Mexican heritage welcome to El Paso, TX

Mexican heritage welcome to El Paso, TX

I think the first time I was in El Paso, I was 17 on a trip across the US. I certainly remember going to Juarez, although in these times, I would never venture there. This pin was given to me by Ron Eberhardt, retired from TexDot.

El Paso (from Spanish, “the pass”) is the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, and lies in far West Texas. As of July 1, 2013, the population estimate from the U.S. Census was 674,433, making it the 19th most populous city in the United States. Its U.S. metropolitan area covers all of El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

El Paso stands on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), across the border from Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The two cities, along with Las Cruces, form a combined international metropolitan area, sometimes referred as the Paso del Norte or El Paso–Juárez–Las Cruces, with over 2.7 million people. The El Paso-Juárez region is the largest bilingual, binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1659, Fray Garcia de San Francisco, established Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission of El Paso del Norte. Around this mission, the village of El Paso del Norte grew into what is now the El Paso–Juárez region. The city hosts the annual Sun Bowl, the second oldest bowl game in the country. In 2010, El Paso received an All-America City Award.

El Paso has a strong federal and military presence. William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Biggs Army Airfield and Fort Bliss call the city home. Fort Bliss is one of the largest military complexes of the United States Army and the largest training area in the United States. Also headquartered in El Paso are the DEA domestic field division 7, El Paso Intelligence Center, Joint Task Force North, U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector and U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group (SOG).

The El Paso region has had human settlement for thousands of years, as evidenced by Folsom points from hunter-gatherers found at Hueco Tanks. The earliest known cultures in the region were maize farmers. At the time of the arrival of the Spanish, the Manso, Suma, and Jumano tribes populated the area and were subsequently incorporated into the Mestizo culture, along with immigrants from central Mexico, captives from Comanchería, and genízaros of various ethnic groups. The Mescalero Apache were also present.

Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate was born in 1550 in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, Mexico and was the first New Spain (Mexico) explorer known to have observed the Rio Grande near El Paso, in 1598, celebrating Thanksgiving Mass there on April 30, 1598 (several decades before the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving). However, the four survivors of the Narváez expedition, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and his enslaved Moor Estevanico, are thought to have passed through the area in the mid-1530s. El Paso del Norte (the present day Juárez), was founded on the south bank of the Río Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande), in 1659 by Spanish conquistadors. In 1680, the small village of El Paso became the temporary base for Spanish governance of the territory of New Mexico as a result of the Pueblo Revolt, until 1692 when Santa Fe was reconquered and once again became the capital. El Paso remained the largest settlement in New Mexico until its cession to the US in 1848, when Texas took possession of it with the Compromise of 1850.

The Texas Revolution (1836) was generally not felt in the region, as the American population was small; not being more than 10% of the population. However, the region was claimed by Texas as part of the treaty signed with Mexico and numerous attempts were made by Texas to bolster these claims. However, the village which consisted of El Paso and the surrounding area remained essentially a self-governed community with both representatives of the Mexican and Texan government negotiating for control until Texas irrevocably took control in 1846.

During this interregnum, 1836–1848, Americans nonetheless continued to settle the region. As early as the mid-1840s, alongside long extant Hispanic settlements such as the Rancho de Juan María Ponce de León, Anglo settlers such as Simeon Hart and Hugh Stephenson had established thriving communities of American settlers owing allegiance to Texas. Stephenson, who had married into the local Hispanic aristocracy, established the Rancho de San José de la Concordia, which became the nucleus of Anglo and Hispanic settlement within the limits of modern-day El Paso, in 1844. Given the reclamations of the Texas Republic that wanted a chunk of the Santa Fe trade, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo effectively made the settlements on the north bank of the river a formal American settlement, separate from Old El Paso del Norte on the Mexican side. The present Texas–New Mexico boundary placing El Paso on the Texas side was drawn in the Compromise of 1850.

El Paso County was established in March 1850, with San Elizario as the first county seat. The United States Senate fixed a boundary between Texas and New Mexico at the 32nd parallel, thus largely ignoring history and topography. A military post called “The Post opposite El Paso” (meaning opposite El Paso del Norte, across the Rio Grande) was established in 1854. Further west, a settlement on Coons’ Rancho called Franklin became the nucleus of the future El Paso, Texas. A year later, pioneer Anson Mills completed his plan of the town, calling it El Paso. However, the various communities never totalled more than several hundred residents with Hispanics and Americans holding an equal percentage of the population.

During the Civil War, a Confederate presence was in the area until it was captured by the Union California Column in 1862. It was then headquarters for the 5th Regiment California Volunteer Infantry until December 1864.

After the Civil War’s conclusion, the town’s population began to grow as Texans continued to move into the villages and soon became the majority. El Paso itself, incorporated in 1873, encompassed the small area communities that had developed along the river. In the 1870s, a population of 23 Non-Hispanic whites and 150 Hispanics was reported. With the arrival of the Southern Pacific, Texas and Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads in 1881, the population boomed to 10,000 by the 1890 census, the large majority of which were Americans, principally of Texan descent as well as other Americans and a few recent Mexican newcomers ranging from businessmen and priests, to gunfighters and prostitutes. The location of El Paso as well as the arrival of these more wild newcomers caused the city to become a violent and wild boomtown known as the “Six Shooter Capital” because of its lawlessness. Indeed, prostitution and gambling flourished until World War I, when the Department of the Army pressured El Paso authorities to crack down on vice (thus benefitting vice in neighboring Ciudad Juárez). With the suppression of the vice trade and in consideration of the city’s geographic position, the city continued into developing as a premier manufacturing, transportation, and retail center of the US Southwest.

In 1909, William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, an historic first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president and also the first time an American president would cross the border into Mexico. But tensions rose on both sides of the border, including threats of assassination, so the Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals were all called in to provide security. Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, was put in charge of a 250 private security detail hired by John Hays Hammond, who in addition to owning large investments in Mexico was a close friend of Taft from Yale and a U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate in 1908. On October 16, the day of the summit, Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route. Burnham and Moore captured, disarmed, and arrested the assassin within only a few feet of Taft and Díaz.

By 1910, the overwhelming number of people in the city were Americans creating a settled environment. However, this period was short lived as the Mexican Revolution greatly impacted the city, bringing an influx of refugees–and capital–to the bustling boom town. Spanish-language newspapers, theaters, movie houses, and schools were established, many supported by a thriving Mexican refugee middle class. Large numbers of clerics, intellectuals, and businessmen took refuge in the city, particularly between 1913 and 1915.

Ultimately, the violence of the Mexican Revolution followed with the large Mexican diaspora which had fled into El Paso. In 1915 and again in 1916 and 1917 various Mexican revolutionary societies planned, staged, and launched violent attacks against both Texans and their political Mexican opponents in El Paso. This state of affairs eventually led to the vast Plan de San Diego and a large scale Mexican uprising against Americans which resulted in the murder of 500 white men, women, and children in forty eight hours in the city in March 1916. The subsequent reprisals by local militia soon caused an escalation of violence, raids, counter-raids, and large scale invasions by Mexican irregulars throughout El Paso city proper, the county and the Rio Grande Valley area.

Eventually, a special force of Texas Rangers ruthlessly suppressed the insurgency killing over 5,000 Mexicans by 1917. The small scale civil war had long-term impact on politics in the city as the traditional white El Paso community began excluding the Mexican population, most of whom were recent immigrants and refugees from civic life for the several decades. In turn, due to increased calls for reinforcements to secure the border the US Army took a large presence in the city expanding Fort Bliss and fortifying the border.

Simultaneously, other Texans and Americans gravitated to the city and by 1920, along with the US Army troops, the population exceeded 100,000 and whites once again were in the clear majority. Nonetheless, the city increased the segregation between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans with Americans. In reply, the Catholic Church attempted to garner the Mexican-American community’s allegiance through education and political and civic involvement organizations, including the National Catholic Welfare Fund. In 1916, the Census Bureau reported El Paso’s population as 53% Hispanic and 44% non-Hispanic white.

Mining and other industries gradually developed in the area. The El Paso and Northeastern Railway was chartered in 1897, to help extract the natural resources of surrounding areas, especially in southeastern New Mexico Territory. The 1920s and 1930s saw the emergence of major business development in the city, partially enabled by Prohibition-era bootlegging. However, the military demobilization, an agricultural economic depression which hit places like El Paso first before the larger Great Depression was felt in the big cities, hit the city hard. In turn, as in the rest of the United States, the Depression era overall hit the city hard, and El Paso’s population declined through the end of World War II with most of population losses coming from the white community. Nonetheless, whites remained the majority to the 1940s.

During and following the war, military expansion in the area, as well as oil discoveries in the Permian Basin, helped to engender rapid economic expansion in the mid-1900s. Copper smelting, oil refining, and the proliferation of low-wage industries (particularly garment making) led the city’s growth. Additionally, the departure of region’s rural population, which was mostly white, to cities like El Paso, brought a short term burst of capital and labor. However, this was balanced by additional departures of middle class Americans to other parts of the country which offered new and better paying jobs. In turn, local businesses looked south to the opportunities afforded by cheap Mexican labor. Furthermore, the period from 1942 to 1956 saw the bracero program which brought in cheap Mexican labor into the rural area to replace the losses of the native white population. In turn, seeking better-paying jobs these migrants also moved to El Paso. By 1965, Hispanics once again were a majority. Meanwhile, the post-war expansion slowed again in the 1960s, but the city continued to grow with the annexation of surrounding neighborhoods and in large part because of its significant economic relationship with Mexico.

El Paso is located at 31°47′25″N 106°25′24″W (31.790208, −106.423242). It lies at the intersection of three states (Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua) and two countries (the US and Mexico). It is the only major Texas city on Mountain time. Ciudad Juarez used to be on Central Time, but both cities are now on Mountain time.

The Franklin Mountains extend into El Paso from the north and nearly divide the city into two sections; the west side forms the beginnings of the Mesilla Valley, and the east side expands into the desert and lower valley. They connect in the central business district at the south end of the mountain range.

The city’s elevation is 3,800 ft (1,200 m) above sea level. North Franklin Mountain is the highest peak in the city at 7,192 ft (2,192 m) above sea level. The peak can be seen from 60 mi (100 km) in all directions. Additionally, this mountain range is home to the famous natural red-clay formation, the Thunderbird, from which the local Coronado High School gets its mascot’s name.

The 24,000-acre (9,700 ha) Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in the United States, lies entirely in El Paso, extending from the north and dividing the city into several sections along with Fort Bliss and El Paso International Airport.

The Rio Grande Rift, which passes around the southern end of the Franklin Mountains, is where the Rio Grande flows. The river defines the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez to the south and west until the river turns north of the border with Mexico, separating El Paso from Doña Ana County, New Mexico. Mt. Cristo Rey, an example of a pluton, rises within the Rio Grande Rift just to the west of El Paso on the New Mexico side of the Rio Grande. Nearby volcanic features include Kilbourne Hole and Hunt’s Hole, which are Maar volcanic craters 30 miles (50 km) west of the Franklin Mountains.

El Paso is located within the Chihuahuan Desert, the easternmost section of the Basin and Range Region.

Location: 07-F1

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