Visiting El Paso

Often while traveling the idea of a place, or what’s written in a book about it, is far different from the reality when you actually get there.  El Paso is not a place most people living in the North East probably spend a lot of time thinking about.  I certainly didn’t think twice about it until I found myself flying there over the Christmas holiday.

If i’m being honest El Paso, and probably all of Texas is more an idea to people who haven’t been there than a reality, particularly if you come from my neck of the woods.  So while I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I got there, it still exceeded all of my expectations.  In particular, the El Paso Art Museum which kind of blew my mind.  It had not a just a solid permanent collect and an amazing Cuidad Juárez – El Paso Art Biennial 2015, which featured a fantastic collection of art, but it was also open to the public for free with an optional donation.

Obviously there is much more to El Paso than that an art museum and the downtown area, but with only a few short hours to explore, I spent most of my time eating and wandering around the  Downtown El Paso area.  It was interesting to stand at the much debated border and watch people come and go on their way to and from work, as if it was just another part of their day which clearly it was.  It was fun to walk through the main downtown shopping street.  The air was filled with music and Spanish, and the street were lined with shops with displays that spilled onto the sidewalks and made you feel like you were in Mexico.  There is a huge highway going through the city.  It’s kind of like Rte 1 except it has lots of overpasses and as drive along you will see painted pilons and graffiti art on the streets interspersed between shopping complexes that house familiar places like Marshalls, Barnes and Nobles and Whole foods etc… . From the elevated road you can get a great view of the city as you are driving and watch the buildings of El Paso blend indistinguishably into Cuidad Juarez which lies just streets away in the distance.

It was very different from cities here in some ways.  For example, there were bilingual signs, abundant tacos and the look was noticeably more Latino.  However striking the differences there are also always similarities as well.  It was more a questions of flavour.  Urban sprawl is urban sprawl whether its on a mountain, at sea level, or on a plain. The city looks and feels like its in a state of renewal, and that it is evolving and trying to embrace the many cultures that live within it in its own way. So, I am a little sad that I didn’t get to spend very much time exploring the city and getting a closer look at the arts scene, or renewal initiatives or just find time to eat in more different places.

For now, for this first visit, I’m happy that my experience was such a positive one.   If I back I would certainly be looking to connect with other aspects of the city, the people and most likely the arts scene and now I can look forward to that.

*All of these images are straight from my Instagram feed.