-So we're here at the spot where the cattle is coming from Mexico to the U.S., right here.
They're coming in the United States right now.
-And now they're in the United States?
-Yes, last year, we crossed 606,138 animals from Mexico to the United States.
-And people have no understanding, including me, of everything else that's happening at the border that's essential.
-We have a saying in Spanish.
And that's, "We're all eating from the same plate."
-The idea of the border has profound meaning to me.
As a Mexican American, I always feel like I'm treading between two worlds.
I was born and raised in Mexico, then moved to America, and I'm raising my family here.
And I spend my career traveling my homeland, sharing Mexican food and culture with the world.
Are you with me?
I want to tell you things.
♪♪ Now I'm setting my sights directly on the place where my two beloved countries meet.
I'm traveling the Texas/Mexico border, from far West Texas to the Gulf of Mexico to get a taste of life in this truly unique place.
-Welcome to South Texas.
We're just starting.
[ Laughter ] -Oh, take me there.
Take me there.
In this episode, I'm traveling from El Paso to Big Bend, meeting with local artists, musicians, journalists, and chefs on both sides of the border to explore the natural beauty, hidden gems, in close-knit communities that can only exist here.
I'm Pati Jinich, and this is "La Frontera."
-What's the first thing you do when you get to a new city?
To get to know it, I eat it!
For me, I'm always thinking about that first bite of food -- the ingredients, the cooking methods, the people cooking it.
One bite tells me so much.
I'm in El Paso, Texas, just across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana.
So much has been said about the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and I have a lot to learn.
But right now, I'm thinking about that first bite.
And so I asked a friend to show me around.
I keep hearing about how the food here in El Paso is so unique and so different and its own universe.
-El Paso has pretty unique things as far as food that are similar to the ones in Juárez, but they have created their own identity within itself.
Oscar Herrera is one of the region's best chefs.
He owns and operates restaurants in both El Paso and Juárez.
And I honestly couldn't think of a nicer person to introduce me to this food scene.
♪♪ -This is La Colonial Tortilla Factory.
They do thousands of tortillas a week.
And because they sell tortillas, they also sell burritos -La Colonial is an institution here in El Paso.
[ Speaks Spanish ] -It was my grandparents', and then my dad and my uncle took over.
And then now it's my turn.
-How many years?
-It will be three generations.
It will be 48 years total.
[ Laughter ] Burritos in the U.S. and Mexico often look nothing like one another.
But here at the border, burritos manage to retain most of what makes them traditionally Mexican with some strong American influences.
So I've heard that burritos really define the food of the region.
But what's your point of view?
-Without a doubt, the history tells us that burritos started within Juárez.
In our border, the Juárez/El Paso border, it's our bread and butter.
-La Colonial has so many good burritos to choose from.
The first, chili con queso.
In that queso?
It's one bar of Philadelphia and one bar of... -You guys, he's sharing the recipe.
Like, how generous is that?
-You know what.
If you're trying to do it at your home... -It won't work.
-...it won't work.
-And their next biggest seller is another cross-cultural match-up, chili con queso with brisket.
I asked so that you could come in with me, okay?
So, you know -- [ Laughter ] Little did they know that they came in to get their burrito, and I'm going to be making it for them.
But what they don't know is, I'm learning how to make it a burrito.
[ Laughter ] What's the technique?
-So, a little bit of beans.
And now the queso.
And then you fold the ends in.
-Did you guys ask for bean and cheese?
Because that's what I made.
[ Laughter ] Oscar and I are taking these brisket burritos the way they were meant to be eaten -- on the go.
[ Both speak Spanish ] ♪♪ We've got the burritos, we're here, just a couple blocks away from La Colonial.
We're here in El Paso.
Pero if you cross that bridge, you're in Juárez.
-Yes, so this is pretty much the borderline.
-That was good!
It was not good!
The farther away you get from the border, I think the more -- -The farther the reality of the burrito is.
They're smothered with salsa, and sometimes, like, super big.
-So just, like, people don't understand the true burritos from the border.
Do you think there's also a misconception of the people at the border and the communities at the border?
-I think the first misconception -- we had it from within ourselves, that we didn't understand exactly who we actually are.
And on one part, we feel Mexican, but we don't know Mexico, and some other part feels American, but actually don't know America.
We actually didn't know of the value that we had as a binational community.
-To better understand these cross-culture dynamics, Oscar is taking me for burritos again -- over the border, into Ciudad Juárez.
I love being here so much, Oscar.
I personally feel like I've always treaded between worlds.
-My accent is obvious on one side.
On the other side, I might be too white to be Mexican.
And I love the feeling of being here at the border because -- -Oh, because it makes you feel right at home.
For me, crossing the border is something that I have done since I was born.
-The main difference is standard of living versus quality of living.
-So standard of living is what every citizen has access to.
And the standard of living in El Paso, it's a lot better than in Juárez.
You get proper roads.
You get proper infrastructure of the city.
The quality of living is something that is very personal because -- -More subjective.
-Yeah, what defines my quality of living?
-But I think, in general purposes, everybody would like to have some type of help in their house.
-Or a gardener that does your front yard instead of you doing it.
-Well, that's a lot easier to have in Juárez than it is in El Paso.
In Juárez, you can probably have a life of a rich person without necessarily being rich.
-In El Paso, to have a life of a rich person, then you need to be a millionaire in order to have that.
-So in the U.S., you have the standard of living everybody has.
But to be live a millionaire, you need to be a millionaire.
-Yeah, and in Juárez, you don't need to be a millionaire to live like a millionaire.
♪♪ -This is Burritos Sarita, and this is as real as it gets.
-Burritos are a standard icon of Juárez.
And I can already tell I'm going to like this place.
With a "Y"!
She's Paty with a "Y."
I'm Pati with an "I."
-Paty's Aunt Sarah opened the truck 52 years ago, before food trucks were trendy.
I don't even want to try the rest of them.
-[ Laughs ] -I'm, like -- I'm so happy staying here.
The burritos in El Paso were also absolutely delicious.
But if I had to choose where to eat my burritos, I would cross the border to Juárez like a thousand times, which is why people cross to Juárez to eat, right?
-Yes, the beauty of it is that it's pretty close by.
And you can have the best of both worlds.
-We're experiencing the same items, but they're so radically different.
-Both incredibly delicious.
♪♪ -As I start to wrap my head around the fascinating and delicious food themes here at the border, it's becoming more and more clear just how connected these two communities, Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, really are.
One of my dear friends here in El Paso dedicates his career to highlighting that connectivity, one story at a time.
-Half my life has been in Mexico, mostly Mexico City, and half my life in the U.S. -Alfredo Corchado is an award-winning journalist and border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News.
His work takes him all over both countries.
But he still considers El Paso home.
So, we're, right now, in the heart of downtown.
-We are in the heart of downtown.
Everything you see here is a peek into the future of the United States -- -Mm-hmm.
-That we are binational.
We are bicultural.
We are bilingual.
-But it is a fact that people get very scared when they think about communities being binational, bicultural, as if belonging to two things makes you lesser or makes you disloyal or makes you not true.
-But see that's the thing about the border, is that that's reality.
We might have different political systems or different governments, but at the end of the day, what unites us are the blood ties, the bloodlines that run.
-We're one family.
-Would you say it only Mexicans that have families on both sides?
Or is it also Americans?
-You know, that's literally the untold story.
There are so many Americans who live in Juárez and Chihuahua.
-There's the American Mexicans.
The two communities used to blend in.
I mean, imagine a midtown New York City and Brooklyn.
That was the kind of vibe at one point in this community where they really blended.
They went back and forth.
People could just kind of -- could be on one side or the other.
But over the years, security has taken such importance that it has affected the fluidity of people going back and forth.
♪♪ -As connected as these two cities are, the wall here stands at over 20 feet high and stretches on for hundreds of miles over open desert landscape and cuts right through the heart of Juárez and El Paso.
You know, being here and knowing how the wall and the border is such an important presence for La Frontera, of course, and the communities that live here, tell me a little bit about that, and what this means to you.
Like, is that a -- Carlos Fuentes called it a scar, and I think to us these days, it's like an open wound, and it's gushing.
Politicians come in, and it's like, you know, who can do a better job of securing the border.
I mean, that is the cry.
-And we on the border are the piñata.
You know, you just hit, you hit it, you hit it, and then you see what your political points -- you know, how they rise.
The irony is that, if anyone wants security, it's the people who live on the border.
I mean, we're the ones that need to be secure.
But many don't agree that a wall's the way to do it.
-Like the border between many countries, the political border between the U.S. and Mexico has been redrawn over the centuries.
For a long time, parts of this region were part of Mexico.
It's people, along with their culture, didn't cross the border.
The border crossed them.
Every U.S. administration has grappled with the challenge of how to deal with migration.
There have been many policy changes throughout time.
One of these policies was the Bracero Program.
From the 1940s to the 1960s during the post-war labor shortage, millions of Mexicans came for temporary work in the fields and farms on American soil.
Alfredo Corchado was one of them.
-My father came as a bracero.
-And these men were welcome, and their goal wasn't to stay.
Their goal was to come in, make some dollars, and then go back home.
This country is always a bit fickle.
At times, it loves you, and it welcomes you, and it wants to bring you in.
And other times, it's going to criminalize you.
But think of the border as a political deer.
It's a way for politicians to win political points, but also, there is a lack of will, I think, in Washington to try to get to the root of the problem.
And what we have is this.
♪♪ -In a way, is it that instead of trying to stop what's happening, we should look at the examples of how there's been success in the border communities?
-I think that's a really good point.
I mean, I think if you take the border communities as an example of tolerance, and you see trade going back and forth every day -- I mean, we are doing everything we can to reach each other and say, "How do I help you?"
Because what's good for Juárez is good for El Paso.
What kind of communication?
What kind of cooperation will work for both sides in order to get ahead?
-As you can tell, my friend Alfredo covers important, serious topics here at the border.
But I'm going to let you in on a secret about him.
He's a mama's boy through and through.
-I see the resemblance so much here, except that you didn't inherit her gorgeous green eyes.
-But I have her heart.
-You have her heart.
♪♪ Freddy's mom definitely knows her way around the kitchen.
In fact, when she first moved to El Paso, she opened a very successful restaurant.
What was the name of the restaurant?
When Alfredo's dad first came to work in the U.S., his mom, Doña Linda, stayed in Mexico with the kids.
Once he had saved enough money, she moved the rest of the family here to be with him.
-And that was a picture that we took before left Mexico.
I think some of us were more excited than other ones.
-You didn't want to come.
-I didn't want to come.
And I don't think my brothers did.
We were scared of the change.
-As an immigrant, I can relate to that feeling of being torn between two countries.
And we end up in a place that's caught between the two.
-It's very difficult for someone to pack up and leave everything they know, everything they own, everything they have, to leave their families behind, to leave their little towns behind.
When I'm interviewing people, I see that sense of loss in their eyes.
Like, "I don't know that this is really the right thing to do."
What more can I do?
How do make sure that my family has an opportunity that my family can make something better?
But one thing that's different to me about El Paso, it's still very much an immigrant community.
There is a certain sense of, I'm not going to treat you as "the other" because we all are the others.
And we're all trying to make it work.
♪♪ -What connects us with home -- a plate of food?
For me, yes, always.
But for so many Mexican Americans living here at the border, there's something else that really brings them back -- music!
[ Mariachi music plays ] -And not just any music.
Of course, I'm talking about mariachis.
Mariachi is the spiritual embodiment of Mexican pride all wrapped up in a song.
As a Mexican living in America, I can tell you these are the sounds of our weddings, the sounds of our quinceañeras or funerals.
They are the soundtrack to our life.
[ Music ends ] [ Applause ] -Lily, it's so lovely to meet you.
-So nice to meet you.
-Lily is the bandleader of the Mariachi Feminine, and she lives for this music.
-Passing on this music is essential to the survival of our heritage.
-Mariachi is so ingrained in Mexican culture.
But traditionally, this music is male-dominated.
And a big mission was...?
-We want to show that we can do this just as well as men can.
In my opinion... -Yeah?
-Mariachis are about heartbreak, heartache, the heart being swollen, filled with so much emotion, right?
-And women, like, we're experts at that.
-I think we bring across more of the sentiment of the music.
-'Cause like you said, we carry it, I feel, more than men.
We're the ones that go through that heartbreak.
We are the ones that carry the babies.
So, we bring that.
We bring that power.
-Does it have, like, an even deeper, stronger meaning here at the border?
Juárez is just a few steps away.
And the culture there is very present.
Women are -- You stay at home, you know.
You take care of the kids.
There's a lot of machismo.
-And so for us to be able to step up and show you that we have a voice, whether it's a few steps away or here, and you're gonna hear us.
We are very powerful.
-That's one thing that I love about our group, is that, yes, we're all females, and we try to keep it very feminine, and we do the lashes and the hair and all that.
But we come to sing.
We come to perform, and we're a powerful group ♪♪ -All of Lily's time, effort, and dedication have paid off in big ways over the years.
-2019 was definitely... -One of your biggest years?
-...one of our biggest years, you know?
And then 2020 happened.
-Because of the pandemic, Mariachi Feminine didn't perform for over a year.
Many of her bandmates quit as life's priorities shifted.
So, Lily is rebuilding and planning a comeback concert to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
-How are you feeling about it?
I'm nervous, but I'm very hopeful, and I'm very happy.
-If I could have done anything with my life, other than cook, it would have been sing.
-Well, I'll teach you mariachi, and you can teach me to cook.
How about that?
♪♪ -One of the best ways to get a feel for a El Paso is to take a walk, take it all in.
One of the first things you notice are the stunning works of art on the buildings.
The muralists of El Paso have turned this city into an outdoor museum.
And I'm not the only one who appreciates it.
♪♪ Every month or so, El Paso's murals are a backdrop to a cruise night.
Of course, on the border, no cruise is complete without a carne asada.
-Ed and his friend, Cimi, brings artists and lowriders together as a show of strength and solidarity for this cross-border community.
You and the people that get together here are both from El Paso and Juárez?
-And from Juárez, yes.
-Ed Beckett is an immigration lawyer and one of the founders of the Old Memory Lowriders.
-Hey, what's up?
-Cimi is one of El Paso's most prolific muralists.
-You know, a lot of the murals, you know, those are the stories of our people.
They're stories of migration, stories -- -Stories of struggle, immigration, corridos.
-The street art with the murals and the lowriding, two forms of art that typically have been looked upon as negative.
-You know, lowriding is part of the culture.
But to me, it's not negative anymore.
We're saying, "Look, immigrants are good."
Immigrants come here.
They start businesses.
They will grow the economy.
-So how did you guys meet?
-Eduardo was working for a nonprofit.
-Used to be.
-The migrant community.
-And I was doing a project with the youth that were incarcerated.
-So we were going into the system and working with the kids.
-He was teaching them art, and I was just trying to motivate them and saying, "Look, you can do it.
There's two paths, the bad or the good.
Go to school.
Go to school.
It's not too late.
It doesn't matter.
Yes, you've committed a crime but you're a juvenile.
You still have a chance."
And even though Cimi was born here, I was born here, but we come from immigrant families.
-So, we're part of the immigrant tradition.
We're part of the immigrant struggle.
-And maybe we didn't have to suffer like some of our brothers and sisters that we're seeing right now.
-But we're in a place that we can make the system better.
♪♪ -What do you have, carne asada?
-Right here, this is discada.
-So we've got a little bit of chorizo, beef, bacon.
And I was going to make a harissa skirt meat.
-Discada is a traditional dish from Chihuahua, originally cooked in the discs of old field plows.
But I've never had it north of the border.
-So it has chorizo, bacon, beef, and bacon.
-[ Laughs ] -You can't see it, but you'll taste it.
-It's like double the bacon, right?
♪♪ It's, like, so full of flavor!
-It's got a lot of flavors, yeah, yeah.
Can you taste the bacon and the chorizo?
-That's the thing!
I taste the chorizo and the bacon and the beef, but I don't taste them separately.
It's a completely combined thing, where I cannot distinguish the three things that are in here.
Cimi and many of his fellow artists create their pieces in both Juárez and El Paso.
Many of Cimi's murals focus on Segundo Barrio, a neighborhood whose fabric is made of Mexican immigrants.
-This mural was painted with another friend of mine, Victor "Mask" Casas.
It's a little bit of the story of Segundo Barrio.
We call it The Corrido of Segundo Barrio.
-Tell me what a corrido is.
-So, it's basically a story in the form of a song -- a story of an event, of a person.
It's something historical that happened.
We have the musical.
The musicals are from the barrio.
One of the main things that I try to do in my murals is to have that connection to the community.
So we have to include the community itself into the artwork because that's the way they're gonna identify.
-One of Cimi's missions is to make sure that the struggles of the people of his community are remembered and to acknowledge all of the good that Mexican immigration has brought to El Paso.
So the history of Mexican Americans is not being registered or recorded into the American history or educational system as a whole.
-So you're doing these in murals.
-Our job as not only artists but as musicians, poets, writers, everybody that does that, we need to come out and start doing that, because we need to remind our people why we have to be proud of who we are.
♪♪ ♪♪ -There's something happening here at the border.
It's happening every single day, all day, and you may have no idea that this even happening.
And the thing is, you might be eating it.
Have you enjoyed a good steak recently or a juicy burger?
Did you know that all American burger may come from Mexico -- that U.S. prime might actually be Mexican-American prime?
-So we're here at the spot where the cattle is coming from Mexico to the U.S., right here.
They're coming in the United States right now.
-And now they're in the United States?
-I'm at the Santa Teresa Crossing union in New Mexico with my new friend Daniel.
And you're probably asking yourself the same thing I am.
Why are all these cows racing through a giant door in the border wall?
Everybody seems to be obsessed with people crossing over the border.
But people don't talk about animal crossing and the incredible relationship that exists between the two countries in growing, raising, and selling, trading cattle.
-If you think cows crossing the border is interesting, wait until I tell you how they got here.
First, Mexican ranchers get an American bull and breed them with their Mexican cows.
They have baby cows, all born in Mexico.
Those Mexican American cows grow up a little in Mexico.
When they get big enough, they're brought here to the border.
Then they're walked across and sold back to American ranchers.
-Last year, we crossed 606,138 animals.
-From Mexico to the United States.
-But again, why?
Well, first, it's cheaper to let young cows graze in the vast Mexican fields as land isn't expensive there.
But when it is time for them to mature and gain more weight, they come to the U.S. to feed on corn because the U.S. subsidizes corn.
But there's another reason.
Ranchers in the U.S. and Mexico are working together to breed the absolute best, most profitable cuts of beef possible.
-There was a general here the other day who's a cattleman.
And he was from Florida, and he raised Brangus.
And we were there watching the cattle cross, and there was like 400 head that crossed.
And he was like, "This cattle is as good or better than what we have in the United States."
-So, what's fascinating is the cattle that's being born is already Mexican-American or American-Mexican.
And then that continues back and forth between borders.
-Right, and the calves come across and go to grow yards.
The Mexican side and the U.S. side and all the companies that we work together, we coordinate together -- we have a saying in Spanish.
And that's, "We're all eating from the same plate."
So, that's... -Oh, I love when you -- I love that so much.
The cattle that cross the border are only about three or four months old.
So where do they go next?
To find out, I'm meeting with Alvaro Bustillos, who uses the Santa Teresa Crossing almost every day with his company, Vaquero Trading.
-So, they come across in small but specific lots.
So we put them together to create volume and build up loads.
Loads are -- You're talking 50,000-pound loads.
And probably it'll be 110 head.
-What happens here is that cows are separated into specific groups based on weight and, believe it or not, the quality of Vaquero beef -- Alvaro can tell just by looking at them.
-These three cattle, they'll grade into the prime choice quality meat.
-How do you know?
-It's the build of the cattle.
And it's like once the genetics -- Like, that black one, you'll say, okay, that's a little breed of Angus.
The yellow one has a little breed of Charolais.
So those are English crossers that will grade into some of these prime steaks.
-And when you buy them, you know what kind you're getting?
-How many millions of dollars are moving here?
-It varies on the price, but it's a $700 million, $800 million industry.
-And that is just the passing from Mexico to the U.S.?
-From Mexico to the U.S. -So let's recap.
An American bull and a Mexican cow get together.
They're offspring are born in Mexico.
They walk across the border to the U.S. American ranchers buy them, bring them to their ranches, feed them American corn, and sell them as American beef.
And get this -- some cuts of meat get sold in the U.S., but some of that beef actually goes back to Mexico.
So these cows truly live a cross-border life.
♪♪ To see just how the U.S. and Mexico treasure different cuts of meat here, all you have to do is hop across the border, in Ciudad Juárez.
I'm meeting up again with Oscar Herrera for a classic Mexican bowl of hearty deliciousness.
[ Speaks Spanish ] It's menudo!
Menudo is a Mexican soup made with the stomach of a cow.
-Menudo, very traditional in the border.
Our way of doing it is kind of different.
We have menudo with... -That is completely different from the rest of the country, 'cause menudo is typically eaten with corn tortillas.
-Corn tortillas or corn tostadas.
-Judging by the line of cars at the drive-through here, the people of Juárez love their menudo.
-They cook a ton and a half a week.
-A ton and a half... a week!
I love the bread in the menudo.
-Yeah, we call it -- -I love it!
Do you know what?
It makes the broth of the menudo shine just as much as the tripe.
You know, as I continue to explore your region, and learning about how important cattle is...
They sell the different cuts of meat to different places, right?
-I'm assuming all the tripe goes back to Mexico.
-We are really into taking advantage of the complete nose to tail of our animals.
Today, what we're having is tripe.
But also it's very common to have pata.
-I love pata.
-Feet of the cow.
But also the barbacoa.
-Barbacoa is another classic Mexican dish that sometimes uses meat from the head of the cow, including the cheeks, tongue, lips, slow cooked until it almost falls apart.
-It's really good.
-What do you think about it?
-I mean, this is such a perfect taco!
So talking about the different cuts of meat that are preferred in the different countries, what is that like for you?
I mean, you are binational.
You've lived on both sides of the border.
Your business is on both sides of the border.
-It's so hard to get attention to show up and highlight the good stuff that we have.
But it was so easy to get a bad reputation and bad attention.
-Does it annoy you that the border gets such bad press?
It annoys me, and I'm not from here.
-2010 was the super highlight of all the insecurity that we had.
I cannot say that it was a lie.
It was really bad.
In 2011, 2012, something happened that we just got fed up.
It comes to a point where you say, "Hey, this is where I am from."
All of a sudden, we got really, really pride of being from here.
-Do you think that prompted more coloration?
-Yes that prompted our coloration because we -- -From people across the border or mostly Juárez?
-No, across the border.
Sometimes, we hear the term that they are sister cities, but they really are.
I think that this sense of being from one region, that it's unique, and that's starting to see the benefits not of what one city has or the other but what we have... -Together.
♪♪ -[ Shouting ] [ Singing in Spanish ] -In just a couple days, the Mariachi Feminine Flores Mexicanas are putting on their big comeback show, an open concert right in the heart of downtown El Paso, and I can't wait.
I don't know any Mexican who doesn't feel their heart explode when they listen to Mariachi music.
Lily has her group of mostly new girls working so hard to get them ready for the concert.
[ Mariachi music plays ] I have to tell you, mariachi music always gets me.
But to walk into a room full of women passionately singing mariachi, giving it all they've got, what can I say?
It moves me!
♪♪ ♪♪ -So, Lily, how's rehearsal going?
-Rehearsal's going great, but, you know, the nerves are kicking in.
We are nervous for our concert.
-But I have to tell you just from the minute that I walked in, the energy, the emotion, it sounds so beautiful.
I am just so proud about everything you girls are doing.
-Not only for Mexican culture but for women.
-This is why we do what we do, to represent Mexican women and because we love it.
It's our passion.
That's why you feel that energy.
-And it was just a second in your rehearsal.
I can only imagine what will happen in the concert.
-Oh, my gosh, I'm so excited.
-I want to say hi to your team.
I want to congratulate them!
I'm very excited for you all.
It feels so weird to be talking in English to a mariachi Mexican women band.
But I guess that's what you are all doing -- you're breaking myths.
You're breaking stereotypes.
And you're doing it in English.
You're doing it in Spanish.
You're doing it as women.
Like a mujerona is a heck of a woman, and you are all it.
I'm going to leave you to continue rehearsing.
[ Speaks Spanish ] I want a little hug!
Like give me a hug!
[ Indistinct conversations ] ♪♪ El Paso gets its name from the phase "El Paso del Norte," the Passageway to the North.
Early travelers from Central America used the mountain range to guide them north, going straight to modern day Juárez and El Paso.
Today, El Paso is a jumping off point for a different kind of adventure.
Art in the desert.
I'm heading to Marfa, Texas, America's smallest-biggest art destination.
On the way into town, these permanent art exhibitions, a Prada store that's not a store, in the middle of the desert tells you this part of the borderlands is unique.
♪♪ Marfa is a lot of fun to explore on your own, but even better with a local friend, especially when your friend offers this as her ride.
This should be fun.
Liz Rogers is an immigration lawyer who's been living in the area for over 25 years.
Liz knows just about everything there is to know about Marfa... [ Horn honks ] ...and maybe everyone.
-How are you?
-She really loves her quirky little town.
How would you describe Marfa to someone who's never been here?
-Marfa's really unique.
These are Lanyon foundations.
-Let's say her tours are filled with a lot of passion.
-This house is owned by Hamilton Fish from New York City.
This house is owned by a lawyer who represented George Clooney.
She is the one, I think, that gets the most credit.
He got tired of the art world.
But the Bride family, that a big mansion... And, in fact, his great-great-grandson...
This has an elevator.
-So, I'm gonna try to keep up with this.
What is that over there?
-That's a house.
-Oh, that's a house?
-That's a house.
So, you'll be... -In the meantime, here are the basics.
What you have to understand is this sleepy little ranching town in the middle of the desert hundreds of miles from the next major city is one of the art world's biggest destinations.
It all started in the 1970s, when world-renowned artist Donald Judd decided he had had enough of the art scene in New York City and wanted to find a more permanent location for his giant minimalist installations.
Over time, more artists joined Judd.
And before Marfa knew what hit it...
I'll let Liz take it from here.
-And so the way it was explained to me, that if you care about minimalism there are three places to go.
-The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Marfa.
-You have people that come from all over the U.S. Do you have people that come from all over the world?
-All over the world.
♪♪ -To learn a little bit more about Marfa, Liz wanted to take me to one of her favorite places.
Of course when in Texas... it's gotta be barbecue.
Pitmaster Mark Scott and his wife Kaki.
are the owners of Convenience West barbecue.
-This looks amazing.
-Oh, thank you.
-Oh, my God.
This is like coming apart.
-Oh yeah, we've been cooking this for hours.
We almost don't ever eat barbecue.
-It looks gorgeous, no way!
So, tell me a little bit.
You're both from Marfa.
What do you call people from Marfa -- Marfians?
There's a fellow who calls us Martians.
♪♪ -This is like... caramel barbecue.
-It's crunchy, crusty, caramelly, sweet!
-Yeah, you got a good piece.
-The brisket we cooked for 16-plus hours.
-Did you hear the crunch?
-Yeah, you got a good bite.
[ Laughs ] -Oh, my God!
I'm not kidding when I say this is possibly the best barbecue I've ever had.
Mark seasons his brisket and ribs with brown sugar, salt and pepper, cider vinegar, and some other secret stuff and slow cooks for over 16 hours.
They say in Chihuahua, your neighbors, when something is really good they say it's fabuloso.
Like you really feel like saying a bad word.
[ Laughter ] It's that good.
-I like that.
-Before they were masters of the barbecue, Mark and Kaki had a front row seat for the evolution of Marfa.
-'99, 2000, a bookstore opened downtown, a fine dining restaurant that no one out here had seen the likes of ever before.
Before that, most of downtown was still boarded up.
It was quiet.
-Was this because of the Chinati Foundation or Judd?
-Definitely that, does have a part of it.
-It's like that's how anybody knew to be interested.
But then at some point, people just started to come because they wanted to get out of Austin, maybe.
And Marfa has a fun vibe, and it's still in Texas.
And yeah, so... -It's gradually become more and more and more tourist heavy.
-As more artists, tourists, and hipsters flocked to Marfa, the rich bought second homes, property values soared, and the struggling ranching community of the past has become a backdrop for posts on social media.
-When I was telling friends that I was going to Marfa, they were asking me what was I going to Instagram.
-You can really tell that people think that it is a movie set.
It took an outsider from New York City, Donald Judd, to see the possibilities and set a new path for Marfa, including turning the art world upside down.
But there are still signs of the past.
-I lived in El Paso for a long time before I came here.
And here, it's a very stratified society.
It is very seldom that I am at a social event with a Mexican-American unless they're... And I really had a difficult time with that because El Paso was not that way.
-There is still the divide in Marfa.
There's still very much a divide of, not just race, but also just what a lot of people refer to as New Marfa and Old Marfa.
-And the new Marfa people will buy a house on the south side.
Or they'll get the crappiest little adobe and spend a bunch of money on it and live with poor neighbors around.
And that is not what traditionally has been.
The wealthy people lived on one side of town.
-Lived on the north side of the tracks, and there are people who can remember when Marfa was very, truly segregated.
Marfa cemetery is basically segregated.
It's a fence that runs along the whole thing, but it's dilapidated, and it wouldn't keep anybody out.
And when you look at it, you're like, okay, well, this is maybe the Catholic side and the Protestant side.
But it is what it is.
-The cemetery still is divided here until after that documentary.
And I think they took the fence down, or no?
Separating Anglos from Hispanics at a cemetery, and it just drives me crazy.
-But I mean every now and then, there's real serious discussion about it.
But the people that get the most serious about it -- Like, this is wrong, and it has to come down, are people that come in from out of town, and they get a little sort of squeamish about making a big issue about it being that they're new to town.
-You have such contrasting things here.
You have the very local, and you have all these international, fancy tourists coming.
How do you please everybody?
-You just have to know that, every day you open your restaurant, that a lot of people are going to be happy, and someone's going to yell at you.
-The people are willing to travel unbelievable distances to eat barbecue.
-That's how I knew we made it.
A few years ago, some guys, they drove from Dallas to come here.
And they had barbecue, and they were so happy.
And they were like, "What else is going on in this town!"
And I'm like, "Yes, we created a bubble inside of a bubble!"
[ Laughter ] ♪♪ -A few hours south of Marfa, way down at the bottom of Big Bend, in the Texas border, the road leads to a national treasure, Big Bend National Park.
Even the drive here is mind-blowing.
I've never been to Big Bend.
To be honest, I hadn't even heard of it before this trip.
Pictures don't do it justice.
This is one of the park's biggest attractions, the Santa Elena Canyon.
The canyon was formed over millions and millions of years as the Rio Grande River cut through and carved away at the limestone rock.
The canyon walls stand about 1,500 feet above the river.
The river is a natural border between the U.S. and Mexico.
It just surprises you at every turn.
♪♪ When we think about the border, we often create an image in our minds.
But what don't often think of is the stunning natural beauty.
As a Mexican-American, I had my own expectations of what the border meant.
But this is showing me how much I still have to explore.
♪♪ Back in El Paso, Lily and the Mariachi Feminine are getting ready for their big comeback performance.
But I've got one more stop to make first.
"La Frontera" draws people not only from Mexico and the U.S. -[ Speaks Arabic ] Ed Farah and his mom, Salma, are opening their newest restaurant in El Paso, featuring Syrian and Lebanese family recipes.
And when I say "opening," I mean tonight -- right now!
-So, this is our soft opening.
We're actually three months behind schedule.
But I told my contractor, "We're having a special occasion tonight.
So if you don't get it done, you're not getting paid."
-To celebrate, they've invited 80 or 90 of their closest family and friends And me!
-Hi, Pati, how are you?
I'm here crashing your opening.
-No, you're welcome any time.
Thank you for coming.
-What is that?
-This is my... -Because it's you're opening night, because you're getting your kitchen ready.
I love Middle Eastern food so much!
This is hummus.
-Baba ghanoush, [ Speaking Arabic ] -You guys speak Spanish?
-[ Speaks Spanish ] -I don't speak as much as she does.
-They're good, huh?
-There you go.
-So where does your family come from?
-There's two sides.
My mother's Syrian.
My father Lebanese.
That's great food!
Ed and Salma's family immigrated to both the U.S. and Mexico.
Some of the family that immigrated to Mexico then moved up here to the border.
But the people that came from Syria to Mexico wanted to come to El Paso.
-Because it's better opportunity.
-Once one person came from the family... -Yeah.
-...the rest started coming.
-In fact, it's also how we ended up in a dining room full of Syrian and Lebanese friends.
♪♪ Coming to the Texas border, I did not expect to find myself filling a plate with kibbeh, baba ghanoush, kebabs...
But at the same time, it makes so much sense.
I've see many similarities between our two cultures.
-I'm hearing from all your family and friends here that the Syrian/Lebanese community is actually pretty big.
-It's large, yes.
-I want to hear about how your family got into the food business.
We had a convenience store.
-Here in El Paso?
-Here in El Paso.
We were up and down.
We were trying to make ends meet.
My mother threw a party one time, and people said, "Oh, it's delicious!
You should sell this food!"
-This old man came, and he told me, "You have to make me food.
I'll pay you whatever you want."
-Was he from the community?
-He's Lebanese, yes.
-This sparked an idea for Salma.
Maybe she was a good enough cook to open her own restaurant.
But instead of starting with Syrian and Lebanese food, she took a different approach.
-It was a Mexican restaurant called Casa Verde.
-The reason we didn't start with Arabic food is that no one believed it would sell.
-We were scared to put it out there.
But when the Mexican, the restaurant, started dying down, my mom's orders started coming up for the Arabic stuff.
-Little by little, Ed and Salma added Syrian and Lebanese food to their menus.
Today, Farah's opens with a menu filled with Middle Eastern food.
I think they're going to have plenty of family support!
-So, the three brothers are here.
-Where is the other son?
I think I've met your other brother.
-That's my granddaughter.
-Nice to meet you.
-These are all first cousins.
-This is her brother.
-Okay, whose brother?
-That's my brother, this one.
-I think I'm gonna need to see a family tree to keep track of everyone.
-Who are you?
-I am a friend of theirs.
[ Laughter ] -These families came here to the border with nothing, and they're proud of what they've built.
And you were telling me how everybody here started from scratch.
-And my Ed with a quarter in his pocket.
-With a quarter in his pocket.
Why do you all love the border, and why do you call El Paso home?
-Honestly, because Hispanics and Arabs are very close, very similar.
Family first, large families.
You come here, bunch of Arabs coming together.
I go to my Mexican friends' houses, it's just like this.
We're our own culture here, but we love to hang out with each other.
It's as simple as that.
♪♪ -In the heart of downtown El Paso, the Mariachi Feminine Mexicanas are making their way to the stage.
After over a year from performing live, rebuilding her group, and months of practice, Lily and her girls are ready for their comeback.
Their performance tonight celebrates the 20th anniversary of the group.
-I'm so excited!
-You all look so beautiful!
Are you feeling okay?
-I'm just nervous.
-No, look at the crowd.
Everybody's so happy!
You all look beautiful!
Just look at this!
I mean... -Good evening, El Paso.
Thank you for coming out today.
[ Cheers and applause ] We have a great show for you all.
But first, I'd like to thank everyone for supporting Flores Mexicanas, and we're going to continue to work hard, not only for ourselves but for all of our loved ones and all of the support that we have.
Thank you, El Paso!
[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -There's such unique energy here at the border.
I had been wanting to come here for so long.
Yet I arrived not knowing quite what to expect.
But being here, watching Lily sing her heart out, holding tightly onto tradition as she's able to break new ground, thinking about all of the people that welcomed me with open arms in both Mexico and the U.S., this layered, complex border story becomes more clear to me.
♪♪ -To people on both sides of the border -- families, friends, chefs, artists, musicians - their passions, struggle, achievements, their food, their art, their songs, they're all living this closer together than many places without a wall.
♪♪ The border -- the place where one thing ends and another begins.
The place where there is supposed to be a divide.
It is here where no possibility is final.
Here on La Frontera, in the middle of the West Texas desert, miles from nowhere, these two cities are one.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Si, señor!
[ Cheers and applause ] -Next time on "La Frontera," I'm traveling from Laredo and Nuevo Laredo to the Gulf of Mexico, meeting with ranchers, factory workers, chefs, and immigrants living out the American dream to experience this rich environment, foods that bond us, and future possibilities that can only exist here.
And hopefully you can hear some of the conversation here, too, 'cause it's loud.
-"La Frontera" with Pati Jinich is available on Amazon Prime Video.
-To order "Treasures of the Mexican Table" cookbook, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
The journey to La Frontera continues at PBS.org/LaFrontera, where you can watch exclusive interviews and video extras, get recipes, and more.