It’s been said that, “
history is written by the victors
Well, the land that surrounds the Franklin Mountains and Rio Grande has never been home to a winning side. The passage through the river was first referenced in historical texts over four centuries ago, but humans have been inhabiting this area for more than 10,000 years. Before China had a wall, before Giza had pyramids, and even before Stonehenge, humans have walked around the El Paso area.
With that level of history, there are bound to be marginalized perspectives which have called this region home that don’t get incorporated into the modern El Paso identity. Mainly because it’s the newest colonizer who controls and shapes the narrative — even if they haven’t entirely eradicated the culture that existed before them. I have a feeling that’s why the history of this land isn’t taught in the schools that are built on it. It might also be why this area lacks proper representation, or at least doesn’t own a public image that feels authentic and self-authored.
However, this isn’t just a byproduct of external forces, it’s also a reflection of how we see ourselves. It’s why so many people who call this place home have a hard time articulating exactly what the area is. And why you’d be hard pressed to define El Pasoans with simple broad terms. You see, El Paso is a place where different, or even opposing–forces and ideologies collide. A pathway in the “South” that was vital in creating the North. It’s a common marker for millions of people who travel between east and west, but these crossroads don’t merely juxtapose travelers and inhabitants.
It’s one of the last places where monotheistic missionaries dissipated religious pluralism. Where proud rebels have challenged conformists, and where repeatedly, altruists have clashed with opportunists. In some ways, it might be where the past meets the future. Or at least that’s how I feel most comfortable explaining this area in a nutshell.
Despite being a fourth-generation El Pasoan to a family that has called this place home for over one hundred years, the history of my city hadn’t been something I thought about until recently. While in other places, I never cared the usual response to saying I’m from El Paso was, “Oh, I’ve driven through there before.”
That all changed following a sequence of events that started almost exactly 10 years ago. Over the past five specifically, I’ve dedicated myself to better understanding what this city is and how it formed. More importantly, I’ve been exploring new ways to describe it and better share our story. That is how the
initiative came into fruition and how I’ll be spending the next foreseeable phase of my life.
While in some ways it’s intended to reunite the El Paso del Norte area as a singular unit — free from jurisdictional boundaries that divide our land —
is mostly about “us.” The Paseños and Fronterizos who call this place home and proudly occupy “the passage,” knowing the
can sometimes be more important than the destination.
I can’t say
El Paso del Norte Lotería
is the beginning of the initiative, but, I know it won’t be the end of it. Rather than focus all of my research and effort into a singular grand epic, I’ve divided my work into multiple components that will jump between mediums over time. This game/book hybrid is meant to offer an easily digestible starting point into El Paso’s vibrant culture and history. It’s also meant as an introduction into my thoughts and partitioning of our shared narrative. I genuinely believe El Paso del Norte has the ability to change the world, but that can only happen if each of us begin to understand what we are.
On that note, just to make it abundantly clear, I am not an author, academic, or professional historian. None of my research has been motivated by a thesis or degree. This is not propaganda and I am not a booster from a local chamber of commerce or economic development group. This isn’t a marketing effort lead by a tourism bureau or special interest. I am simply a native who is passionate about their home and wanting to share this story with my neighbors.
In a sense, that makes this and all my work, somewhat opposite to the efforts made by others. Rather than focus solely on facts of how things used to be, or potentially could be for outsiders and newcomers, I’m rooted in a loving affection of what it is. Even though I am a fan of history, it sadly took me over 30 years to give my home the same attention I had given Rome, Egypt, or the 13 colonies. When I finally did scratch the surface of this region’s (and my own) origin story, I kept thinking to myself, “why was I never told that?'
It’s from that perspective that I started this. A simple way to connect the dots we all might have missed along the way. Narratives might jump from history to business, science to religion, popular culture to technology, fact to opinion.
But, so does life.
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An Introduction to Paseño History
Setting The Stage