epwar-cltre2016janThe Pope’s upcoming visit to Cd. Juárez exposes the cultural war against Latinos/Hispanics that has been going on for a number of years now. What? El Paso is over 80% Hispanic, how can there be a war against Hispanics? The truth is that many Hispanics, some unknowingly, contribute to the class and cultural war that city officials have embarked upon to erase the fundamental culture of the city. It started with the “renaissance to make El Paso great” that the city has embarked upon through its current public policy of making the city like other cities. It started with Santa Fe and it has evolved with the notion that if you build it they will come. The keying being that if you build it, they will come.

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.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

8 replies on “Pope Visit Exposes El Paso Cultural War”

  1. There is not a culture war. The same El Paso leaders allowed the city and county and most of the school districts and universities to shut down. I can imagine even more businesses that have nothing to do with the pope announcing shutdowns as well. Why did they all close? For logistics and safety, they continued to exclaim. And why did they really shut down? To have an entire day, and in some cases more than one day, to enjoy their religious leader’s message. The rest of us who have no interest will have days off and school to make up. The segundo barrio and the border highway are not convention centers.

  2. Nope not a culture war just socio-economic war to push the poor out of downtown El Paso or out of the City of El Paso for that matter. Nothing to do with culture or race.
    As to the Pope my problem is he is not coming to this side of the border so security is Mexico’s problem. Yep a lot of tax dollars being spent on religious activities which is wrong unless the El Paso Catholic Diocese is going to reimburse the county and the city for the cost. Believe if the Pope believed in building a bridge across our border with Mexico he would have came held services at the Chamizal.

  3. Martin, I usually enjoy reading your blogs as they are very informative… except this one.
    Did you know that, on average, 5 people die in, and around, the areas where The Pope visits?
    The Border RAC is estimating a light 250,000 visitors to the 2nd ward. To accommodate such numbers, the area will be closed to vehicle traffic to facilitate all of those pedestrians along the border fence, border highway, and for emergency vehicles to get to those people, should any of them become 1 of the 5.
    Let me just close by saying that most of the suppressive & tactical security being provided is also being staged here in El Paso.
    A little off on this one my friend.

  4. El Paso is the American face of Mexico, a Mexican city on US soil in all ways: corruption, cronyism, nepotism, apathy, poverty, and literacy. I can understand why city leaders don’t want to make too big of a deal about that.

  5. As far as El Paso’s “war on race” i don’t see it that way either. What I do see is a concern for the safety not just of the Pope, but of the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of visitors coming to El Paso from all over. I say this because i have cousins who you would think don’t have a dime to their name travel to Philadelphia and New York to get a glimpse of his Holiness. My reasoning is that others like my cousins will do the same and come to El Paso, not realize they must have a passport to cross, and find themselves looking for some way to “participate” in the event. Law enforcement is very concerned but tight lipped. My sources have told me that Juarez has told the people lining the Pope’s path to wear diapers due to the lack of sanitation facilities, such as porta johns. On this side sources tell me that the Juarez government has asked for thousands of bottles of water because they are afraid that hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and others will flock into Juarez and they won’t be prepared with any water for those people. Logistically this is a nightmare for both the Mexican and American governments and taxpayers on both sides. There are hundreds of federal agents from all kinds of agencies coming or already in El Paso. Remember this visit is not just about security it’s about Health and safety as well. There’s even concern about the amount of weight that the bridge of Americas can accommodate, given that there will certainly be a back up as people rush to cross into Mexico and back. Will there be rush to get back into the US if there’s any type of attack in Juarez and how do you prepare for that.
    These are some of my thoughts, and yes i agree that it would appear there should be viewing areas along the border highway, but what happens if there’s a crush of people? Is it worth it?

  6. My question, why not dispense with the fancy platform, altar and statues ? This the Pope that lives in a small room in very humble surrounding.

    Yes, he is the leader of the catholic religion, but wouldn’t be better to spend the money on the poor? If it’s donated, why not donate the material to build housing for the poor?

    Why does it cost a million to close off the Caesar Chavez highway? A couple of wooden police barriers and a rotating shift, that’s a million ?

Comments are closed.