Problems in the Border City
“Office In The Alley: Report on A Project with Gang Youngsters” by Father Harold J. Rahan, S. J. and J. Roberts, M.S.W. is a good place to begin to understand border relations with our neighbors, living on the edge of the Republic of Mexico’s Empire, along the Tex Mex border in 1957. At the time, they were forgotten by their own country and welcomed by a new class of American youth seeking spiritual fulfillment from drugs, which escalated into the declaration of the “War On Drugs” by President Richard Nixon of the United States 1971. I was born the year Father Rahan’s published his work, the first chapter titled “Problems in the Border City” of El Paso.
The first chapter has a cover page of newspaper clippings, with titles that are familiar today, “Alleged Dope Peddler Arrested, Judge Denounces Youths Who Beat Ft. Bliss Soldiers, Girl Is Slashed at Dance in Home, Man Says Six Youths Beats Robbed Him.” These crimes were committed by American citizens, teenage gang members, prior the publishing of Father Rahn’s small book.
Father Rahn writes, “East El Paso is a large area, including middle class residential hones as well as some of the slums of El Paso. The area includes most of the Negroes, a very small but increasing percentage of the population, and is largely Latin in ethnic origin. The fifth area of the city is that section which concerns Our Lady’s Youth Center. Bordered on the north by the downtown area and on the other three sides by Mexico, South El Paso has traditionally been the most deprived neighborhood. It has not been many years since it was referred to as “little Chihuahua.” Today it is known as the second ward or South El Paso.”
He continues, “As I rode my bicycle past on the houses, so old that it appeared to be leaning on the hut next to it, my attention was drawn to a sad-faced boy idly carving on a piece of wood. I hopped off my bicycle and walked up to the lad, who regarded me with hostility in his dark eyes. Ignoring the angry look, I put out my hand and introduced myself. The boy hitched up his dirty khaki pants and half turned from me.”
“Silently I stood there, looking at him, seeing the tattoo mark of the gang on his dark forearm. And in a sudden flash of memory, which sometimes moves us back in time, I became that boy, a member of a rough San Antonio [Texas] gang, angry at the world, at home, at life. I recalled the feelings which had burned, like a steady gasoline flame, within me when I was a teen-aged gang member, and I remembered, too, the hatred which could be assuaged only with fist or vicious fighting.”
On page 41, “What do They Take to Get High” (Year 1957), “Joy popping” with heroin or marijuana is a luxury that all would enjoy, but seldom have the chance because they don’t have the money. Only a few graduate to “h” or “m“ because of the cost. It runs about $10.00 a day to feed just an average-sized habit. There are plenty of addicts in the neighborhood, but it would appear that only a very few of them grow up in an adolescent gang, though nearly all are known and friendly to gangs and kids. A few of the kids pick up a habit from the needle, but generally what happens is that they are picked up with it by the police, and the habit is broken during their stay in jail.”
Bert Kruger Smith, Mental Health Information Services, “This is a true story, a discouraging story, and a story of hope and labor. The Foundation is proud to present to its reader this account of the Bicycle Padre and his amazing work.”
Even today, America refuses to acknowledge the citizenship, rights, and liberties of those of color, most of which are of Texas, Arizona, and California Indigenous descent. Their Ancestors have lived here sense time immortal; they “have a right to be here. No less than the trees and the stars.”
Most appalling, is the wall of segregation, or the dumbing down by Texas education Institutions. Texas for example, drop-outs rates rose to a historic all time high of 30% of all children in the state. Many of these children were of the brightest minds, and the loss of potential contributions of the American body of knowledge is immeasurable. The majority of these children were of color, 2000-2008 the George Bush era, Governed by the infamous Rick Perry.
That’s right, “nothing changes in Texas, but the meaning of law.” One way or another, these people are refused equal protection, oppressed by dominant elite White Class. Most recently, our leaders have addressed the problem, which contradicts education, the proven solution to reduce crime, by making such public statements as, “Do these kids want to go to school?” or articles in newspapers, addressed to these youth who are yet 18 years old, "High school dropouts, do not fear. The Republican Party will protect you from Barack Obama's efforts to keep you at your desk"
I have good reason to believe, the Republicans that put this article together, keep their own kids in school at a desk – no exceptions! They don't want their children to end up in prison or worse, a morgue from a gunshot wound or drug overdose.
Lastly, many Americans, most of which have no association with the Tex Mex border, falsely believe that the majority of these crimes are committed by labors crossing the border seeking work. I highly recommend the small book, “Office in the Alley, Report on a Project with Gang Youngsters” by a Jesuit Priest born in the small town of D’Hanis South Texas.
“One knows that continued efforts, hard work, inspiration, and sweat will at long last fulfill a dream, the dream that social justice brings about decent living conditions in which people may dwell in dignity (Father Rahm)”
G. N. O'Dell 05/18/2012
Full Article on line at: http://educationbalancedhealthymeaningfullif.blogspot.com/2012/05/tex-mex-border-story-by-jesuit-priest.html
Rahm, S. J., Father Harold J. , and J. Robert Weber, M.S. W.. Office in the Alley: Report on a Project with Gang Youngsters. San Antonio: The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, 1957. Print.