We sat at the border of the Recital Hall stage with Mariana Sandoval. The lights of the theatre illuminated her like many times before. She is not only a former music student from UTEP, but also a mezzo-soprano performer and office manager of the El Paso Opera.
As a child, before joining El Paso Opera, Mariana was part of a dance academy that performed at the Abraham Chavez Theatre. The theater is her comfort place. “I’ve perform there so much that I know the whole theatre already… I guess I know the stage, I know the front of the stage, I know the backstage.”
El Paso is a small city and easy to get to know, comfortable enough and just the right size to inspire anyone to expand out of it, “It’s such a small city that everyone found each other and they’re just a mixture of it, as opposed with a big city”, she mentioned.
Mariana said her fiancé is of Korean descent and born in El Paso. She points out Korean food and explains the similarities it holds with Mexican food. She talked about kimchi, a Korean side dish made with cabbage, green onions, garlic and red chili powder.
“You know that in Mexican culture we have our salsa with the tostadas? They have kimchi.“
The Korean community is concentrated in the Northeast; a section that is often considered the backstage of the city. A far away community that is located further than Fort Bliss. If you make your way north you will find restaurants, churches, and grocery shops.
Like many others in the borderlands, Mariana was raised living in two cities. For her this meant more stages to perform at and an opportunity to discover both sides.
“You know I started thinking that El Paso is made up of different things. I always thought ‘Oh is just the Mexican and American culture’ but there was more than that.”
In the Northeast you can find the ingredients to make kimchi as well as frijoles and arroz. “That’s what I’m telling you; the mixture of things,” said Sandoval. At the main stage the Mexican and American culture seem to be the main actors, however other cultures seep into the community and make a unique combination.
– By Veronica Martinez