The, they will come, is important to understand. Rather than evolving the city to accommodate the existing culture and mindset, the city leaders are working to create a copy of other cities they feel will make El Paso a better place to live. Their mantra is in attracting outsiders to the city to build up the economy. Yes, I am aware of the token discussions about eliminating the brain drain and keeping El Paso’s children in the city, but that is all only a token discussion. Let’s consider the facts.
The public policy is built around the notion of transforming the city into a vibrant and modern city emulating other cities that public officials feel is what El Paso should be.
It started with the infamous 2006 Glass Beach Study. As many of you know, the study argued that in order for the city to prosper it needed to rid itself of its culture. The study, which the city paid for, argued that the “old gritty Mexicans” needed to be replaced by an anglo-centric culture led by Spanish born actors as an example of what a vibrant El Paso would look like. This study is the genesis to the gentrification and the erasure of El Paso’s cultural identity that the public policy has been working towards.
Rather than bore you with rehashing the numerous examples I have previously written about, you can always read them in my blog archives, today, I am going to show you how the Pope’s visit is just one more example of transforming El Paso be erasing its cultural soul.
The Pope is slated to visit Cd. Juárez in a few days. He will not be coming into El Paso. Yet, El Paso city officials, notwithstanding their political rhetoric, have budgeted about $1 million dollars as a response to the Pope’s visit across the border.
Keep in mind, the Pope will be in Juárez across the border. Like El Paso, Cd. Juárez officials are concerned about security and have taken steps to mitigate them. Their security concerns are focused on one thing, getting as many of its citizens to line the routes the Pope will be taking through the Juárez so that as many residents as can, may witness first-hand the Pope’s visit.
El Paso, on the other hand, is spending $1 million to keep El Pasoans as far away as possible from the Pope. Yes, you read that right, El Paso officials are keeping people from witnessing first-hand the Pope’s visit by closing off streets and telling businesses and homeowners to stay indoors and not invite anyone over during the Pope’s visit.
The political rhetoric centers on security. Officials are telling everyone to go to Sun Bowl to watch the events via a televised feed. Both cities, more so, Cd. Juárez with higher security problems and who will actually be hosting the Pope have to address security problems. However, Cd. Juárez leaders have embraced their cultural identity and are encouraging its citizens to get as close as possible to the Pope.
El Paso leaders, on the other hand, want their flock, pun intended, to ignore their fundamental cultural need to get as close to their religious icon as possible, even if it is just to get a glimpse of the Pope as he visits their sister city. Yes, the televised version might offer them a better opportunity to see the Pope in action but it will never replace the fundamental cultural need to glimpse a historical event with their own eyes.
Right there is the proof that the El Paso leaders truly do not grasp the cultural identity of the city they proclaim to want to take into the future. Or, do they? As an aside, Cortney Niland argued this very point indirectly when she asked why it was necessary to close off such a large segment of a neighborhood when the plan was presented to city council. She was unsuccessful.
The Glass Beach Study clearly wanted to do away with the gritty Mexican identity. Is isolating Segundo Barrio and telling the residents to stay indoors just an extension of that? Or, is the true reality one of the city leaders not understanding that the culture of El Paso is unique and that its identity is one of choosing to be close to the Pope, even it means only seeing masses of people congregate around him?
Either way, it is a war against the fundamental culture of the city.