El Paso & Juarez: My tale of two cities

When you were a kid, did you ever color Easter eggs? And put the yellow egg into the red die in order to watch it turn orange? That’s pretty much like what has happened here in El Paso in the past 200 years. Two different cultures have been mixed together here—and magically turned into an interesting, viable and delightful third one.

Back in the day, El Paso used to be a Mexican town. Then it became an American town—and now it is a happy blend of the best of both. El Paso is a success because of (not despite of) its cultural diversity. Please bear this in mind.

But what about Juarez? I was about to find out.

“Don’t go there. It’s dangerous!” I was told by a bunch of people who had never been there.

“Piddle-tish,” as my father used to say. Juarez is only a ten-minute walk from where I was staying in downtown El Paso. I just walked over a bridge, paid a 25-cent bridge toll and Voila! I was suddenly in Juarez.

And perfectly safe.

First I went to Juarez’s cathedral, an excellent example of centuries-old colonial architecture. Then I went to the new, modern and excellent “Frontera” museum. Then I bought a Juarez T-shirt, visited a curandero, ate an ice cream cone and bought another T-shirt with a picture of Pancho Villa on the front—and several tiny bottles of tequila to bring home to my friends.

“What happened here that caused all this change,” I asked one of the shopkeepers. “How come it’s not dangerous here any more?”

Apparently the Federales finally woke up, got their arses in gear, wiped out a whole serpent’s nest full of drug cartels and stopped all that gun-running from America (aka the “War on Drugs”).

And BTW why aren’t our own Federal troops waking up too—and helping Americans to recover from those gut-wrenching, heartbreaking and terrible wildfires in California? Instead of just wasting their time sitting around waiting to torment poor harmless asylum-seekers?

“But how do the people of Juarez support themselves?” I asked next.

“We have about 400 maquiladoras—factories—here along the border, employing over 5,000 people. Plus we grow fine-quality cotton here that is picked by hand. It is in great demand in Saudi Arabia. We fly it straight there.” Who knew.

I loved Juarez. I walked back over there four different times. And I have the T-shirts to prove it.

And I loved El Paso as well. Cultural diversity has really spiced El Paso up. Too bad that so much of the rest of America is missing out on this treat.

PS: Juarez has all the delightful energy and flavor that we all love to go to Mexico for—except it only costs 25 cents to get here. You don’t have to drop a bundle of $$$ on air fare to get your hit of Mexican wonderfulness. Just pay 25 cents and walk across a bridge.

Jane Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. Her latest book is “Road Trip to Damascus.”

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