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When I lived in El Paso, The Sun City

Updated: 6 days ago

Famous Sonoran Hotdog

As we were driving into El Paso, The Sun City, where it shines more than 300 days a year I was struck by the brightly colored homes layering the hillside. They reminded me so much of Mexico and then I realized it was Mexico. I was looking at Ciudad Juárez, Mexico the sister city of El Paso, Texas. I had not realized that these two cities are just a stones throw away from each other. When I was sixteen my sister married a mexican. I consider it one of the best things to happen to our midwestern german family. To me food is where we can all find connection. Emiliano introduced us to migas, tamales and the sonoran hotdog. In return we passed along the secret to sausage and dumplings and of course the one and only pork tenderloin sandwich (if you know you know). I believe immigration is what makes our country special. It is why we can travel just a few blocks down the road and experience the cultures and food with people who are different yet similar to us. A melting pot of amazing flavors and experiences. I had hoped to walk across that border during our stay and explore the downtown area. I absolutely had watched the news and I had heard many talking heads say it was too dangerous to visit but I had hopes that they were exaggerating. Growing up in Phoenix, living for a short time in San Diego, I had multiple day trips in my memory of crossing the mexican/american borders. We loved eating those sonoran hot dogs wrapped in bacon in Tijuana, dining on the lobster in Puerto Nuevo and shopping for mexican blankets and ponchos in Nogales. Mike, however, was concerned and did not want to put us at risk so I asked Rob our Airbnb host and an El Paso native his thoughts on us visiting Juarez for the day. He said no absolutely not. It just isn't safe any longer even for a few hours and even if you stay within the tourist perimeters. All I can say is that it made me sad. Sad that we can no longer go back and forth to enjoy what each other have to offer and I hope that in the future it will change.


I liked El Paso much more than I anticipated which is about right since the city's slogan is "El Paso, Not What I Expected". Our Airbnb for the week is to date the best I have stayed in. It had a llama theme but just the right amount of them. It was clean, uncluttered, had a new mattress and a lounge friendly couch. It was in a great location making it easy for me to walk the city while Mike was working. The weather was warm. The people were very cool and the food was off the charts. Would I live in El Paso? Sure, I would live there but probably not by choice. If the universe sent me there then so be it, I could make a home there. Its brown, its dusty and lacking the amount of trees I prefer in my life but the people would make up for it and add the color to it. Reading back through my journal I came across a note I made about how the community treated their homeless population. In two different situations business owners gave the homeless water, food or a few dollars while looking them in the eye and wishing them well. When I mentioned to the manager at Sushi-Zen located near the UTEP campus that I thought it was lovely the way he treated the woman who was clearly struggling with mental illness he said thank you and told me it was the only way to treat them. "Why make life harder for them." he said. These are the type of people I could be in community with.


I will leave you with a few things about El Paso that have stuck in my mind.


El Paso High School - Built in 1916, it is the oldest high school in El Paso. The style is Greco-Roman architecture built three stories high with a marble central corridor and a real organ in the auditorium and to top it off it comes with its own ghosts.


Taco Toro Bronco - According to Mike this is what Mexican food is suppose to taste like. It is not the mexican food I grew up eating in Arizona. This is sonoran style. It is simple perfection and served with my favorite food, the baked potato.


Scenic Drive Overlook - A beautiful view of El Paso and its sister city of Ciudad Juarez. You can see the large red X, a sculpture by mexican artist Enrique Carbajal Gonzalez aka Sebastian. It sits on the south bank of the Rio Grande in Mexico and represents the merging of both the Aztec and Spanish cultures.


Dead Beach Brewery - The beer was good but the story here is the locals that spend time at the bar and the people who work there. We met a native El Pasoan who just happened to be a defense attorney and he filled us in on all the dirty politics of the city. He also reiterated how dangerous Juarez had become but he was not blaming mexican citizens. He missed the freedom and friendship the two cities had enjoyed most of his life and nobody was hoping for improvement more then him. The bartender was the second employee to be kind and gracious to the homeless population once again treating them with dignity and respect. El Pasoans have heart and for that I could overlook the dust and dirt.


A Personal Note: We lived in El Paso in March of 2022. One month later after moving to Chicago, my beloved brother in law passed away unexpectedly at the age of 58. Emiliano Torres was a really incredible man. He loved my sister and she loved him and together they raised three great kids. He was a Navy Veteran who served his country with pride for 24 years. He was full of life, filled up by family and one of the best cooks and lover of good food that I have ever known. Thank you for the migas, tamales, pesole and more. I miss your smile and I miss your laugh. I will see you on the other side my dear brother in law. God speed.

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