sense of the complexity of this region, where religion is painted on the walls and the desaparecidos are remembered on telephone poles.

Berman’s images are accompanied by the rich and illuminating poetry of Ray Gonzalez and Lawrence Welsh, who tell the story of the Borderlands through artfully crafted scenes and narratives. “These are real places, real people, real images brilliantly portrayed in photos and words,” author Daniel Chacón wrote in a review. “A lot of artists just don’t ‘get it’ … so it’s refreshing to see a representation of our region from people who know what life is like here.”

Cutting the Wire: Photographs and Poetry from the U.S.-Mexico Border
By Bruce Berman, Ray Gonzalez and Lawrence Welsh
136 pages, softcover: $29.95.
University of New Mexico Press, 2018.




The Virgin’s Car Wash. El Paso, Texas, 2006.
Bruce Berman
Home Town

If I quit writing about El Paso, would
the Chihuahua desert remain in upheaval?
Would historic buildings rise after being
torn down in a desert that never ages?
Concordia Cemetery might return my
grandparents or my father’s family
who never let me be.
My grandmother Julia’s house, where
I was born, was left standing after
the freeway was built.
The 2006 flood erased nostalgia,
making me reread her books of mud
etched in brown walls disappeared.

If I quit walking Paisano and Texas Streets,
would childhood friends stumble out of cantinas
to wonder where I’ve been? Remember who
smashed the pickup and got away?
A mountain lion wandered into downtown
El Paso and was immediately shot dead.
When Pancho Villa entered the town, he hid in
a grand hotel and watched his mistress undress.
He took Juárez in 1914, stray bullets killing a few
El Pasoans watching the battle atop railroad cars.

What if the tortilla factory on Piedras never burned?
Would its chile burritos fill my Grandfather
Bonifacio who worked Arizona railroads after
fleeing Villa’s men? They held the fourteen-year-old
conscript in a locked pen until he jumped


Angel of Juarez, Mexico, 1999
Bruce Berman
It Flew Away

Image of hands inside the clay jar
with mud dripping beyond attention
and a design where strange figures
are bent over, the vanishing advice
stolen by a prophet and hidden inside
a conception vessel where the circle
dance is painted on the walls of
the mind where the event took place
without the thinker being aware that

the story is fire intended to reveal
how much the mouth contains the object
until the string of beads reaches
the stomach, the eater swallowing
to prove that those possessed are
blessed from within and not from
above, the photograph an attempt

to unveil what it means, when it was
taken, and how easily the figure in
the background resembles a ghost
that is not supposed to be there,
preserved by hands inside the clay jar,
parchment papers on the rack drying
until the text is translated by someone
who speaks the language.


Muralista. Segundo Barrio, El Paso, Texas, 2006.
Bruce Berman
Shadow Burn

on sunland
at cemex
covers where
the rio grande
west texas sun
new mexico
and throws
what’s left
on the mountain
and disappears on
a local’s wall


Chaplin before his date. The day Old Blue Eyes died, My 14, 1998.
Bruce Berman