The El Paso Inc. this week published a piece titled “What El Paso can learn from Music City” by Secret Wherrett. In it, Wherrett writes that the El Pasoans that attended the Greater El Paso Chamber’s trip to Nashville returned with a clear understanding of what El Paso can learn from Nashville’s economic initiatives. Interspersed between the normal “collaboration” and quality of life buzzwords was the real reason El Paso continues to stagnate in every possible way.
Why El Pasoans still think modeling themselves after other cities is the answer to El Paso’s economic prosperity continues to baffle me. Although it may seem like a simple case of having no creativity in understanding the essence of El Paso the more these trips for soul searching continue the more I believe it has everything to do with the El Paso elite being ashamed of being El Paso. Wherrett quotes El Paso Electric’s Marybeth Stevens as stating, “don’t look at what you want to be, look at what you have”.
It is the message that everyone wants to ignore and bury while focusing on what great things, other cities have. It also shows that many in El Paso believe that to make El Paso prosperous all it takes is to get El Paso to build something new and people will magically gravitate to the city with fistfuls of money. It is the “build it and they will come” mentality that El Paso has been pushing for decades now. This week it is Nashville, last week it was Albuquerque and next week it will be Santa Fe. The politicians always want to be what other cities are and not what El Paso is.
At first, I thought this was just stupidity within the political elite.
Now I am starting to think that it is nothing more than the shame of being El Paso.
Let’s look at what El Paso is.
El Paso is the second-largest metropolitan area on the US-Mexico border. Unlike the Tijuana-San Diego border, El Paso and Cd. Juárez are adjacent to each other making them one continuous metropolis on the US-Mexico border.
The El Paso-Cd. Juárez region has the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.
El Paso is the largest port of entry on the US-Mexico border.
Direct foreign investment into Cd. Juárez will be about $750 million this year. Foreign investment in El Paso is practically nonexistent.
Mexico exports about 70% of its products to the United States each year. It is the largest exporter in the world. According to the US Embassy, Mexico “exports more to the United States in goods and services in just over a month that it does in one year to the 27 countries of the European Union”.
In 2013, US-Mexico trade produced about $550 billion. About 60% of that trade traversed through the State of Texas. That trade accounted for about 6 million US jobs. In 2013, San Diego handled about $56.5 billion in US-Mexico trade. El Paso handled about the same trade; approximately $60 billion.
Clearly, the economic future of El Paso lies not in emulating the tourism successes of San Antonio, Nashville or Santa Fe but rather in embracing the fact that it could be epicenter of the largest trade market in the world.
The fact is that El Paso can never be a tourist destination no matter how many pretty attractions it builds or how many glossy posters it produces. What El Paso is, and always has been is the economic gateway between Mexico and the US. Unfortunately and to the detriment of El Paso, the El Paso elite and their political cronies will do anything to pretend Cd. Juárez and Mexico have nothing to do with El Paso.
If and until that mindset changes El Paso will continue to be the highest taxed population in the US and remain one of the lowest economically challenged city as well. It could be so much more with a simple change in the mindset of those driving the public policy agenda of the city.
Not too long ago our brand new Congressional Representative created a bill to hinder International trade by having El Paso pay part of the absolutely useless CBP payroll. Some of you, like me, might have witnessed the “gun inspections” by our Federales when you travel to Ciudad Juarez.
Traffic is diverted into a stupid appendix where you will observe up to 10 US CBP inspectors just looking at you scratch and ruin your automobile through a concrete puzzle.
No one in its right mind will believe that that hinders the ability of the intentional contrabands, specially if they count on the cooperation of those protected by the Department of State. However, it affects those crossing for jobs or legal commerce.
Some say that it has taken them up to one hour to cross into Juarez from El Paso. That is a lot of time, pollution, gas, etc. It is a double wammy to the people f El Paso, it hinders legal commerce and it is expensive. Consider a Mexican Family visiting Mrs. Foster’s dream attraction, spend 3 hours coming to El Paso, and then after the game up to one hour going back, that is 4 hours of wasted time, and expensive tolls.
I dare someone to show any results of the gun export prevention efforts. There would be far better results if the US Department of Justice would cooperate with Mexico in identifying the thousands of guns confiscated there through the serial numbers.
Can someone tell me why we can’t tell Mexico who purchased those guns that kill Mexicans? May the reason be that they were purchased buy the US Government?
When will El Paso stop the Ostrich effect?
Well, there is one city that I think would be a food model–San Antonio. Despite being hours from the border, they seem to embrace their “Mexican” heritage and profit from it. Meanwhile, many here try to hide the Mexican influence on our city.
*Good model, not “food model”.
You are correct. Unfortunately, it is not just he elite who do not want to admit that El Paso is a suburb of Juarez, but a lot of Americans here (including those who have emigrated from Mexico) who do not want to admit that El Paso is Mexico or dependent on Mexico, Peppers included. Mostly, we despise Mexico for the 3rd world dump that it is and are glad it is not “home” for us and can understand why its citizens want to leave it for the USA.
Can you imagine where this country would be if the colonials had said to themselves, “We are really England and should promote ourselves as the Atlantic side of England.”
God save the queen NOT. God bless America.
While I am saddened by the situation in Mexico (rampant corruption, extreme poverty, rape and murder) I believe it is necessary to separate the country’s current situation from the contributions that the people of Mexico have made to food, music art and culture. This should be celebrated.
Peppers, I like many of your posts but I’m disappointed by your attitude towards Mexican culture.
I disagree. l don’t believe that anyone was ashamed of E.P., but rather the politico-elitists wanted to satisfy their bloated egos by leaving a “legacy” for current and future 915ers to marvel at all the “free” buildings and other toys that they gave to us schlubs. When these buffoons finally realized that a hotel/motel tax and that a ‘bond-tree’ does need to be occasionally watered ($) the damage was already done. Yep, they sure did leave a “legacy” for themselves. ln fact, l can smell the legacy from my apartment, l better close the window. On the one hand, you (accurately) believe that we should not build it because they won’t come, but then you want us to build some giant trade epicenter? This sounds like a giant flee market. So all of these trucks that are full of stuff are going to stop going to their final destinations to trade with each other? There’s already zillions of epicenters. They’re called WalMart and Macy’s.
I hadn’t visited in a while, but David K’s link sent me over here today, so I thought I’d check out the fun. Scan … scan … scan … yeah, the usual stuff. None of it makes any sense in reality; reminds me why I gave up. Wait! What’s this?! An article detailing the important connections between Juarez and El Paso? This one makes sense! Was there a ghost writer for this one or something? Pretty good stuff, Martin. I’m amazed. I saw earlier today that Beto is putting up the good fight, too:
Maybe folks will start to listen and we’ll get some progress on this issue.
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