What It Was Like to Grow Up in a Border City

The city that I grew up in and am still in love with today is El Paso, Texas. I was born and raised in El Paso, and this city has been in my blood long before my parents even married; both of them were also born and raised in the beautiful 915. Our sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was (and probably still is) considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It is weird for me to think about, being so close to such a dangerous place and never really being scared.


Image via Mexico Institute


In the photo above, the street packed with cars in the center is actually the border crossing. The canal that runs across the middle of the picture is the border, marked by the Rio Grande. This does not affect our safety, however. In fact, according to a study done by SafeWise, El Paso was the 2nd safest metro city in the USA in 2017, beating San Diego, Santa Ana and San Jose. While it's shocking for many people to hear this statistic, especially given its proximity to Cd. Juarez, in reality, the presence of Fort Bliss as well as the border greatly increases the number of law enforcement individuals, with over 27,000 active duty on Fort Bliss and 2,400 Border Patrol agents. The El Paso-Cd Juarez area is called Paso Del Norte and is the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere. Over 2.7 million people live in this area, most of whom commute across the border for work. So, what was it like to grow up there?


Image via Destination El Paso


My favorite thing about El Paso is the great pride we have for our city. Aptly nicknamed the Sun City, its beautiful weather guarantees about 5 months of summer, and our mild winters make it even better, although we do occasionally get to enjoy snow. We also tend to boast our Mexican food (I mean, duh), dedication to being both Texan and Mexican/American, the beautiful Franklin Mountains, and our border language. As for our authentic border cuisine, it isn't Tex-Mex, thank God, but due to Mexico's size it isn't perfectly Mexican. Some of the popular foods include tamales, mole, adobada, enchiladas, gorditas, tacos and menudo. Furthermore, with El Paso-themed clothing stores such as Desert People and Chuco Relic, we embrace our border language and culture that set us apart from just about anywhere else.  


Image via Pinterest


The cultural experiences that I had were beyond incredible; for example, in high school, we frequently had mariachi bands playing on campus at lunch and celebrated Dia de Los Muertos and La Semana Santa in school. El Paso does have a bit of interesting history as the birthplace of the margarita and home of the Hyundai Sun Bowl, famous detective JJ Armes, my favorite artist Khalid, and of course, some crazy superstitions. The first high school there, El Paso High School, is one of the most haunted places in Texas, and I frequently would have volleyball tournaments and track meets at that school. My experiences there have led me to believe it is haunted; it is rumored that a girl hung herself from one of the rafters in the gym years ago, and since then whispers in the bathrooms, sounds of people cheering and talking at night, and strange sightings have happened. To top that off, El Paso used to be called Six Shooter Capital and really was the Wild West, with the likes of Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa, and John Wesley Hardin walking the streets. 


Image via L&J Cafe


On a brighter note, I would not exchange my childhood for anything; it is a crucial part to how I view the world now. I grew up hearing Spanish, eating enchiladas, loving Mexican candy, and having a Mexican best friend, which ultimately gave me a huge extended family. Being Caucasian as I am was unique because 85 percent of our population is Hispanic. I was always the "token white girl" as we joked, from sports teams to school organizations. It was a huge blessing to get to be a part of two equally loving and nurturing cultures growing up.