The only sounds in the tattoo studio are rock music and the buzzing of two tattoo machines. In the 71-year-old pawn shop across the street, it's silent except for the humming air conditioner and a telenovela playing in the background.
For the most part, an empty quiet fills El Paso's downtown and keeps local businesses in a stranglehold. As a ban on non-essential travel from Mexico drags on into its 16th month, businesses in the border city have seen cash flows shrivel and have struggled to stay alive after up to half their customers vanished.
The US government first banned non-essential travel from Mexico to curb the spread of COVID-19 in April 2020, and has extended the restrictions every month since then.
"What was once a thriving street is now a ghost town," Jon Barela, CEO of the economic development organization Borderplex Alliance, told Insider. He noted that up to 30% of retail sales in this area were made to Mexicans before the border closure. "It's had a devastating impact on many of those small businesses in our region."
In Dave's Loan Co, a cramped pawn shop in one of the oldest buildings in town, the owner has met disintegrating foot traffic and a dwindling loan balance with somber resignation. His parents owned the shop before him, and his grandparents bought the building when he was seven years old.
"We've been here 71 years. What else can I say? It's very hard to see it like this," Baron said. "We've spent our whole lives here."
Though he loves the carousel of eccentric people and items that cycle through the doors, he lives off social security benefits since he can't afford to pay himself a salary anymore.
His tiny shop is crammed floor-to-ceiling with pawned off oddities, ranging from the typical to the unsettling. What Baron says is a real mummy brought in years ago by a mysterious customer faces the cashier counter (sticker price of $15,000), and a blackened, wizened finger purported to be Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa's trigger finger is displayed in a shadow box in the shop window.
Built in the 1870s as a horse stable, the building was allegedly frequented by Billy the Kid, Wyatt Erp, as well as the other desperados, gunslingers, and outlaws during its wild west days, Baron said. But now, the store is hemorrhaging cash, neighboring businesses are shuttering, and the downtown is filling with "for rent" signs.
"What can you do?" Baron said.
Located in a bend in the Rio Grande, El Paso's downtown juts up against a port of entry where a trickle of cars and pedestrians pass back and forth from Ciudad Jurez, El Paso's twin city on the other side of the border fence. The two cities' histories and communities have been knitted together for generations families and friends live on either side of the border; people cross to work, shop, and socialize; and roughly $72 billion worth of international trade crosses into El Paso from Juarez every year.
The closure has made in-person gatherings in the US practically impossible and cut off a crucial source of revenue for many El Paso businesses. It's unclear when the travel restrictions will lift or even what requirements would have to be met before that happens.
Tom Fullerton, an economist at the University of Texas at El Paso, estimates that local businesses lost $200 million in retail sales in 2020 due to the border restrictions.
"If the border ever re-opens, that is a lot of pent-up demand," Fullerton said.
In August, the Department of Homeland Security extended the restrictions until September. In the meantime, other businesses have found new ways to reach Mexican customers who are barred from crossing. At a 39-year-old boutique dress shop, where girls often bought their prom and quinceaera dresses at the same place that their mothers first tried on their wedding gowns, the owner now hand-delivers wedding dresses to her clients in Mexico.
Elodia Perches, the owner of Bridal Novias, said around half her customer base was from Mexico before the pandemic. Last year, her revenue plummeted by around 90%.
"The only reason I'm in business still is because I have a guardian angel," she said. "I feel like, literally, we are blessed."
Fabian Cobos, the owner of Golden Goose Tattoo, said his business was on the brink of shutting down during the pandemic. During the lockdown, he'd often jolt awake from sleep, panicked and his heart racing, wondering when his business and the world would return to normal.
It still hasn't. His store lost around 10% of its customers because of the border closure, but he hopes a lifting of restrictions would revive foot traffic and customers that many borderland businesses rely on.
Despite the economic impact of the border closure, public health experts are divided over how effective travel restrictions are at taming the virus's spread.
"I don't think keeping the border closed necessarily makes any sense since there's already so much COVID in Texas," Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California Irvine, said. "Travel restrictions in general worldwide is like the saying of 'a horse has bolted from the barn' a long time ago."
Armando Meza, chief of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University, said achieving high immunization rates in the US and Northern Mexican states would reduce the risk of spreading the virus once the borders reopen. El Paso's vaccination rate has hit 71%, while Ciudad Jurez lingers at around 30%, with the US promising to deliver 8.5 million vaccine doses to Mexico in the next month.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said vaccine parity between the two regions should be a priority, noting that opening the border would allow areas like El Paso to set up vaccination hubs for people from Jurez and the surrounding areas, where it's more difficult to access vaccines.
"I don't think we can solve this issue by having the bridges closed," he said. "We solve it by dealing with the reality of this situation."
See the rest here:
- 'Black Ink Crew: Chicago': What caused the fallout between Charmaine and Prince? - MEAWW - November 23rd, 2021
- The Sex Lives of College Girls review Mindy Kalings uneven comedy has promise - The Guardian - November 23rd, 2021
- My ex got my name tattooed on his chest to propose to me after 2 WEEKS when I said no, he said it was f... - The US Sun - October 29th, 2021
- Love Island's Liam Reardon gets huge tattoo of idol Sir Tom Jones - Key 103 - October 29th, 2021
- What its really like to be a Hooters Girl: Men think they can treat you a certain way - The Independent - October 29th, 2021
- The Rolling Stones Last Great Album, Tattoo You, Adds Bonus Tracks and Full Concert in 40th Anniversary Edition: Album Review - Variety - October 29th, 2021
- 100+ Sexy Tattoo Ideas for Women - Sexiest Tattoos for Girls - October 17th, 2021
- Emo Punk Gothic Girls - Punk Rock, Tattoo, Goth, and Emo ... - October 17th, 2021
- Here's Where the Cast from The Social Network Is Today - MovieWeb - October 17th, 2021
- Richard Reiss | Reiss' Pieces: Tattoos and gardens marking the time in lines on our skin and soil - Berkshire Eagle - October 17th, 2021
- Album of the Week: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes celebrate their sins on 'Sticky' - Far Out Magazine - October 17th, 2021
- Jua Cali's Wife Lily Shows Off Tattoo of Hubby's Name on Her Back Tuko.co.ke - Tuko.co.ke - October 17th, 2021
- Torn jeans, tattoos and parental taboos J. - The Jewish News of Northern California - October 5th, 2021
- History Of Tattoo. The Time Of The Appearance Of The First Tattoos. - The Seeker Newsmagazine Cornwall - The Seeker - August 20th, 2021
- Australian Baroques Space Music blends historical composition and astronomical images at the Girls School - The West Australian - August 6th, 2021
- Abi Rawlings: Who is the Love Island 2021 star? - The Independent - August 6th, 2021
- The Unending Allure Of the Tattoo Boyfriend and the Pretty Girlfriend - Jezebel - July 8th, 2021
- Rauw Alejandro, Like the Rest of Us, Has A Big Crush on J.Lo - Interview - July 8th, 2021
- Love Island hunk to wow girls in villa by showing them tattoo of his MUM... - The Sun - June 26th, 2021
- Brooke Shields finds an unusual and very personal way to bond with her teenage daughter - Woman & Home - June 26th, 2021
- Katie Prices fiance Carl Woods trolled over new tattoo of her with fans saying it looks like her rival J... - The Irish Sun - June 26th, 2021
- Tokyo Tattoo Girls on Steam - June 9th, 2021
- Blueface Responds to Video of Women Getting Tattoos, in Bunk Beds - XXL - XXLMAG.COM - May 4th, 2021
- Grandpa wants to bribe girls not to get a tattoo - The Boston Globe - May 4th, 2021
- Heres The Full Story Behind That Viral TikTok Of A Girl Getting Upskirted At A Syd Tattoo Shop - Pedestrian TV - April 19th, 2021
- Ruby Rose on gender, bullying and breaking free: I had a problem with authority - The Guardian - April 4th, 2021
- Traditional Croatian Tattoos: Meet the tattoo artist keeping tradition alive - Croatia Week - March 8th, 2021
- David and Victoria Beckham Have a Matching Hebrew Tattoo Here's What It Means - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - March 8th, 2021
- Exotic Body Works celebrates 25th anniversary - Hammonton Gazette - February 14th, 2021
- Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik now have matching tattoos in honour of their daughter Emirates Woman - Emirates Woman - February 11th, 2021
- I was fired 30 mins into my dream job because of my tattoos my family hate them & people shout abuse but I w - The Irish Sun - February 11th, 2021
- I was fired 30 mins into my dream job because of my tattoos my family hate them & people shout abuse but I w - The Sun - February 10th, 2021
- 10 Celebs Who Have Finger Tattoos | TheThings - TheThings - February 7th, 2021
- Kamala Harris' Stepdaughter Ella Emhoff Is Making Waves Get To Know The Rising Model In 5 Snaps - OK! - February 4th, 2021
- Problems with girls and the Troubles with men - The Irish Times - February 4th, 2021
- New Movies to Watch This Week: Supernova, The Little Things, Palmer - Variety - February 2nd, 2021
- Cops investigated kidnappings, extortions, teen runaways across California. Victims all ended up at same motel, forced into sex trafficking, feds say... - January 27th, 2021
- 'Miss Scarlet and the Duke' Recap: Episode 2 - WTTW News - January 25th, 2021
- The tattoo on her arm said it all: Grace Orzechowski was a fighter - Concord Monitor - January 20th, 2021
- Modern, Edgy And Bold: Different Bob Cuts For Girls To Try - Femina - January 15th, 2021
- What's New on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and More in January 2021 - TV Guide - January 15th, 2021
- KVD Vegan Beauty Announces Launch of Limited-Edition Tattoo Liner with Global Organization, Girl Up - PRNewswire - January 12th, 2021
- Sonakshi Sinha Paints The Town Yellow in an Embroidered Cape Set from the Shelves of Arpita Mehta Worth Rs 39 - India.com - January 12th, 2021
- Musician tattoo stories | Wild and funny tattoos - Alternative Press - January 12th, 2021
- 40+ YA Book Cover Artists and Designers to Follow on Instagram - Book Riot - January 12th, 2021
- FIRST LOOK: Meet the contestants for new reality dating show The Cabins - FM104 - January 5th, 2021
- The Cabins cast: Meet all the contestants in the winter Love Island dating show - The Sun - January 5th, 2021
- What's New on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, and More in January 2021 - TV Guide - January 3rd, 2021
- Gothika Ending, Explained | Why Did Miranda See the Boy's Ghost? - The Cinemaholic - December 31st, 2020
- Tour Tales | Crowned YB shares untold stories of shooting Dave East around the world - REVOLT TV - December 31st, 2020
- An Interview with Gareth Johnson MP by Neve Wilson, Dartford Grammar School for Girls - This is Local London - December 31st, 2020
- Everything coming to and leaving Netflix in January 2021 - Fox News - December 28th, 2020
- Well At Least Some Positives for Women in 2020 - The Citizen - December 27th, 2020
- Jollof Couscous & Leather Jackets: Inside The Mind Of Enny - British Vogue - December 25th, 2020
- This is Justin Vernon from Bon Ivers favourite song of all time - Far Out Magazine - December 25th, 2020
- Family beg dad who disappeared after saying he was 'going away' to call this Christmas - Liverpool Echo - December 25th, 2020
- Shows like Black Widows that you may like; from Django Unchained to Gone Girl & more - Republic World - December 25th, 2020
- Michaela Garechts mother reacts to arrest of suspect in 1988 Hayward kidnapping of 9-year-old daughter - San Francisco Chronicle - December 25th, 2020
- The Interview Gift Guide That Gives Back - Interview - December 23rd, 2020
- 25 Feather Tattoos for Girls in 2020 NewShables - December 21st, 2020
- How sexy these tattoos on intimate body parts of women ... - December 21st, 2020
- How I Met Your Mother: 10 Worst First Dates The Characters Had - Screen Rant - December 21st, 2020
- Sabrina Carpenter's Got Her Very First Tattoo, and It's a Reference to Her "Lucky" Life - POPSUGAR Beauty Austrailia - December 18th, 2020
- Whats New On Netflix In January: Night Stalker, History of Swear Words, Cobra Kai And More - BroBible - December 18th, 2020
- Roxanne First Shares Her Inspirations - Vanity Fair - December 16th, 2020
- So, What the Hell Folk Tales Is Taylor Swift Telling Now on evermore? - Vulture - December 12th, 2020
- The Work Diary of Mira Mariah, Tattoo and Girl Culture Expert - The New York Times - December 11th, 2020
- Strongest girl in the world: Meet the 7-year-old who can lift 80 kg - The Indian Express - December 11th, 2020
- Mum of twins divides opinion after tattooing one baby to help tell them apart - Heart - December 11th, 2020
- Three Oaks wants INKED to raise awareness - Toronto Star - December 11th, 2020
- [150+] Beautiful Wrist Tattoo Ideas ... - Tattoos for Girls - December 6th, 2020
- The girl with her own tattoos: the joy of homemade ink - The Guardian - December 6th, 2020
- 35 Hand Tattoos for Women | Cute Tattoos For Girls On Hand - December 6th, 2020
- Emily Viti's son has MPS and the Framingham High volleyball coach is fighting to find a cure for the terminal disease - Milford Daily News - December 6th, 2020
- Mara and Dona: Argentine twins a living tribute to soccer great - Reuters - November 28th, 2020
- Born into occupation, young Afghans fear the Taliban will crush their freedoms when US troops exit - Anchorage Daily News - November 23rd, 2020
- Environmental contest's winning displays and essays are on exhibit at Jeff Library - NOLA.com - November 18th, 2020
- Tiffany Calver: Living the dream | DJMag.com - DJ Mag - November 18th, 2020
- Blind date: 'We realised we have matching tattoos' - The Guardian - November 16th, 2020
- Tattooed twins from Germany (PHOTOS) - The Saxon - November 12th, 2020