Saturday, 27 October 2012

El Paso

I arrived in El Paso a couple of nights ago via a Greyhound bus.  The journey was quick given the distance that we covered.  Most of it was through desert land where you could occasionally see the lights of small towns off in the distance.  There were a number of occasions when there were lights flashing across the desert from installations( electrical I think) but it may have been from a few military bases.  Rosewell was one of the towns that we passed so I could see why some folk might think that those lights were UFOs but 
really it was evident where they were coming from.

El Paso is part of Texas.  It’s the furthest west that you can go into Texas I am told, but it is actually nearer to towns in New Mexico and Mexico than any in Texas. New Mexico is kind of like an inverted isosceles triangle with El Paso at the point taking up all the space left this side of the Rio Grande. On the other side is Mexico.  From where I am sitting at the moment I could be in Mexico in 10 minutes - walking.

In some respect El Paso reminds me of many British towns where the commercial areas have moved out to the outskirts of town leaving very little in the centre.  El Paso has taken the bold step of 
placing their convention centre right in the middle of town and surrounding it with 7-8 large museums.  So there is a look of affluence until you turn a corner and there is the older part of town which needs to be regenerated.

The Plaza square, which is the centre of town has a water fountain crowned by 3 alligators.  Now you might ask why.  Apparently up until the late 1960s there was a pond there and the city kept 3 alligators in it.  No particular reason that anyone could give me. it just seemed like a good idea.  Maybe it was useful for getting rid of people that the city didn’t like.  It’s certainly one of the oddest things that I have seen.  The folk of El Paso still call the square “La Plaza de los Lagartos”(Alligator Plaza) and not San Jacinto, its official name.

El Paso is making the effort to keep a number of its old buildings but unfortunately not early enough.  Of those that remain probably the one that they’re most proud of is maintaining the Paso del Norte hotel.  It is not particularly beautiful externally although it is supposed to be a good example of early 1900 century American architecture but it has the most beautiful Tiffany dome in its dining room.
Just outside is a statue to Fray Garcia who found El Paso del Norte.

On the outskirts of  the city centre is the Magoffin House, which was built in the 1870s.  It is an adobe house, which was then lime washed. It is probably more the kind of house that we were used to seeing in cowboy films.  Up until the 15 years ago it was owned by the same family but it had come down through the female line and the name of the family is now Glasgow and has been for the last 90 years.  There must be some Scottish heritage in there.

Well I’m off to San Antonio in the morning and I am expecting that to be quite different.