El Paso, Texas facts

El Paso, Texas
City
City of El Paso
From upper left: downtown El Paso skyline, star on the Franklin Mountains, The Cathedral of Saint Patrick, Wyler Aerial Tramway, North Franklin Peak, downtown El Paso at night
From upper left: downtown El Paso skyline, star on the Franklin Mountains, The Cathedral of Saint Patrick, Wyler Aerial Tramway, North Franklin Peak, downtown El Paso at night
Flag of El Paso, Texas
Flag
Official seal of El Paso, Texas
Seal
Nickname(s): The Sun City, El Chuco
Location in El Paso County and the state of Texas
Location in El Paso County and the state of Texas
Country  United States
State Texas Texas
County El Paso
Metropolitan Area El Paso
Founded 1680
Incorporated 1873
Government
 • Type Council–manager
 • City Council Mayor Oscar Leeser (D)
Peter Svarzbein
Jim Tolbert
Emma Acosta
Carl L. Robinson
Dr. Michiel Noe
Claudia Ordaz
Lily Limon
Cortney Niland
 • City manager Tommy Gonzalez
Area
 • City 256.3 sq mi (663.7 km2)
 • Land 255.3 sq mi (661.1 km2)
 • Water 1.0 sq mi (2.6 km2)
Elevation 3,740 ft (1,140 m)
Population (2010) 649,133
 • Estimate (2015) 681,124 (US: 20th)
 • Metro 838,972 (US: 68th)
 • CSA 1,053,267(US: 58th)
Demonym(s) El Pasoan
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP codes 79900-79999,
88500-88599 (PO Boxes)
Area code(s) 915, 575
FIPS code 48-24000
GNIS feature ID 1380946
Primary Airport El Paso International Airport
ELP (Major/International)
Secondary Airport Biggs Army Airfield-
KBIF(Military)
Interstates I-10.svg I-110.svg
U.S. Routes US 54.svg US 62.svg US 85.svg US 180.svg
Website www.elpasotexas.gov

El Paso (/ɛl ˈpæs/ ell PASS-oh; from Spanish, "the pass") is the seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States. The city is situated in the far western corner of the U.S. state of Texas.

El Paso stands on the Rio Grande river across the Mexico–United States border from Ciudad Juárez, the largest city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The two cities, along with Las Cruces in the neighboring U.S. state of New Mexico, form a combined international metropolitan area sometimes referred to as the Paso del Norte or El Paso–Juárez–Las Cruces. The region of over 2.7 million people constitutes the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.

The city is the headquarters of one Fortune 500 and three publicly traded companies, as well as home to the Medical Center of the Americas, the only medical research and care provider complex in West Texas and southern New Mexico, and the University of Texas at El Paso, the city's primary university. The city hosts the annual Sun Bowl college football post-season game, the second oldest bowl game in the country.

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).

In 2010, El Paso received an All-America City Award. El Paso has been ranked the safest large city in the U.S. for four consecutive years and has ranked in the top three since 1997. As of July 1, 2015, the population estimate for the city from the U.S. Census was 681,124. Its U.S. metropolitan area covers all of El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and has a population of 838,972. The El Paso MSA forms part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces CSA, with a population of 1,053,267.

History

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 evidence suggests 10,000 to 12,000 years of human habitation. The earliest known cultures in the region were maize farmers. When the Spanish arrived, the Manso, Suma, and Jumano tribes populated the area. These 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.

YsletaMission
Ysleta Mission, constructed in 1680 by the Spanish

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 a Thanksgiving Mass there on April 30, 1598 (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 (present-day Ciudad Juárez) was founded on the south bank of the Río Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande), in 1659 by Fray Garcia de San Francisco. 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 U.S. 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.

Old map-El Paso-1886
Map of the city in 1886

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.

El Paso c1880
El Paso circa 1880

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, with many Anglo-Americans, recent immigrants, old Hispanic settlers, and recent arrivals from Mexico. 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.

St. Louis Street, El Paso, Texas
St. Louis Street, El Paso, Texas (postcard, circa 1908)

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.

El Paso Downtown 1908
Downtown El Paso in 1908
Mesa Avenue, the heart of El Paso, Texas
Mesa Avenue, the heart of El Paso, Texas (postcard, circa 1917)

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 which resulted in the murder of 21 white citizens. The subsequent reprisals by local militia soon caused an escalation of violence, wherein it is estimated that approximately 300 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans lost their lives. These actions affected almost every resident of the entire lower Rio Grande Valley, resulting in millions of dollars of losses; the end result of the Plan of San Diego was long-standing enmity between the two racial groups.

Simultaneously, other Texans and Americans gravitated to the city and by 1920, along with the U.S. 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% Mexican and 44% white.

Camping on the Border, near El Paso, Texas
General Pershing's punitive expedition camp near the border, El Paso, Texas (postcard, circa 1916): Franklin Mountains, left-to-right (i.e., south-to-north) are: Ranger Peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, and part of South Franklin Mountain

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 (North America), 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.

Geography

Franklin Mountains and Austin High School, El Paso
El Paso and the Franklin Mountains with snow from winter storm Goliath; neighborhoods around Austin High School (center) are shown, from central El Paso at the bottom to Northeast El Paso at the top. The Patriot Freeway (aka the North–South Freeway), US Highway 54, is on the right.
Franklin Moutains from Ranger Peak
Looking northwest at the Franklin Mountains from Ranger Peak
El Paso, Texas
False-color satellite image of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez: Paved streets and buildings appear in varying shades of blue-gray, and red indicates vegetation. Image courtesy of NASA.

El Paso is at (31.790208, −106.423242). It lies at the intersection of three states (Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua) and two countries (the U.S. 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.

El Paso is closer to the capital cities of four other states - Phoenix, Arizona (348 miles away); Santa Fe, New Mexico, (272 miles away); Ciudad Chihuahua, Chihuahua, (212 miles away); and Hermosillo, Sonora (327 miles away) - than it is to the capital of its own state, Austin (526 miles away). It is closer to Los Angeles, California (702 miles away) than it is to Orange, Texas (762 miles away), the easternmost town in the state.

El Paso is located within the Chihuahuan Desert, the easternmost section of the Basin and Range Region. 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 southern 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. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 256.3 square miles (663.7 km2).

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.

Climate

East El Paso
Palm trees in far east El Paso

El Paso has a transitional climate between cold desert climate (Köppen BWk) and hot desert climate (Köppen BWh) with hot summers, usually with little humidity, and mild, dry winters. Rainfall averages 9.7 in (250 mm) per year, much of which occurs during the summer from July through September, and is predominantly caused by the North American Monsoon. During this period, southerly and southeasterly winds carry moisture from the Pacific, the Gulf of California, and the Gulf of Mexico into the region. When this moisture moves into the El Paso area and places to the southwest, orographic lift from the mountains, combined with strong daytime heating, causes thunderstorms, some severe enough to produce flash flooding and hail, across the region.

The sun shines 302 days per year on average in El Paso, 83% of daylight hours, according to the National Weather Service; from this, the city is nicknamed "The Sun City". Due to its arid, windy climate, El Paso often experiences sand and dust storms during the dry season, particularly during the springtime between March and early May. With an average wind speed often exceeding 30 mph (50 km/h) and gusts that have been measured at over 75 mph (120 km/h), these wind storms kick up large amounts of sand and dust from the desert, causing loss of visibility.

El Paso, at 3,800 ft (1,200 m) elevation, also receives snow; weather systems have produced over a foot (30 cm) of snow on several occasions. In the 1982–1983 winter season, three major snowstorms produced record seasonal snowfall. On December 25–26, 1982, 6.0 inches of snow fell, producing a white Christmas for the city. This was followed by another 7.0 inches on December 30–31, 1982. On April 4–7, 1983, 16.5 inches of snow fell on El Paso, bringing the seasonal total to nearly 30 inches. On December 13–14, 1987, a record storm dumped over 22 inches of snow on El Paso, and two weeks later (December 25–26), another three inches fell, bringing the monthly total for December 1987 to an all-time record high of 25.9 inches. (65 cm) of snow. The average annual snowfall for the city varies widely between different neighborhoods at different elevations, but is 6.1 inches at the airport (but with a median of 0, meaning most years see no snow at all). It is most rare around Ysleta and the eastern valley area, which usually include large numbers of palm trees; while in the higher neighborhoods palm trees are more vulnerable to cold snaps and as a result many of which can be seen with brown leaves.

Franklin Mountain Snow
Snow on Franklin Mountains

One example of El Paso's varying climate at its most extreme was the damaging winter storm of early February 2011, which caused closures of schools, businesses, and City Hall. The snow, which was light, stopped after about a day, but during the ensuing cold episode, municipal utilities went into a crisis. The high temperature on February 2, 2011 was 15 °F (−9 °C), the lowest daily maximum on record. In addition, the low temperature on February 3 was 1 °F (−17 °C), breaking the 5 °F (−15 °C) monthly record low set during the cold wave of 1899. Loss of desert vegetation, such as Mexican/California palm trees, oleanders, and iceplants to the cold weather was one of the results. Two local power plants failed, forcing El Paso Electric to institute rolling blackouts over several days, and electric wires were broken, causing localised blackouts. Many water utility pipes froze, causing areas of the city to be without water for several days.

Rio Grande EP Upper Valley
Rio Grande in west El Paso near New Mexico state line

Monthly means range from 44.8 °F (7.1 °C) in December to 82.8 °F (28.2 °C) in July, but high temperatures typically peak in June before the monsoon arrives, while daily low temperatures typically peak in July or early August with the higher humidity the monsoon brings (translating to warmer nights). On average, there are 52 nights of at- or below-freezing lows, 109 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs and 20 days of 100 °F (38 °C)+ highs annually; it is extremely rare for temperatures to stay below the freezing mark all day. The city's record high is 114 °F (46 °C) on June 30, 1994, and its record low is −8 °F (−22 °C) on January 11, 1962; the highest daily minimum was 85 °F (29 °C) on July 1 and 3, 1994, with weather records for the area maintained by the National Weather Service since 1879.

Flooding

Although the average annual rainfall is only about 9.7 in (250 mm), many parts of El Paso are subject to occasional flooding during intense summer monsoonal thunderstorms. In late July and early August 2006, up to 10 in (250 mm) of rain fell in a week, the flood-control reservoirs overflowed and caused major flooding citywide. The city staff estimated damage to public infrastructure at $21 million, and to private property (residential and commercial) at $77 million. Much of the damage was associated with development in recent decades in arroyos protected by flood-control dams and reservoirs, and the absence of any storm drain utility in the city to handle the flow of rain water.

Monthly statistics

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Wells Fargo building1
Wells Fargo Plaza

Neighborhoods

Downtown and central El Paso

El Paso Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Patrick, built in 1916, is located in Central El Paso.

This part of town contains some of the city's oldest and most historic neighborhoods. Located in the heart of the city, it is home to approximately 130,000 people. Development of the area started around 1875, when the city was barely beginning to gain its roots. Today, central El Paso has grown into the center of the city's economy and a thriving urban community. It contains numerous historic sites and landmarks mostly in the Sunset Heights district. It is close to the El Paso International Airport, the international border, and Fort Bliss. It is part of the El Paso Independent School District.

Dr. James Day, an El Paso historian, said that downtown's main business area was originally centered between Second Avenue (now Paisano Drive) and San Francisco Avenue. At a later point the main business area was centered around Stanton Street and Santa Fe Street. In the late 1800s most of the white American residents lived to the north of the non-white areas, living in brick residences along Magoffin, Myrtle, and San Antonio Avenues. Hispanic-American residents lived in an area called "Chihuahuita" ("little Chihuahua"), which was located south of Second Avenue and west of Santa Fe Street. Several African Americans and around 300 Chinese Americans also lived in Chihuahuita. Many of the Chinese Americans participated in the building of railroads in the El Paso area.

Northwest El Paso

El Paso's Upper Valley
El Paso's upper valley in northwest El Paso
El Paso west side snow
The west side of the Franklin Mountains after winter storm Goliath

Better known as West El Paso or the West Side, the area includes a portion of the Rio Grande floodplain upstream from downtown which is known locally as the Upper Valley and is located on the west side of the Franklin Mountains. The Upper Valley is the greenest part of the county due to the Rio Grande. The west side is home to some of the most affluent neighborhoods within the city, such as the Coronado Hills and Country Club neighborhoods. It is one of the fastest-growing areas of El Paso.

West central El Paso

Kern Place
Historic home at Kern Place

West central El Paso is located north of Interstate 10 and west of the Franklin Mountains. The University of Texas at El Paso and the Cincinnati Entertainment district are located in the heart of the area. Historic districts Kern Place and Sunset Heights are in this part of town.

Kern Place was founded in 1914 by Peter Kern, for whom the neighborhood was named. Kern was a promoter, a businessman, a philosopher and a traveler. Kern first came to El Paso in 1881 when he was in his early twenties. He saw El Paso as a growing city with great potential in the newly arrived railroad. He began a jewelry store that became quite successful in a town of saloons and gambling houses.

The homes of Kern Place are unique in design as compared to other parts of town. Some of the homes were built by the residents themselves. One of the better known domiciles is Paul Luckett home located at 1201 Cincinnati Ave. above Madeline Park. The house is made of rock gathered from the area, and affectionately known as "The Castle" due to its round walls and a crenelated rooftop.

Kern place historic home
Kern Place

Kern Place is extremely popular with college and university students. The area is known for its glitzy entertainment district, restaurants and coffee shops who cater to both business patrons and university students. After UTEP's basketball and football games, UTEP fans pack the Kern Place area for food and entertainment at Cincinnati Street a small bar district. This bar scene has grown over the years and has attracted thousands to its annual Mardi Gras block party as well as after sporting events or concerts. Young men and women make up the majority of the crowds who stop in between classes or after work.

Sunset Heights is one of the most historic areas in town, which has existed since the latter part of the 1890s. Many wealthy residents have had their houses and mansions built on this hill. Although some buildings have been renovated to their former glory, but many have been neglected and have deteriorated. During the Mexican Revolution, a widely popular Mexican revolutionary leader, Doroteo Arango (also known as Francisco "Pancho" Villa), owned and resided in this area during the 1910s. During the 1910 Mexican Revolution many Mexicans fled Mexico and settled in Sunset Heights.

Northeast El Paso

This part of town is located north of central El Paso and east of the Franklin Mountains. Development of the area was extensive during the 1950s and 1960s. It is one of the more ethnically diverse areas in the city due to the concentration of military families. The Northeast has not developed as rapidly as other areas like east El Paso and northwest El Paso, but its development is steadily increasing. It is expected that the population will grow more rapidly as a result of the troop increase at Ft. Bliss in the coming years. The area has also gained recognition throughout the city for the outstanding high school athletic programs at Andress High School, Parkland High School, Irvin High School, and Chapin High School.

East El Paso

The area is located north of Interstate 10, east of Airway Blvd., and south of Montana Ave. It is the largest and fastest growing area of town with a population of over 150,000. It includes the 79936 zip code, which was considered in 2013 as the most populous in the nation with over 114,000 people. Its neighborhoods are mainly middle-class, but does have a considerable number of affluent neighborhoods. East El Paso is noted also for its ridges and cliffs which offer desirable views of the lower valley, the Franklin Mountains and downtown El Paso. It also possesses the greatest number of entertainment venues in the city.

Mission Valley

Formerly known as the lower valley, it includes part of Eastside and all lower valley districts. It is the third largest area of the city, behind east El Paso and central El Paso. Hawkins Road and Interstate 10 border the Mission Valley. This location is considered the oldest area of El Paso, dating back to the late 17th century when present-day Texas was under the rule of Nueva España (New Spain).

Ysleta Del Sur church
La Mision de Corpus Christi de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur

In 1680 the Isleta Pueblo tribe revolted against the Spaniards who were pushed south to what is now El Paso. Some Spaniards and tribe members settled here permanently. Soon afterward, three Spanish missions were built; they remain standing, currently functioning as churches: Ysleta Mission-1682 (La Misión de Corpus Christi y de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur/Our Lady of Mt. Carmel), Socorro Mission-1759 (Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción del Socorro)-1759 and San Elizario Chapel (Capilla de San Elcear)-1789.

On April 30, 1598, the northward-bound Spanish conquistadors crossed large sand dunes about 27 miles south of present-day downtown El Paso. It is said that the expeditionaries and their horses ran toward the river, and two horses drank themselves to death. Don Juan de Oñate, a New Spain-born conquistador of Spanish parents, was an expedition leader who ordered a big feast north of the Río Grande in what is now San Elizario. This was the first documented and true Thanksgiving in North America. Oñate declared La Toma (taking possession), claiming all territory north of the Río Grande for King Philip II of Spain.

Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo (related to the insurgent Isleta Pueblo Tribe) is also located in this valley. The Tigua (pronounced Tiwa) is one of three Indian tribes in Texas whose sovereignty is recognized by the United States government. Ysleta is spelled with a "Y" because 19th-century script did not differentiate between a capital "Y" and a capital "I."

Some people in this area and its twin city across the river, Ciudad Juárez, are direct descendants of the Spaniards.

Texas and New Mexico suburbs

El Paso is surrounded by many cities and communities in both Texas and New Mexico. The most populated suburbs in Texas are Socorro, Horizon City, Fort Bliss and San Elizario. Other Texas suburbs are Anthony, Canutillo, Sparks, Fabens and Vinton.

Although Anthony, Santa Teresa, Sunland Park, and Chaparral lie adjacent to El Paso County, they are considered to be part of the Las Cruces, New Mexico metropolitan area by the United States Census Bureau.

Cityscape

A panoramic view of El Paso, looking northeast through south, near Scenic Drive. The Hueco Mountains can be seen toward the east, and Downtown El Paso can be seen to the south (far right of the image).

Tallest buildings

See also: List of tallest buildings in El Paso
Plaza Hotel El Paso
Plaza Hotel
Rank Building Height Floors Built
1 Wells Fargo Plaza 296 ft (90 m) 21 1972
2 Chase Tower 250 ft (76 m) 20 1971
3 Plaza Hotel 239 ft (73 m) 19 1930
4 Kayser Building 232 ft (71 m) 20 1983
5 O. T. Bassett Tower 216 ft (66 m) 17 1930
6 El Paso Natural Gas Company Building 208 ft (63 m) 18 1954
7 Camino Real Hotel 205 ft (62 m) 17 1986
8 One Texas Tower 205 ft (62 m) 15 -
9 Doubletree Hotel 202 ft (62 m) 17 -
10 El Paso County Courthouse 185 ft (56 m) 13 -

El Paso's tallest building, the Wells Fargo Plaza, was built in the early 1970s as State National Plaza. The black-windowed, 296-foot (90 m) building is famous for its 13 white horizontal lights (18 lights per row on the east and west sides of the building, and seven bulbs per row on the north and south sides) that were lit at night. The tower did use a design of the United States flag during the July 4 holidays, as well as the American hostage crisis of 1980, and was lit continuously following the September 11 attacks in 2001 until around 2006. During the Christmas holidays, a design of a Christmas tree was used, and at times, the letters "UTEP" were used to support University of Texas at El Paso athletics. The tower is now only lit during the holiday months, or when special events take place in the city.

Demographics

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1850 200
1860 428 114.0%
1880 736
1890 10,338 1304.6%
1900 15,906 53.9%
1910 39,279 146.9%
1920 77,560 97.5%
1930 102,421 32.1%
1940 96,810 −5.5%
1950 130,485 34.8%
1960 276,687 112.0%
1970 339,615 22.7%
1980 425,259 25.2%
1990 515,342 21.2%
2000 563,662 9.4%
2010 649,121 15.2%
Est. 2015 681,124 20.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
Texas Almanac: 1850–2000
2012 Estimate
El Paso 1850 to 2006
TX State Historical Association
Demographic profile 2010 2000 1990 1970
White 80.8% 76.3% 76.9% 96.7%
 —Non-Hispanic whites 14.2% 18.3% 26.4% 40.4%
African American or Black 3.4% 3.5% 3.4% 2.3%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 80.7% 76.6% 69.0% 57.3%
Asian 1.2% 1.5% 1.2% 0.3%
Race and ethnicity 2010- El Paso (5560469838)
Map of racial distribution in El Paso, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian Hispanic, or Other (yellow)

As of the census of 2010, 649,121 people, 216,694 households, and 131,104 families resided in the city. The population density was 2,263.0 people per square mile (873.7/km²). There were 227,605 housing units at an average density of 777.5 per square mile (300.2/km²).

According to the 2010 US Census, the racial composition of El Paso was:

Ethnically, the city was:

  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race) – 80.7%

There were 182,063 households out of which 42.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.6% were married couples living together, 18.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.5% were not families. About 19.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.07 and the average family size was 3.54.

In the city, the population was distributed as 31.0% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,124, and for a family was $35,432. Males had a median income of $28,989 versus $21,540 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,388. About 19.0% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.8% of those under age 18 and 17.7% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Annual cultural events and festivals

Amigo Airsho

Amigo Airsho is one of El Paso's premier events, and is ranked as one of the top ten air shows in the country. The show is filled with air entertainment and ground activities. Acts include the Franklin's Flying Circus, where performers walk on the wings of an airborne plane. Ground activities include the Jet Powered School Bus. After 31 years of being held at Biggs Army Airfield, the show was moved to Dona Ana Airport in 2014.

KLAQ Great River Raft Race

El Paso's Upper Valley by the Rio Grande
Great River Raft Race held annually on the Rio Grande in El Paso's upper valley.

The KLAQ Great River Raft Race is an annual event celebrated on the second to last Saturday of June. Participants are encouraged to ride the river and float the Rio Grande with family and friends. The organizers encourage the building of unique rafts that will get you down the river with prizes and trophies awarded for the most points earned, best looking crew, and best decorated raft. The race starts at the Vinton bridge and ends three miles downstream at the Canutillo bridge.

Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo

The Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo is the 17th oldest rodeo in the nation and El Paso's longest running sporting event. Consistently ranked as one of the top 50 shows in the country by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, this charitable event is a true celebration of western culture and heritage.

Fiesta de las Flores

Fiesta de las Flores is the oldest Hispanic Festival in the Southwest. The three-day Fiesta is held each year during the Labor Day weekend and emphasizes El Paso's Hispanic heritage and culture. The festival attracts 20,000 to 30,000 visitors from El Paso County, New Mexico, West Texas and the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. Activities included in the Fiesta are crowning of the Queen, a Fiesta Parade, Senior Appreciation Dance, Military Appreciation Day, and live Entertainment. The Fiesta is also well known for the authentic regional cuisine, arts and craft wares, games, and services available for the enjoyment of all segments of the attendees. Over 80 booths, sponsored by local vendors and nonprofit organizations create the Hispanic ambience and culture.

EP Public libray
Cleveland Square in downtown El Paso is where many of the festivals are held annually.

El Paso Balloonfest

The El Paso Balloonfest is an annual event celebrated on Memorial Day weekend and is self described as "3 days of hot air balloons filling the El Paso skies, 3 afternoons of concerts and fun in the sun at Wet N' Wild Waterworld in Anthony, Texas." Over 60 balloons take to the air annually from TFCU launch field which is adjacent to the water park. After the balloons launch, visitors have a weekend of water rides, swimming, concerts, and grilling. The concert aspect of the event features local bands, starting at noon, and different headlining artists in the afternoon. Overnight camping has been added for 2014.

Music Festivals

El Paso Downtown Street Festival

The annual El Paso Downtown Street Festival is held during the last weekend of June in downtown El Paso near the El Paso Convention center. It is the oldest musical festival in the city and brings local, regional and nationally known acts.

Neon Desert Music Festival

The annual Neon Desert Music Festival is a two-day event usually held on the last Saturday and Sunday of May on five stages in downtown El Paso stretching from San Jacinto Plaza to Cleveland Square. The festival brings over 30 acts from the worlds of indie rock, Latin and electronic dance music.

Music Under the Stars

The outdoor concert series, started in 1983, is held annually at the Chamizal National Memorial and draws over 60,000 attendees. It features local and international performers with musical genres ranging from Classical, Country, Tejano, rock and others. The evening concerts are showcased every Sunday afternoon and start in early June and end in the middle of August.

Sun City Music Festival

The only El Paso musical festival not held downtown; instead it is held at Ascarate Park. The Sun City Music Festival is a two-day event dubbed as the largest electronic dance music festival in Texas.

Texas Showdown Festival

The Texas Showdown Festival is an annual event celebrating musicians and tattoo artists under one roof. Dubbed as the world's largest tattoo and musical festival, the event is held usually the last weekend of July at the El Paso County Coliseum.

Performing arts

Viva! El Paso

The outdoor musical extravaganza Viva! El Paso is performed in the McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre. It is locally produced and chronicles the 400-year history and cultural evolution of the El Paso region. The show is performed each Friday and Saturday night in June, July, and August. Viva! El Paso has entertained local residents and out-of-town visitors for over 35 years.

El Paso Symphony Orchestra

The El Paso Symphony was established in the 1930s, it is the oldest performing arts organization in El Paso and the longest continuously running symphony orchestra in the state of Texas. It has received both national and international recognition as a result of its very successful tours of Germany in 1996 and Turkey in 2000, and continues to represent the El Paso region with pride and distinction. The El Paso Symphony Orchestra Association season is anchored by 12 classical concerts. Special events serve as outreach toward new audiences.

Ballet in El Paso

Ballet was largely nonexistent in El Paso until the arrival of Ingeborg Heuser, a professional ballerina from Germany, in the 1950s. Heuser taught ballet at the University of Texas at El Paso for 47 years and founded the city's first professional ballet company, firstly known as Texas Western Civic Ballet and eventually as Ballet El Paso. The company dissipated due to financial trouble in 1997 and Heuser retired from UTEP soon after.

The El Paso Youth Ballet was founded in 2009 by Heuser's previous student, Marta Katz, following Heuser's departure from the university. With students from the youth ballet, Heuser staged her last Nutcracker in 2006. The youth company continues to perform the Nutcracker and other pre-professional pieces in and around the El Paso area. The company provides the only platform for young ballet dancers to train and perform at such a level within the city since the folding of Ballet El Paso.

El Paso City Ballet is a current professional ballet company in El Paso, providing local employment for professional dancers in the field of ballet. The company performs a variety of classical and contemporary works choreographed by Artistic Director Lisa Skaf and artists from the US and Latin America. It has been active since 2005, performing yearly productions.

Theaters

The Plaza Theatre
The Plaza Theatre

The Abraham Chavez Theatre, adjacent to the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center, welcomes patrons with a three-story-high glass-windowed entry and unique sombrero-shaped architecture, making it a distinct feature on El Paso's southwestern landscape.

The Plaza Theatre is a historic building located at 125 Pioneer Plaza. The theater stands as one of the city's most well-known landmarks. It shows various Broadway productions, musical concerts, and individual performers. It has a seating capacity of 2,100.

McKelligon Canyon is a 90-acre (360,000 m2) park, located in the Franklin Mountains, open to hikers and picnickers. In the canyon, McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre is surrounded on three sides by dramatic canyon walls; the 1,500-seat amphitheatre is used for concerts and special events, such as Viva El Paso! El Paso Playhouse is a theater affiliated with Kids-N-Co, a theater for child actors. The UTEP Dinner Theatre is a theatre within the UTEP campus.

Area museums

CuevaDeLaOlla,Paquime,ChihuahuaMexico
El Paso Museum of Archaeology, diorama shows Cueva de la Olla (cave of the pot – a large pot-shaped storage container for grain), Paquimé, Sierra Madre of Chihuahua
El Paso Museum of Art. El Paso, Texas
El Paso Museum of Art

The Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, located on the grounds of UTEP, includes a comprehensive collection of El Paso Brown, Native American pottery, as well as educational exhibits for students.

The El Paso Museum of Archaeology is located on the eastern slope of North Franklin Mountain, west of Gateway South Blvd. on TransMountain Rd. Its grounds include native plants of the American Southwest, as well samples of Native American shelters, in an unspoiled location. The museum includes dioramas for school children which illustrate the culture and geology of the American Southwest, such as Hueco Tanks in El Paso County. One diorama (see image to the right) is of the Cueva de la Olla (cave of the pot) which is located in the Sierra Madre of Chihuahua, an example of the Paquimé culture.

The El Paso Museum of Art is located next to the Plaza Theater adjacent to San Jacinto Plaza, the public square downtown. It contains works of southwestern artists such as Tom Lea.

Other area museums include:

  • El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center
  • International Museum of Art El Paso
  • El Paso Museum of History
  • Fort Bliss Museums and Study Center
  • Insights El Paso Science Museum
  • The Magoffin Homestead, dating from 1875, is now a state historic site.
  • The National Border Patrol Museum is located adjacent to the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.
  • Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso
  • War Eagles Air Museum in nearby Santa Teresa, New Mexico
  • The Gene Roddenberry Planetarium
  • Lynx Exhibits

Sites within the city limits

Sunny the Sea Lion at the El Paso Zoo
Sea Lion exhibit at the El Paso Zoo
  • Ysleta Mission is recognized as the oldest continuously operated parish in the State of Texas.
  • Cathedral of Saint Patrick erected in 1916 is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso.
  • Chamizal National Memorial
  • El Paso Zoo
  • Magoffin Home State Historic Site
  • Plaza Hotel
  • Union Depot
  • El Paso High School
  • University of Texas at El Paso The university's distinctive style is a type of fortress architecture, Dzong, found in the present and former Buddhist mountain kingdoms of the Himalayas, Bhutan and Tibet.

Sites within the metro and surrounding area

Within driving distance from El Paso are nine state parks, two national parks, two national monuments, one national memorial and a national forest.

Guadalupe Peak from Bowl Trail
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • Guadalupe Peak – the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet in elevation.
  • Hueco Tanks State Historic Site
  • McKittrick Canyon
  • Lincoln National Forest
  • Mt. Cristo Rey
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
  • Socorro Mission
  • White Sands National Monument
  • San Elizario Chapel
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Old Mesilla
  • Wet N' Wild Waterworld
  • Spaceport America
  • Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
  • Western Playland

Parks and recreation

Wyler Aerial Tramway1
Wyler Aerial Tramway at the Franklin Mountains State Park

El Paso is home to the largest urban park in the nation. The Franklin Mountains State Park, with its more than 24,248 acres (9,813 ha), is completely located within the city limits. The park is open year-round for recreation including hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, scenic driving and views of the city. The city is also home to 242 municipal parks.

The Wyler Aerial Tramway is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is in the Franklin Mountains State Park. The tramway complex covers 196 acres (0.79 km2) on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. The gondolas travel along two 2,600-foot (790 m) 1+38 diameter steel cables to Ranger Peak, 5,632 feet (1,717 m) above sea level. The trip takes about four minutes and lifts riders 940 feet (290 m) above the boarding area.

Hueco Tanks Bouldering
Bouldering on North Mountain at Hueco Tanks

Hueco Tanks State Historic Site is a Texas historic site in the Hueco Tanks area, approximately 32 miles (51 km) northeast of El Paso. The park is popular for recreation such as birdwatching and bouldering, and is culturally and spiritually significant to many Native Americans. This significance is partially manifested in the pictographs (rock paintings) that can be found throughout the region, many of which are thousands of years old. Also within the city limits, the Chamizal National Memorial is a 54.90-acre (22.22 ha) memorial park that serves primarily as a cultural center and contains art galleries, a theater, and an amphitheatre. A museum detailing the history of the Mexico–U.S. border is located inside the visitor center.

Botanical Gardens

  • The Chihuahuan Desert Gardens (CDG) display the flora of the Chihuahuan Desert and adjacent regions in the United States and Mexico. The Gardens were formally dedicated in September 1999 and contain over 625 different species of plants, comprising one of the largest captive assemblages of Chihuahuan Desert flora in the world.
  • The El Paso Municipal Rose Garden or officially known as the All-American Rose Selection (AARS) public garden is one of over 100 certified gardens within the United States. There are over 1,900 rosebushes with 500 varieties. The wrought-iron fenced garden has wide walkways with handicap accessibility, raised beds, a waterfall, and trees and shrubs. Several new rose varieties are planted each year, and after two years the highest-rated are named and receive the AARS symbol.

Golf courses

The metro area has 16 golf courses including Butterfield Trail Golf Club, the only public premium daily fee Tom Fazio designed golf course in the state of Texas. It was ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 3 in the Nation on Golfweek's 2013 Best Municipal Golf Courses. Other golf courses found in the county include:

  • Ascarate Golf Course
  • Coronado Country Club
  • El Paso Country Club
  • Horizon City Golf Course
  • Lone Star Golf Club
  • Painted Dunes Desert Golf Club
  • Vista Hills Country Club
  • Underwood Golf Complex

Next door in Dona Ana County there are the following golf courses:

  • Dos Lagos Golf Course
  • Las Cruces Country Club
  • New Mexico State Golf Course
  • Picacho Hills Country Club
  • Red Hawk Golf Club
  • Santa Teresa Country Club
  • Sonoma Ranch Golf Course

Zoo

The El Paso Zoo has 35 acres (14 ha) and over 200 animal species. The zoo is divided into three distinct sections: the Americas; Asia; and Africa. Exhibits include elephants, lions, tigers, sea lions, zebras, and giraffes.

El Paso in popular culture

Events

  • Fleetwood Mac held their first concert that featured Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in El Paso in 1975. Stevie Nicks attended Loretto Academy and Bassett Junior High in El Paso as a teenager.

Films shot or set in El Paso

(Chronological)

  • Take the High Ground! (1953), starring Richard Widmark and Karl Malden
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965), starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, is set in El Paso.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), which is reputed to be one of the worst films ever made, was shot in and around El Paso. It premiered in 1966 at the downtown Capri Theater.
  • The Getaway (1972), starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw
  • The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977), starring William Devane
  • Big Wednesday (1978), starring Jan Michael Vincent and Gary Busey
  • When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? (1979), starring Hal Linden and Lee Grant
  • Resurrection (1980), starring Ellen Burstyn
  • In The Border (1982), starring Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel, all the border scenes, Nicholson's character's house, the refugee camp scene, and the U.S. Embassy scene were shot in and around El Paso.
  • Wrong is Right (1982), starring Sean Connery
  • Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), starring Chuck Norris and David Carradine
  • Paris, Texas (1984), starring Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell
  • Lost in America (1985), starring Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty
  • Extreme Prejudice (1987), starring Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe.
  • Wild at Heart (1990), starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern
  • Blue Sky (1994), starring Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones
  • Last Man Standing (1996) starring Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, Christopher Walken, and Karina Lombard
  • Lolita (1997), starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith
  • On the Border (1998), starring Casper Van Dien, Bryan Brown, Daniel Baldwin
  • Committed (2000), starring Heather Graham
  • Traffic (2000), starring Benicio del Toro, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid and Don Cheadle
  • The Original Latin Kings of Comedy (2002), featuring George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Joey Medina, Alex Reymundo and Paul Rodriguez was shot at the Abraham Chavez Theater.
  • Saving Jessica Lynch (2003), starring Laura Regan
  • In the films Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), the Two Pines Wedding Chapel massacre is set in El Paso, however the church is actually located in California.
  • Man on Fire (2004), starring Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning
  • The Day After Tomorrow (2004), starring Dennis Quaid and Sela Ward
  • Glory Road (2006), starring Josh Lucas, is set in El Paso.
  • No Country for Old Men (2007), starring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem
  • Stephen Fry in America (2008), documentary
  • The Last Conquistador (2008), a PBS POV documentary about the Oñate statue controversy
  • I'm Not Fat...I'm Fluffy (2009), starring Gabriel Iglesias, was shot at the Plaza Theater.
  • In The Burning Plain (2009), starring Charlize Theron, one scene was shot on second floor at Southwest General Hospital.
  • In the film Due Date (2010), Peter and Ethan accidentally cross into Mexico from El Paso when Ethan mistakes the 'Mexico' sign at the border crossing for a 'Texaco' gas station.
  • In the film Django Unchained (2012), Dr. King Schultz kills the El Paso Sheriff who in reality is an outlaw.
  • The Counselor (2013), starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz.
  • Dumb and Dumber To (2014), starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels
  • Sicario (2015 film) (2015), starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro

Games

  • In Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, the penultimate mission is set in El Paso.

Popular music about El Paso

El Paso has become a favored destination for musicians of all stripes. Additionally, multiple songs have been written about or mention El Paso:

  • "El Paso" by Marty Robbins was a popular Country ballad released in 1959. In 1976, Robbins followed it with a sequel, "El Paso City".
  • "Take The Money and Run" – a 1976 hit song by the Steve Miller Band – tells the story of two bandits who "go down to old El Paso" and "ran into a great big hassle".
  • American artist Tori Amos references El Paso in her song, "Mother Revolution", featured on her 2005 album, The Beekeeper.
  • Taking Back Sunday's first track of their 2011 eponymous album is named "El Paso", where the band started production of the album.
  • The current Blue Beetle comic book series takes place in El Paso.

Television shows set in El Paso

  • In Breaking Bad season 2 (2009), DEA Agent Hank Schrader is transferred from his office in Albuquerque to the headquarters in El Paso.
  • Kingpin (NBC pilot) (2003) starring Yancey Arias and Brian Benben
  • The Bridge (2013 TV series), an American police drama on the FX network loosely based on the Danish/Swedish series

Images


El Paso, Texas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.