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Here are MPR's favorite photos from 2023

Over the last year, our reporters and producers were dispatched across West Texas to cover a wide range of stories. Along with their microphones, Marfa Public Radio reporters and contributors brought out their cameras to document the region — from celebrations of the border's deep history to a water crisis in the Permian Basin.

Here are some of our favorite photos from 2023.

Toyah's struggle to access safe drinking water

In the small town of Toyah, residents have struggled over the last five years to access safe drinking water. While local officials said the water was okay to drink, the town remained under a boil water notice. In recent months, residents like Elida "Angel" Machuca have continued to fight for regulators to intervene.

“I remember the water being really clear and really clean," reminisced Machuca in a recent interview. "Almost sweet-like, it was just good. Now, it comes out really yellow at times…or like red clay dirty mud.”

Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio

Celebrating Marfa's Blackwell School

West Texans turned out in the spring to celebrate the designation of the Blackwell School as a national historic site.

The school is where generations of Mexican-American students in Marfa were educated when they were not allowed to attend the same schools as their white peers. At the time, Texas laws that segregated Black and white students did not explicitly bar Hispanic students from white schools, but the practice was nonetheless common across the state and the Southwest.

Blackwell is now a museum and will be preserved to illuminate the experiences of the people who attended these type of segregated campuses.

Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio

Voices from Both Sides of the Border returns after yearslong hiatus

For the first time in four years, the cross-border party Voices from Both Sides of the Border returned.

At the May celebration, crowds gathered on the banks of the Rio Grande in south Brewster County to jump in the water and honor the event's founder Jeff Haislip who died earlier this year.

Hannah Gentiles for Marfa Public Radio

Agave Festival Marfa returns with a celebration of the art, history and culture of the Chihuahuan Desert

The annual Agave Festival Marfa brought academics, artists and mezcaleros to Marfa to celebrate the agave and the culture, art and history of the borderland.

During the four-day event, authors read excerpts from their books, panels discussed agave as well as the spirits produced from the plant, and attendees learned about the region's history and efforts to honor the people who have made it their home, like the restoration of the Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes in Presidio.

Carlos Morales and Annie Rosenthal
Marfa Public Radio

Summer events across West Texas

In June, Pride Marfa drew people from across the region and beyond to drag shows and dance parties throughout Marfa. Ahead of the three-day event, organizer Lawrence Johnson told Marfa Public Radio that part of the event's goal this year was to show "unwavering support" for LGBTQ people — especially after a legislative session that saw lawmakers approve multiple anti-LGBTQ bills.

At another event this summer, residents of Van Horn turned out for "Frontier Days" — a decades-long celebration in the small West Texas town — for music, food and fun.

Prepney for Marfa Public Radio

Odessans come together to remember the 2019 mass shooting

On Aug. 31, Odessa residents gathered to remember those lost in the 2019 mass shooting that left seven people dead and 25 others injured.

“Today is very painful, and that’s why it’s so important that we do come together — sit in those mixed feelings and emotions of pain, loss, hurt and grief, but also the hope that comes with tomorrow," said Kelby Davis, whose 17-month-old daughter was injured by shrapnel in the shooting.

Mitch Borden

One man reconnects with his family history through adobe restoration

Miguel Mendías returned to Marfa a few years ago to find the adobe house that had been in his family for generations was about to be seized by the county due to unpaid property taxes. The house is where Mendías spent his childhood summers, and the thought of losing it launched him into an effort to save and restore his family's historic home.

“I learned a lot from living here as an adult and that's been really, really enriching and wonderful for me. I think it's honestly given me a sense of rootedness I'm not sure I had before,” said Mendías.

Sarah Vasquez for Nex Gen Radio

Economic and industry stories across the region

Across West Texas, from the Big Bend to the Permian Basin, a variety of stories this year focused on the economy and industry.

In the fall, the oil and gas industry bristled after the federal government proposed listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species. The nearly two-inch lizard makes its home in the dunes of the Permian Basin. And as the industries in this region have thrived, the lizard has become harder to find — which is what pushed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose designating it as an endangered species.

Meanwhile, in Presidio, local officials celebrated the expansion of the international bridge that connects the city to Ojinaga. Officials on both sides of the border are hoping these improvements will help expand trade opportunities between the two cities.

“I feel the next year, and part of this year, we’re going to see a lot of growth, a lot of growth for both Ojinaga and Presidio,” Ojinaga Mayor Andrés Ramos de Anda said in Spanish.

Mitch Borden & Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio

Tensions grow over El Cosmico's new location

A plan to move Marfa's boutique hotel El Cosmico to a new location on the outskirts of town has caused concerns about how the new location could impact the landscape and affect the surrounding area.

Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio

Presidio celebrates its founding and a historic church bell is returned

During this year's Ruidosa Church Community Day on Nov. 11, visitors celebrated the return of a special artifact — a bell that’s believed to have hung in the church around a century ago.

“This is one of the last structures in Ruidosa that is original," said Clara Bensen, President of the Friends of the Ruidosa Church, the group overseeing the restoration. "[It's] a record of this town along the border, so tracking down these artifacts is also maintaining the historic memory and that’s why I think it’s really important.”

Later that day, down the road, Presidio celebrated the 340th anniversary of the community’s founding. Arian Velazquez-Ornelas helped to organize the events as head of the Presidio Convention and Visitor Bureau. Addressing the crowd, she said the evening was an opportunity to honor Presidio’s multicultural past and present.

Mitch Borden & Annie Rosenthal
Marfa Public Radio

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.