One of the ‘neat’ things about Hawaii is that, for Americans, it’s like traveling abroad without necessitating a passport — especially if you stay off of Oahu. Want to visit Southeast Asia, but are a little tentative about it? Go to Hawaii. Want to visit the Caribbean or the Eastern Coast of Mexico, but have reservations about either? Go to Hawaii.
El Paso is ‘neat’ in this same way — but no one gloats about it. If anything, quite the opposite.
The only tour busses flooding the area are coming up half a dozen blocks from the South; from Mexico — day trippers predominantly sticking to the southern half of downtown where a number of city blocks are festooned with businesses built out specifically to cater to them.
A not insignificant part of El Paso’s economy is predicated on the fact that there is a nearby river — the meaning of that river being incredibly loaded: carrying more significance than it bears water. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve read that the business of Mexicans crossing the border to day-shop in El Paso’s barrios (where the selection is much improved and the prices [surprisingly to me] more competitive than what is available in their country) constitutes something like a half-billion dollar annual industry. For the uppity business-types, maybe that’s hardly a drop-in-the-pan in the grand scheme of a city’s economy and GDP, but I have a difficult time scoffing at five-hundred million dollars.
Some months ago, I had read this article / interview that spoke to a land fight going on for one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods that closely inhabits the heart of downtown: Duranguito. At the time of the publishing of that article, there had been a stay put in place on further advancements to take over that neighborhood (including a plea directly to Beto). It would appear that by the time I had arrived in El Paso, that glimmer of hope had turned out to be for naught:
I had just left a Saturday morning street market and was making my way generally toward the South end of downtown, when a substantial amount of fencing was catching my eye. And wouldn’t you know it, I had more or less stumbled across the exact area of concern. There is now fencing restricting access to 6 blocks of evacuated downtown — the southern half of what is now dubbed Union Plaza. Score one for El Paso…
Back to my original point, stick to the lower sides of downtown El Paso and you’ll have the opportunity to taste Mexican food unlike anything most of the U.S. will proffer. Go to the source, they often say. Well, in this instance, six blocks away seems close enough. I will gloat about this. So long as it is still true.