THE BLOG
05/20/2016 02:18 pm ET Updated May 20, 2017

Dispelling Myths of the Border

Growing up along the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border, the interrelation of our two communities is ingrained in our DNA. It's part of everyday life; waking up on one side of the border, traveling to the other for work, to visit relatives or enjoy some good food; and then heading back home with the hundreds of people that cross the border daily. Despite the long wait times to cross the border, the flow between our two cities remains seamless and undisrupted.

However, politicians that are far removed from the realities of the border, talk about erecting a big great wall that would disrupt the harmonious relationship we share along the border. They speak of keeping out criminals and rapists, while we know it's often grandmothers, students and hardworking people that cross daily: do we want to keep them out too?

For those of us who embrace the border for what it is -- a gateway between two nations that facilitates trade, economic activity, the exchange of culture and traditions, and interactions between people -- it's important to lift up the realities of the border. While we can spend significant time dispelling myths, what we would rather do is invite people to come and experience the border firsthand.

Last month, we had the privilege of hosting a delegation of 10 influencers, from the corporate, advocacy and policy communities, who visited the border region as part of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. They were here to personally get a look at the border, which as we know, has become a topic of national conversation this election cycle.

The delegation was surprised at how much coordination and partnership happens between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. It's a binational ecosystem that's coming together to plan for its economic and social future.

For example, one day the group toured Paul F. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso -- the first medical school built along the U.S.-Mexico border -- to hear about regional efforts to create a health and medical cluster that will address the health care needs of people on both sides of the border. The next day, they toured Seisa Medical in Juarez, which manufactures medical devices for international companies and is part of this health ecosystem trying to spur health and medical innovation in the region.

While visitors are surprised at everything happening in El Paso, they are even more surprised by how much innovation and progress is happening in Ciudad Juarez.

As someone who invests on both sides of the border -- and who has roots in both cities -- I welcome the awe that comes from visiting Juarez.

For a city that had mostly been put on people's radars and covered in the news for a wave of intense violence, it's hard for outsiders to imagine what else Juarez has to offer -- or if it's even safe to travel here now.

Luckily, the answer is there is a lot the city has to show; and, yes, it is now safe to travel here.

As the group learned firsthand, Juarez is shedding its history of low-skill, low-wage manufacturing and transitioning its workforce into technology and advanced manufacturing opportunities such as those at Seisa Medical, Mechatronics, and Transtelco where Juarenses are leading in technological and medical innovation.

Juarenses have also come together after the wave of violence in the late 2010s to create stronger civic organizations and public spaces that allow the community to thrive. The group visited La Rodadora, a world-class interactive museum where children and families from Juarez can come to see more than 120 exhibits and even take coding classes.

If students are not able to make it to La Rodadora to participate in these coding classes, they can make it to the TechHub, which offers the same classes and so much more. The delegation ended their tour of Juarez at this state of the art startup incubator and business accelerator, which is connecting Juarez with the latest innovative technology and inspiring innovation in the border region.

By the time the delegation left Juarez, we didn't just dispel myths about Juarez and the border region, but we left them with a notion of our region's future endeavors and showed what is possible when neighboring cities come together to create change and embrace our border.