Marfa Public Radio’s overall excellence submission covers a range of voices and topics, from transmigrate traffic and an historic adobe church to our coverage on the pandemic and stories of racial profiling in Midland, Texas.
The small reporting team at the station continually turns out stories of local significance, ones that take the pulse of our region’s disparate communities.
Here are several examples of work produced in 2020 that reflects our mission and commitment to our listeners.
You’ve likely seen them on Texas highways: Beat up pickup trucks, loaded with everything from used washing machines to household items to kids bikes. The words “In Tow” taped across the tailgate. Behind the wheel are transmigrantes, drivers from Central America, hoping to give these unwanted goods a second life back home. For years, the Mexican government’s funneled these drivers through a small border town in South Texas. But now, there’s speculation Mexico’s considering moving some of that traffic west to Presidio, Texas.
In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, the amount of mail coming through Valentine, Texas skyrockets. Each February, the post office receives love letters from around the world, from starry-eyed sweethearts looking to get their messages marked with a special stamp before being sent off to their final destination. The roughly 30-year tradition showcases designs by local students. Each year, the handful of students attending Valentine Independent School District compete to have their design selected for that year’s cancellation stamp.
As protests against police violence sparked by the death of George Floyd rage across the country, Midland residents were already questioning how local law enforcement treats people of color. More than two weeks ago, a cell phone video was posted online showing the tense arrest of a 21-year-old black Midland man. Unlike many other arrests of people of color, that incident fortunately did not end in death. However, the events have brought to light accusations that the Midland Police Department has used excessive force and racial profiling against the city’s black and brown residents.
For a while now, the threat of COVID-19 has seemed to rural West Texans as something that would come to the area from the outside, from visitors from places that have been harder hit by the disease. That’s why, early on, officials in region shuttered hotels and short term rentals and enacted ordinances that limited residents and visitors from coming and going. Those early measures seemed to have an impact. For months, there were little to no cases. But now there are cases are beginning to add up.
In late August 2019, a man drove through Odessa, firing an assault-style rifle in an extended rampage that killed seven people and injured at least 25 others. Now locals are left to wrestle with their memories of the tragedy as the community figures out how to move forward and heal.
Quiet and Loud is a new Marfa Public Radio series exploring the way the pandemic has changed the soundscape of West Texas. One of the first places we’ll explore is the desert expanse of Big Bend National Park, where the pandemic has led to two closures and restricted visitors to day-time use only.
Today, the once-bustling farming community of Ruidosa, Texas is currently home to about 15 people. But a local group is trying to preserve the town’s church — one of the last remaining monuments to its past — before it crumbles back into the earth.