5. Be distinctive, be related. Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.
4. No lettering or seals. Never use writing of any kind or an organization's seal.
2. Use meaningful symbolism. The flag's images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
1. Keep it simple. The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
Not only have I taken issue with it objectively over the years, it’s also just flat-out ugly.
In 2015, Roman Mars, a prominent observer of all things “design,” delivered a memorable TED talk dedicated entirely to flags. In his 18-minute presentation, the storyteller introduced the audience to the fundamental principles of good flag design — as outlined by the North American Vexillogical Association (NAVA).
It might make sense for the “City of El Paso” to orient itself in a nesting doll of iconography incapsulated by the larger county, and even larger state. However, I feel this type of thinking is merely superficial and has been a disservice to our community. Our story, our history, and our people, predate the state and even the country we’re a part of today. It’s from that perspective that I began this project.
While it can be argued that El Paso's banner breaks every single rule, the most obvious faux pas is the text declaration of the “CITY OF EL PASO TEXAS”.
Millions have seen and been inspired by Mars’ talk, including people in our area. The same year, James Reyes took the initiative to simplify the flag according to the NAVA principles.
And Austinite Jolon Dann, went even further to try and make a common flag theme for multiple Texas cities.
The design is meant to symbolize the Aridoamerican landscape, river, and passage that created our home. Indigenous cultures, Spanish Monarchs, Mexico, and the United States all share the use of red in their iconography. Thus, the path through the river is fortified by parallel red stripes calling on all eras of inhabitants. However, to emphasize the chronological significance of the area, each color relates to the palette of indigenous origins.
Rather than use a bleached white that is common on flags around the world. The El Paso Del Norte Flag is meant to be a natural cotton white. This is to help depict the Chihuahuan Desert sand while also act as an homage to the natural resource of our home.
Blue as we know it today, was first produced by the ancient Egyptians roughly around 2500BC. It would be used extensively and modified overtime, as it spread further east. But in this part of the world, they Mayans were the first civilization to cultivate their own azurite dye (centuries before the crusades brought new colors to the hemisphere).
'The color blue is associated with two of Earth’s greatest natural features: the sky and the ocean. But that wasn’t always the case. Some scientists believe that the earliest humans were actually colorblind and could only recognize black, white, red, and only later yellow and green. As a result, early humans with no concept of the color blue simply had no words to describe it.'
Possibly the most important color from this side of the world is derived from an insect native to our lands. Often found in prickly pear cactuses, natives have used this parasite to create red pigments for thousands of years. When the world was introduced to Cemanahuac, the reds from this “new world” became a global sensation. Cochineal dyed fabrics became one of the most profitable exports for colonizers and is still used today in everything from food, to cosmetics.
When Texans began declaring victory after the revolution, they demanded the Rio Grande as a border –– even though they had never really traveled along it. Mexico/Spain was willing to offer the Nueces river which would allow room for their own communities to grow (which had already begun taking shape) around the more southern river. But they refused.
Texas’s original concept for their new boundaries envisioned a state that stretched all the way to the Pacific Ocean! Needless to say, it took a couple of decades to come to more realistic terms. So in usual El Paso fashion, we were a gray area for quite some time.
When Anglos began surveying the river and heading west for the first time, they opted for the “deepest” channel (or most likely just went with the one that offered them more land). Rather than stopping in the Del Rio area and following the Pecos River north, they decided to keep heading west and south. This literally gave birth to the “wild west.”
By the time Anglos came across the La Junta district with its indigenous and Spanish inhabitants (whom frequently visited El Paso del Norte throughout history) it started to become uncharted territory for Texans. But instead of cutting their losses and following a northern stream — which would lead back to the Pecos — they continued on. When they arrived to the much more populated region of what we would eventually call San Elizario, Guadalupe, Socorro, Ysleta, Senecu, and more, not only did they know they were outnumbered, they must have been aware these people were going to stick around.
Some of these communities were situated on islands in the Rio Grande (which was a byproduct of a recent flood). While it might’ve been easier to use the previous channel above the island villages to avoid their disruption, Texans chose the newer southern stream and absorbed parts of this community into the state.
Well, that backfired on them.
The county seat of this new part of Texas needed to be located where people concentrated (San Elizario), and that constituency was made up of Paseños. This is when anti-Mexican sentiment started entering the area. [But realistically, it was just an “anti-other” sentiment because “Mexico” had only been in the picture for about 30 years and was already resolving their own issues with slavery. East Texas Anglos however, were still adamant about black-slavery and often prejudice against anyone who spoke Spanish, whether white Spanish or Indigenous people.]
Contrary to popular belief, native cultures of Aridoamerica were not entirely nomadic. Some Indigenous settlers of the El Paso area created a makeshift irrigation system which siphoned water from the nearby river. It’s these early ancestors who helped create a more passable break in the river. So by the time Spanish settlers came into the region in the 16th century, they referred to it as “el paso del Rio del Norte” the passage through the Northern River. Colonizers and Missionaries used this doorway to establish their northern capital settlement of Santa Fe, in 1609.
To avoid this tangent from getting any longer, I’ll just summarize it to say that these tensions have been around for the past 170 years and still exist today. Even though Paseños stood their ground during the Salt Wars and handed the Texas Rangers their first and only defeat, Anglos eventually stole away land, elections, and even appropriated the name.
It’s important we remember our story doesn’t begin with “Texas.”
This is the region where Indigenous people introduced the world to some of the finest cotton on Earth. Where Spanish vaqueros introduced horses into the “American West.” Where Mexican ranchers became “cowboys” both in practice and in fashion (after WWI). Where Paseños invented world-renowned staples (like burritos and margaritas) and gave birth to the Chicano identity. Where Hollywood set early cinema classics like El Paso, The Brave Bulls, and Giant. And where Sergio Leone took inspiration for countless Spaghetti Westerns.
It just so happened Leone’s films coincided with a technological revolution of TV and wider film distribution. That helped introduce the “Wild West” to the world at large, giving Texas a certain mystique — even though it didn’t really survive in more famous places of the state. That's why in this area specifically, I can’t help but feel holding onto our larger jurisdictions has contributed to our lack of recognition.
This region likes to push the “3 states and 2 nations” narrative as often as possible. But the truth is, Las Cruces is not Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Juarez is not Chihuahua or Mexico City. El Paso is not Austin or Houston. We’re like the unwanted step-children of our respective states. [And I say that with the most loving care and appreciation for what our home actually is.] It's from that perspective that I've taken the liberty to create a new flag for us.
Thanks to the earliest records and maps, we know there were native communities and tribes who lived near different parts of the river. The largest concentration in this area centered around the southern valley, near present day San Elizario, Socorro, and Ysleta — which makes the splitting-up of this area over 100 years later even more egregious. The western crossing point (near the present day 'downtown' of El Paso) was still of little relevance.
In 1659, that began to change as missionaries began building a more permanent presence in their construction of the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Rio del Norte para los Mansos. It took over a decade to complete the structure, but it took even longer to be as recognizable as the nearby southeastern valley.
In December of 1659, in a remote desert area, a Franciscan friar laid the foundation of a new church along the southern bank of a river. Even though it would take years to complete the permanent structure, the landmark would turn a pathway through the river into a destination of its own. Nearly four centuries later, the surrounding area of El Paso del Norte has been compartmentalized into nearly two dozen jurisdictions within just a 20 mile radius. But 360 years later, our story comes full circle.
To kick off the EP360 initiative and introduce our region’s rich history to those who might not be familiar, we have developed a new twist to a cultural favorite.
In 1680, when northern indigenous tribes banded together to reclaim their home (in what became known as the Pueblo Revolt), the Spanish were forced to flee. With few options, they retreated to the closest settlement they could maintain, El Paso Del Norte. Disgruntled by the uprising, along their southern trek, Spanish forces sacked indigenous villages and brought captured natives with them.
At this point, it had been over 150 years since the first foreigners crossed the modern El Paso area, but it was still sparsely populated — almost entirely indigenous — and not a focal point of the monarchy. That all changed overnight when hundreds, if not thousands, reached the area as refugees. Upon occupying the Mission, Spainish officials established El Paso Del Norte, the de facto capital of New Mexico.
With Spain’s back already against the wall and a less established infrastructure in the area, colonizers used the river as a defensive tool. With a large influx of indigenous people in the caravan — in addition to native inhabitants — the displaced settlers were somewhat forced to treat the El Paso region like a more neutral territory. Over the next decade most of the tensions were infighting between the factions themselves. Some indigenous people sought progress and stability. Others argued that coexistence with the oppressor would never be progress and acted hostile not only towards colonizers, but other natives as well.
Similarly, the Spanish settlers were becoming jaded with their hopes of a 'new' Mexico. Those who originally sought to lay the foundations of a new state were part of a generation where 'discovery' and abundance had slowed. Santa Fe was established nearly a century after Cortez first encountered the Mexica. Since then, the rest of the world had heard tales of the plentiful New World, but few in Nueva Vizcaya (Northern Mexico) had not personally lived it or contributed.
New Mexico was meant as an homage to the predecessor. But 70 years later, they had just lost control of the territory, which had not lead to the same wealth and fame. Many displaced colonizers debated if the idea was a lost cause or even worth the effort and famine. Regardless of the local sentiments, the world began to take notice. Just a few years later, cartographers began updating maps and officially made the passage through the river a place of it’s own.
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