History of El Paso
For centuries, the area of present-day El Paso was inhabited by various Indian tribes and groups. The first Europeans in the area were the Spanish, who traveled through the area in the mid-1550s. El Paso del Norte (Ciudad Juarez) was founded first, in 1659, on the banks of the Rio Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande) and the actual El Paso was founded in 1680 as a small village that served as the base for the Spanish governance over New Mexico. By the mid-18th century, the area had a number of smaller settlements with a population of over 5,000. The area was known for vineyards, wine and brandy.
After Mexico gained independence in 1821, the area became part of Mexico and remained so until the end of the Mexican War. After several territorial disputes, El Paso became part of the U.S. territory, in 1848. Fort Bliss was established in 1858.
During the Civil War, El Paso sided with the South. After the war, what was once a small village started its transformation into a vibrant frontier community, especially after the arrival of the railroad. It was a town of saloons, brothels and high crime rates, however in 1905 prostitution and gambling were banned and El Paso underwent serious reforms, becoming a modern city. Local economy thrived on commercial, industrial and agricultural businesses and the population was boosted by a number of Mexican refugees and immigrants. The city was perceived as a gateway to Mexico, where gambling and alcohol were not prohibited, which boosted tourism in El Paso.
In the 1980s, Fort Bliss was the largest employer in the city and other sectors included textiles, metals, tourism and food processing. Recently, the city has been experiencing problems with drug trafficking and the economy also suffered due to low labor rates from abroad.
Geography and Climate
El Paso has a rather unique position at the intersection of two countries (USA and Mexico) and three states (Texas, New Mexico and Chihuahua). It lies at 3,800 ft. above sea level and the highest elevation is the North Franklin Mountain at 7,192 ft. The Rio Grande is the largest body of water in the area, creating a natural border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. The city is surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert. It is the only large Texas city on Mountain Time.
El Paso has a hot desert climate, with very hot and dry summers and mild and dry winters. However, the weather in the city can be unpredictable and even bring some snow. A winter storm in 2011 caused schools and businesses to close and a crisis of the utilities.
Some parts of El Paso are susceptible to occasional flooding, especially due to summer monsoonal thunderstorms.
El Paso Cityscape
The city is divided into Central El Paso with Downtown El Paso and Sunset Heights, East El Paso with Ysleta, Far East El Paso-Montana Vista, Mission Valley El Paso, Northwest El Paso, also known as Upper Valley, Northeast El Paso and West Central El Paso.
Some of the tallest buildings in the El Paso skyline are Wells Fargo Plaza (21 floors), Chase Tower, Plaza Hotel and Kayser Building.
The racial makeup in El Paso is 80% Hispanic or Latino (75% Mexican), 15% White, 3.1% Black or African American, 1.2% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 01% Pacific Islander and 2.2% two or more races.
The El Paso area is home of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Nation, one of three federally recognized Native American tribes in Texas. This tribal entity comprising of the Tigua Indians has its own governing body and is located between El Paso and Socorro.
In 2010, the median household income in El Paso was $32,124 and the per capita income was $14,338.
El Paso has offices of more than 70 Fortune 500 companies, such as Boeing, Eureka, Delphi and The Hoover Company. Some of the large companies with headquarters in the city include Western Refining, Spira Footwear, Fred Loya Insurance and Helen of Troy Limited.
Fort Bliss is the largest employer in El Paso and a major contributor to the local economy. It is the site of the U.S. Army’s Air defense Artillery Center and produces $80 million in services and products each year.
Other large employers include El Paso Independent School District, Ysleta Independent School District, City of El Paso and University of Texas at El Paso.
Museums and Culture
El Paso area has several important museums, most notably the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, El Paso Museum of Archaeology, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of History, Fort Bliss Museums and Study Center, the Magoffin Homestead, The National Border Patrol Museum, Gene Roddenberry Planetarium and Lynx Exhibits. Other points of interest include the Plaza Theatre, McKelligon Canyon, El Paso Zoo, Plaza Hotel, Ysleta Mission, Chamizal National Memorial, Union Depot and Franklin Mountains State Park.
The city has been home to authors and writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Pat Mora, Debbie Reynolds and Tom Lea.
El Paso is home of the University of Texas at El Paso, Texas Tech University Health Sciences El Paso Campus, Park University, Webster University, Texas Tech University - Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, El Paso Community College, International Business College and Western Technical College.
The city is served by the El Paso International Airport and Amtrak (Sunset Limited) at the historic Union Depot.