An open-letter to my beloved city, El Paso

Joe Olvera

Joe Olvera is a long-time journalist whose latest book is - Chicano Sin Fin: Memoirs of a Chicano Journalist

© 2011

I love you, El Paso. I love you for your longevity, for the fact that you are old world – your culture reflects your thousands of years of existence. I love and appreciate the magical way in which you accept all peoples, from far-flung shores to nearby villages and communities that – although in poverty woes – you approach with respect and admiration – even with reverence.

I love you for your amazing mountains, as their steel-blue, grayish eyes stare down on us in protection – yes, they are your sentinels of power and peace. Your mountain range, El Paso, has protected us, your faithful denizens, since time everlasting. Some say that mountains have the power to enfold us, to capture us in their spirit, and to never let us go. Your dormant volcano keeps us on our toes, because we never know when you’re going to erupt. If your power ever explodes skyward towards heaven, we’ll just sit in our chairs and muse over your pyrotechnic shower.

I love you, El Paso, because you have never backed down from a good fight. You saw a revolution taking place in your neighbor’s yard and you welcomed those who were running from the death and destruction. You took them in your protective arms and you sheltered them. You bid them welcome, and you accepted them with their accents, with their funny way of dressing, and you smiled and said: “You also are my children.”

El Paso, you are one of the most generous cities in the world. Even though you yourself are mired in poverty, even though you too have been ignored and almost rejected by non-caring officials from that state that claims you, barely, as its own, you have persevered, and you have survived.

Mostly your clime, your weather is a blessing that pours over our heads, from sunup to sundown. Yes, others put you down and they find fault with your never-ending faith, but, never mind those who would negate your calm, peaceful manner. Those people, El Paso, are ingrates who can’t see the desert for the shrub.

I love the way you hold your head high. Your Alameda Avenue, one of the oldest roads in Texas, stretches far down a long-winding road. Your history goes far back El Paso. 400 years, they say? Pshaw! That’s paltry. You have survived for thousands of years. El Paso, my most beloved family members lie buried in your restful ground, your earth enshrouds them with a power shimmering with life. My children were born here, my grandchildren were born here, in the bosom of your hearth. You protected them, and even though some of them left you for what they considered greener pastures, you never held it against them, but, instead, you stand ever watchful ever ready for their return.

Because you and I know El Paso, that nobody can stay away from you for very long. Maybe it’s the mountains. There is something within you that pulls them back. Eventually, they all come back, don’t they? El Paso, you have seen much bloodshed. You have seen your sons and daughters dying on concrete streets, you have seen them bloody, smashed by steel and glass, murdered by unrelenting speed, murdered by weapons of destruction. You wept for them, because they were your children. They emerged from deep within the recesses of your bowels, from deep beneath your soul. Your earth covered them in death, you mourned, you wailed, you pounded your fists upon the blooded sands. Yet, you had to keep going because your other children awaited you. You know the secret, don’t you El Paso? That life is for the living.

I love you El Paso. I love you though your earth may be contaminated, your skies gray with poisonous gas, your water saturated with chemicals that are not very gladsome. You didn’t do that to yourself, El Paso. Others came and they despoiled you. Without thinking, they contaminated your glorious being, they threaded on your holy ground, they poured sludge, radioactive matter and animal entrails atop your beautiful façade. But,   you shook it off, didn’t you, El Paso – my beloved city.

They call you poor, they call you a city replete with Mexicans, a city that has no concept of itself, a city that doesn’t attract the upscale populations, but, rather, the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. Your Cristo Rey stands atop the mountain, so tall as he spreads his arms wide in a gesture of love and tolerance.

Yes, El Paso, despite your faults. Despite your poverty. Despite your granulated sands, which have passed through your hourglass of time, you are mine. Yes, El Paso, I love you, and I always will.

Sin Fin



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