El Paso, Texas, has a fascinating history that is filled with many unusual stories and events from a unique perspective. One of the most interesting aspects of El Paso is the fact that the city is situated on the borderline between the United States and Mexico. As the 2010 U.S. Census reported, the majority of people living in El Paso are Latino–80.7%. Of this representative ethnic group, most residents are of Mexican heritage (Perales and Enriquez). The cultural heritage of the Mexican people provides the city with a creative and artistic background that is interwoven through the city in architectural design, food and music options for visitors to enjoy, and even the inspiration for many American authors to write about from a multicultural angle.
The geographical position of El Paso is an important part of the overall picture, with the Rio Grande River bordering as a natural passageway between mountain ranges and the Chihuahuan Desert (Perales and Enriquez). The fact that El Paso is centrally located between U.S. trade and Mexico was a primary reason why it was historically established as a trade and commerce center. Actually, trade routes between these regions go back much farther than that. Even before European settlers came to North America, Native American people had already been traversing the desert regions of what we now know as Texas and into current-day Mexico for possibly centuries. It may be very challenging for people today to fully understand the extent of influence and cultural history that these early populations had on El Paso. Fortunately, historians today are learning much more about the region by studying Native American art and artifacts which have been left behind and found through archeological digs and other important ways to learn about the past. El Paso is a vibrant modern-day city that has been shaped by many different historical events; for example, “El Paso’s transition from a settlement in the Spanish borderlands, through the Mexican period, to its reinvention as an American frontier town and modern border city” (Perales and Enriquez). All of these various factors have shaped El Paso into the 21st century, and bring a more prominent role to the city because of the diversity of influence that is so unique. These factors are significant for writers and creative artists, which means that many talented authors have found their voice in El Paso. There is so much to say about this extraordinary place, and more than one way to express it—through two languages or a combination of the two, as Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera demonstrated so eloquently. Her 1987 literary masterpiece is now considered by many to be an important book on the diversity of culture in America. There are many writers today who live in El Paso to pursue their writing in a supportive, healthful environment. A recent online literary review named El Paso as one of the Top Ten literary towns in America due to the talented authors who have written about the region: “a literary destination where borders, parameters, and limits are superfluous as residents, readers, and writers cross the boundaries seamlessly between two states, two countries, and two languages” (Newby). University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) has an internationally acclaimed reputation for its writing program and the high volume of groundbreaking literature which has been fostered there: “an international celebration of language and the book arts” (Newby) that brings writers, book lovers, historians, and all types of people from everywhere to El Paso. These are some of the advantages of living in a borderline city which shares two cultures, two languages, and many types of people from all walks of life.
- Newby, Michelle. “Top Texas Bookish Destinations 2016.” Lone Star Literary, 2016. http://www.lonestarliterary.com/el-paso.html. Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.
- Perales, Monica, and Sandra I. Enríquez. “El Paso.” Oxford Bibliographies, 2016. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199913701/obo-9780199913701-0109.xml. Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.