As I made my way down the jet way on Monday, I stopped dead on my tracks. Right there, on the jet way wall was a simple message that epitomized El Paso’s identity crisis. Through the years, El Paso’s leadership has used Albuquerque, Austin, Santa Fe or the city du jour as the model for El Paso’s future. El Paso’s politicos are so ashamed of El Paso’s real cultural identity that they are always trying to remake El Paso into another city. This time, it wasn’t just simply trying to make El Paso into another city but instead the city’s marketing effort is based on hijacking another city’s history.

The true origins of the Margarita is shrouded in mystery with many pretenders claiming they invented the drink. What we factually know is that Jose Cuervo, a tequila bottler, used the tagline “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name” in marketing materials as far back as 1945. This fact allows us to know that the Margarita was conceived prior to 1945.

One of the most prevalent stories about the invention of the Margarita is that a Tijuana restauranteur, Carlos “Danny” Herrera concocted the drink for a US celebrity. Many of the stories revolve around a Mexican inventing the drink for a US celebrity visiting the establishment. This version has Herrera inventing the drink in 1938. Another version of the Margarita invention is from 1941 in Ensanada, Mexico. This version has been attributed to Don Carlos Orozco. Of course there is the story of Margarita Samas, a US citizen who supposedly served it to her guests in her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. Obviously this is false as Jose Cuervo was already promoting a Margarita drink prior to that.

US and Mexican experts have generally agreed that the true origin of the Margarita was at Tommy’s Place, a bar in Cd. Juárez. It was invented by Francisco “Pancho” Morales. According to the story, on July 4, 1942, Morales was working as a bartender in Juárez when a women ordered a drink, a Magnolia. Morales did not know how to make the Magnolia but knew of some of its ingredients. He faked it and when the woman drank it she told him it wasn’t a Magnolia but liked it anyway. Morales, pretending it was all a mistake, responded that he had thought that the woman had ordered a “Margarita.” Morales, says he named it Margarita as part of the deception because a margarita is a daisy in Spanish.

Although Pancho Morales went on to marry a woman named Margarita years later, this is not the origin of the name for the drink. Variations of the invention story centers at the Kentucky Bar, a famous Juárez bar known for the movie stars that frequented Juárez in the 1950’s for quick divorces. Among them was Elizabeth Taylor who has been named as the unknown woman who caused the drink to be invented. However, historically, this is not possible as Taylor visited Juárez after the invention of the drink.

The only connection to the invention of the Margarita that El Paso has, besides being adjacent to Juárez, is that the inventor worked for Price’s Creameries for many years after moving to El Paso from Juárez in the early 1950’s.

Except for this small connection, El Paso has nothing to do with the “birthplace of the Margarita.” None of the stories depicting the birthplace of the Margarita, no matter how outrageous it may be mentions El Paso as the birthplace.

Except that is, a misguided and completely erroneous advertising gimmick making it seem like El Paso had anything to do with the Margarita. It does not.

This continued to attempt to transform/invent the fundamental culture of El Paso into something more palatable to certain members of the community in their continued misguided attempt at making El Paso something it is not goes directly back to the Glass Beach Study.

This is how ashamed of El Paso those you elect into office are that they must reject El Paso’s culture and replace it with another, even if it means rewriting history to fit a make believe narrative.

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...

3 replies on “An El Paso Identity Crisis”

  1. Martin, can you post a download of the so-called Glass Beach Study for us? Thanks.

    As for El Paso’s identity crisis, I have given up trying to describe the place to people who ask me about it when I travel, which has been a lot in the last year. I just say it is the American face of Mexico and let them draw their own conclusions.

      1. Thanks, Martin. BTW the best margarita in the region IMHO is at the Pink Store in Palomas. Don’t light a match around one 🙂 Two is the limit if you’re the driver.

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