El Paso – U.S. city on the border with Mexico

El Paso

El Paso

El Paso (Spanish for “the Passage”) is a city in the United States located in western Texas, on the Rio Grande River. It is the administrative center of El Paso County.

During the era of the Wild West, El Paso was known as a center for all sorts of adventurers, outlaws, and robbers, attracting anyone who wanted to escape the law.


Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Indian tribes of Manzo, Suma, and Jumano roamed the territory of today’s El Paso as hunters and gatherers. The first whites to visit the area are believed to have been four surviving Spaniards from the Narvaez expedition destroyed by the Indians, who crossed the Rio Grande here in 1536 or 1538. The Spanish explorer Juan de Onyate, who also crossed here in the spring of 1598, noted the convenience of the area for traveling north, naming it El Paso (Spanish for “the passage”).

In 1659, Spanish missionaries founded several Catholic missions, under which the village of El Paso del Norte (today the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez) was founded on the south bank of the Rio Grande. In 1680 the village temporarily became the capital of the vast Spanish territory of New Mexico, after the Spanish survivors of the Pueblo massacre from Santa Fe, including the administration of the territory, fled here. After the suppression of the Indian rebellion, the territorial government returned to Santa Fe (1692).

The events of the Texas War of Independence of 1835-1836 had little effect on El Paso. Whites accounted for no more than 10 percent of the population, and most Indians and Métis were indifferent to either the Republic of Texas’ claim to the city or Mexico’s attempt to retain it. From the conclusion of the Treaties of Guadalupe until the annexation of Texas by the United States, the city had two administrations (Mexican and Texan) that largely ignored each other, with the Mexican town hall dealing with the Indians and Métis and the Texan with the whites (who increased in number as the immigrants arrived). The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo drew the border between Mexico and the United States right in the middle of the city, dividing it into Mexican Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, USA.

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During the Civil War, the city was initially under Confederate control, but in 1862 it was taken by the California Column, fighting on the side of the North.

El Paso grew rapidly after the war, attracting many immigrants. The city experienced a real economic boom in 1881, when three railroads crossed it: the Southern Pacific, Texas-Pacific, and AT&SF. By 1910, El Paso was a thriving city with a 9/10 percent white, English-speaking population. Nothing foretold any upheaval, but tumultuous events in neighboring Mexico soon led to the flight of tens of thousands of Mexicans to the city, and the resulting blossoming of crime and unsanitary conditions. Moreover, among Mexicans, memories of the city that not so long ago belonged to them were alive (and painful). The extremely tense relations between the two communities were fueled by Mexican politicians (regardless of their political orientation) and intellectuals. The administration of Mexican President Venustiano Carranza and Mexican refugee leaders in Texas devised the San Diego Plan (Plan de San Diego, in Spanish) to completely exterminate white Americans in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and to return these lands to Mexico.

In March 1916, Mexican rebels, supported by Mexican Army soldiers who had crossed the border, seized most of the city for two days, killing over 500 whites, mostly women and children. The Americans, having assembled a militia of armed volunteers, knocked the enemy out of town by the end of the second day, without waiting for regular troops to arrive. Similar, though much smaller scale events took place repeatedly during 1916-17. The events of those years had a determining influence on inner-city politics and community relations for decades, and are still remembered today, despite the total numerical dominance of Mexicans in today’s El Paso.

The Great Depression hit the city’s economy hard, plunging it into stagnation until oil development began in the surrounding area in the mid-1950s. The transparency of the border with Mexico and liberal immigration laws meant that whites were once again a minority in the city in 1965.

Geography and Climate


El Paso is located on the border of three states, American Texas and New Mexico and Mexican Chihuahua. On the other side of the Rio Grande River lies the large Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, which forms a border agglomeration with El Paso. To the north of the city center rise the Franklin Mountains,[en] which extend into a mountain range stretching into New Mexico. The mountain range divides the city into two parts, the western part (in the Messila Valley[en]) and the eastern part (in the Chihuahua Desert). The center of the city is 1,140 meters above sea level, and the highest point within the city (the summit of Mount North Franklin Peak[en]) is 2,192 meters. The Rio Grande River flows within the city and forms the border with Mexico.

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El Paso

The main attraction of El Paso is the border with Mexico, literally dividing the city into two parts. And the Mexican side has another name – Ciudad Juarez.

It became clear why Trump is talking about the need for a concrete wall here – for those who want to cross the border illegally, a mesh fence probably does not pose much of a problem:

El Paso

Drive down one of the overpasses within the city limits and you can see the border crossings:

El Paso

And contemplate American and Mexican views on opposite sides of the road at the same time. The contrast is staggering. Ruin on one side:

El Paso

Modern buildings and other achievements of civilization on the other:

El Paso

After “enjoying” the views of Mexico from the car window, we decided to take a walk through the American city.

We parked in the center. My husband went to pay, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs and look around. Soon I noticed a colorful Mexican man with a nose piercing. He circled around, then approached me and asked:

At that moment my, almost two-foot tall, spouse loomed up. The short Mexican mumbled that he’d mistaken me for someone else, apologized, and retreated.

“Were they trying to take you off…?” I wagered that at just under 46, that could be taken as a compliment.

We did not find any special attractions in the city. We were impressed by the building with columns, which turned out to be a post office, and not the government, as we thought:

El Paso

Spectacular graffiti on the walls of houses:

Modern sports facilities:

El Paso

Thoughts of the homeland visited. Eh! You arrive in any provincial Russian town and at best you encounter something in the style of “poor but clean” – all the money is in the capitals. Everything is different here. Wide roads, complicated interchanges:

Saloons with expensive cars:

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El Paso

And the robot floorwasher at the Woolmart:

We haven’t seen such a marvel of technology even in capitals, but here, in the middle of the desert, in a border town where 90% of the population is Mexican, please.

The Weather

A desert is a desert in America, too. The temperature was consistently around 40 degrees and the lack of wind made the heat unbearable. In the evening, literally overnight, all of a sudden there were clouds, gusts of strong wind, and a warning on the phone about a sandstorm:

El Paso

Interestingly, such messages don’t come quietly here, as they do in Russia. The phone starts screaming a siren, and only after you pay attention to it by pressing “accept” on the home screen does the warning go to the text-message section.

Panicked – Run! It says, “Run for your life!

But apparently accustomed to such phenomena surrounding and steadily impenetrable husband lifted the degree of my tension with his calmness. Nothing terrible really happened in the end – the sandstorm with zero visibility passed us by.

Covid nuances

To recap, El Paso was the third stop on our Pandemic Journey. We arrived there on June 26, 2020 and stayed 2 nights to get a good night’s rest between two 11-hour drives.

We sighed with regret when we found out along the way that the town was not in New Mexico, as we were somehow certain, but still in Texas . This meant that we could not hope for a relaxation of the covid measures, and we would probably have to wear masks again.

But it turned out to be much worse than one might have thought. Despite the fact that the furniture in the hotel lobby was in place, for the first time we encountered a strict requirement to have masks for the guests:

El Paso

Which, however, I calmly ignored. The word “mask,” by the way, is not often used here, mostly “face covering,” so wearing a mask over one ear, I could not even get into the Woolmart:

El Paso

A vigilant security guard stopped me at the entrance and demanded that I cover my face with it.

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– What is the fine? I inquired.

– No fine, but you cannot enter without a mask. Period.

I wanted to go in, so I stepped over myself one more time, later hanging the “muzzle” over one ear.

In that sense, the walk through the city left a depressing impression. Despite the incredible heat and an apparent lack of oxygen in the air, as evidenced by our baby, constantly moaning “Mom, I can not breathe! , the law-abiding townspeople wearing masks were all there. 100%.

Those who flushed it under their noses thoughtlessly pulled it back on as we approached. There was a strong sense that we were the “dangerous coronavirus” – cynical white people without masks and with children, the main carriers of the disease.

Although, perhaps, such law-abidingness was due to other motives – they say there are a lot of illegals in the city. Therefore, in order not to get caught up in deportation, which does not take much time here, it is better not to show off, and unconditionally obey the local rules, which allow, in addition, a good camouflage among the impersonal crowd.

We stumbled upon a street with souvenir shops:

El Paso

The windows were full of masks of all kinds. I decided that if I could not avoid wearing them, I would protest in a flamboyant way. I chose the one in the upper right corner:

In addition to the guaranteed “wow-effect,” the mask provided maximum comfort – it did not pull my ears off, and when it was not needed, it hung around my neck like a stylish scarf.

All the stores, though, were covered with signs:

El Paso

The merchants were not so law-abiding – noticing the interest in the purchase, the lust for revenue outweighed the need to comply with strict rules – we were served without masks as well.

Yes, a few more times an invitation came to the phone for a free covid test, but we did not take advantage of this opportunity.


We didn’t get any “covid letters” at the hotel, a great room with a living room, kitchenette and two big beds was waiting for us. But most importantly, for the first time on the trip, we found glass glasses there, not the disposable ones that were provided to guests in other hotels for “safety reasons.”

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Since there are no reservoirs in the desert, the main criterion for choosing the hotel was the presence of a water park. What we saw in fact, to the loud name of “Waterpark”, far from reaching. A slide and a small, overcrowded, in spite of all the restrictions, swimming pool, where we did not notice even a hint of “social distancing:

The bulk of the vacationers seemed to be wealthy Mexicans. And this despite the fact that looking at Mexico across the border, we noticed a fairly large water park there.

All this again reminded of homeland, now its Northwest part, where, having decent water parks in St. Petersburg, its residents crowded in small Finnish counterparts in the border Imatra, for example.

Food with a Mexican twist

For breakfast, hotel guests could pour their own coffee in the lobby and grab a “grocery kit” consisting of a small juice box and burritos. All of this could be heated in the microwave and eaten at tables on the outdoor terrace.

El Paso

The burritos were asked for “not spicy,” but the kids couldn’t even eat them – it seems that what is “not spicy” to a Mexican is “just a little bit more and you can’t eat it” to a European.

The catering service in town worked, but I didn’t feel like going anywhere. The cuisine with a Mexican flavor, complete with masks, did not arouse an appetite:

El Paso

We dined at the hotel snack bar, where a tuna salad and, for some reason, raw mushrooms pleased us:

El Paso

For dinner, my husband ordered chicken wings, but could not eat them – the same “little bit”, after which it is already “impossible to eat”, did not allow.


When planning our trip we considered El Paso only as a point on the map, a stop there was justified by the need to rest on the way to Los Angeles.

In fact there were so many impressions of this city that even with all my hard work I could not cram them into my “proprietary” limit of 3-4 thousand characters. I hope you found it interesting.

And in the meantime, we headed for California, to the main destination of our trip – the Pacific coast, anticipating a meeting with the “City of Angels:

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