DescriptionEl Paso, on the Mexican border, is a popular winter tourist destination because of its international feel, warm dry climate and proximity to the Rio Grande. The name El Paso is a shortened version of El Paso del Rio del Norte (the pass through the river of the north), given to the river valley by conquistador Juan de Oñate. Through this juncture, Spanish explorers found their way into what is now America. “The Equestrian,” a 36-foot-tall statue of Juan de Oñate, stands at the entrance to El Paso International Airport.
Agriculture adds to the city's financial well-being. The region is one of the few in the nation where long-staple Egyptian cotton is grown. Other contributors to the economy are manufacturers and the military.
Founded in 1682 with the establishment of the Mission Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the eastern suburb of Ysleta, is the oldest settlement in Texas. Some of Ysleta's residents are among the last members of the Pueblo tribe in Texas. Ysleta Mission, built by Tigua Indians, Spanish refugees and Franciscan padres almost a century before the first California mission, adjoins the Tigua Indian Reservation.
Nearby is the Camino Real, the “Royal Highway.” Once used by Spanish settlers and conquistadores, it is now a quiet farm road connecting Ysleta with two other Rio Grande Valley missions, La Purisima Socorro and San Elizario. These missions, which blend Spanish and Native American styles of architecture, still operate.
The Socorro Mission , 3 miles east of Ysleta, was built in 1681 by Piro Indians, members of the Pueblo Nation, who incorporated ancient Piro symbols in the construction. The mission was originally in Mexico, but the river shifted course, leaving the site on the Texas side. It contains a hand-carved statue of San Miguel and an ox-cart. It is said that when the ox-cart was used to bring the statue to the site, it mysteriously lodged itself into the mire in front of the church. All efforts to move the cart failed, convincing the parishioners that destiny dictated that the statue remain at Socorro.
San Elizario Presidio was established in 1789 to protect the river settlements of Ysleta and Socorro. The military garrison, which included barracks, corrals, storerooms and an adobe chapel, was abandoned during the Mexican War. The restored chapel stands on the site of the original that was washed away by the Rio Grande.
San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso is bordered by Oregon, Main, Mesa and Mills streets. The plaza dates from the early 1800s, when El Paso's park and street commissioner built the tree-shaded square at his own expense and stocked it with alligators, which lived in the plaza until the 1960s.
North between US 80 and N. Piedras Street, a paved road leads to an overlook on the south side of the Franklin Mountains. The 15-minute scenic drive affords a spectacular view of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
On New Year's Eve, college football fans gather at Sun Bowl Stadium for the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Visitor InfoDestination El Paso 400 W. San Antonio Ave. EL PASO, TX 79901. Phone:(915)534-0600 or (800)351-6024
Self-guiding toursA walking tour of downtown El Paso features 22 historic sites; a brochure is available from the convention and visitors bureau. The El Paso Public Library offers brochures and maps detailing walking tours of some of the buildings designed by Henry C. Trost, the prominent Southwestern architect who was greatly responsible for El Paso's present appearance.
ShoppingCielo Vista Mall, I-10 and Hawkins Boulevard, offers Dillard's, JCPenney, Macy's and Sears. Sunland Park Mall, I-10 and Sunland Park Drive, includes Dillard's and Sears. Bargain shoppers are drawn to The Outlet Shoppes at El Paso, at I-10 and Transmountain Road.
Things to SeeCentennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
Fort Bliss and Ironsides Museums
Personal SafetyThousands of Americans routinely cross the border into Mexico on a daily basis for business and personal reasons without incident, and crimes directed at tourists are unlikely. The possibility does exist, however, particularly in cities that are centers of activity for Mexican drug cartels. This violence grabs news headlines and adversely affects the daily lives of many Mexicans.
But for the casual visitor, safety almost always boils down to good old common sense. Stash traveler's checks and cash in different places; for example, in money belts and extra pockets sewn inside clothing. Keep photocopies of passports, credit cards and other documents in a separate place from the originals. Use parking lots or garages whenever possible. Legal parking is designated by a sign showing a red circle with a capital “E” inside; no-parking zones have signs with a diagonal red line through the “E.”