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My parent's house in El Paso, Texas, the house I grew up in, is a few blocks away from the border between the United States and Mexico. From the rooftop of that house, you can see Ciudad Juárez. In particular, you can see El Monumento a la Mexicanidad, a now iconic monument dedicated to Mexican nationals often referred to as "La X." From many rooftops of the houses closest to the border and many other rooftops in the vicinity, the borderlines are blurred, juxtaposed with one another, but also merging into one, separated merely by rock, water, and metal.
Growing up in the neighborhood that I did, I never once felt unsafe or in danger's way, nor did I feel threatened by the situations and circumstances of the surrounding area. The most unsafe I ever felt was when I was chased by a stray dog two blocks away from my house as a child.
El Paso, Texas was and continues to be a safe haven. My neighbors and fellow El Pasoans are people with good intentions, people with a lot kindness and hospitality. They walk around with smiles on their faces, greeting each other with embraces instead of handshakes. In El Paso, strangers are more like acquaintances than actual strangers, friends are everywhere, commodore is principle, family is everything.
When I lived in D.C., there came a point where I yearned for the friendliness and amicability of the people back home in El Paso. I missed being greeted on the streets from complete strangers. I missed the genuine interest in my wellbeing from my colleagues or classmates. I wanted to feel as if I belonged, to feel as part of a large community working together toward the same goal: to aspire for something greater. That is what El Paso embodies; a community comprised of people working toward a better tomorrow. A community comprised of 83% Hispanics and Latinos.
On various occasions, El Paso was on top of the list of the safest cities in the US. Yes, there are many immigrants in the community. Yes, Ciudad Juárez is right next to us. Yes, Spanish is a prevalent spoken language. Despite false derogative rhetoric—mainly from our own president—El Paso isn't a crime-ridden dystopia. The paradox of El Paso is that all the components for transgression are there, and yet we remain a loving and welcoming city.
And it still is and will continue to be, despite of what happened on August 3, 2019.
21-year-old Patrick Crusius drove from the metropolitan area of Dallas, Texas to El Paso to infiltrate a hateful agenda. In his manifesto, Crusius wrote: "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Crusius picked El Paso for its high Hispanic and Mexican population. And while he was accurate in that El Paso is mostly Mexicans and Hispanics, he was wrong in thinking he could divert the nature of El Pasoans to be that of hate and bigotry.
From the Paso Del Norte port of entry at the southern tip of our city to the outskirts of Fabens and Horizon, the streets and neighborhoods of El Paso are filled with resilient and strong people. The Star on the Mountain hovers over a city that knows pain and struggle very well, and yet finds the courage to continue its journey despite of the hardships, always relying on each other for strength and encouragement.
Everywhere I go, I speak highly of El Paso itself, but mostly about El Pasoans. I tell anyone who lends an ear about how passionate El Pasoans are, how caring everyone is and how giving they are willing to be, how incredibly hospitable people are toward visitors. I tell them about how artistic and talented El Pasoans are, unique in that aesthetics and influences from both sides of the border run through their veins. I praise El Pasoans ability to look beyond politics and social zeitgeist and simply exercise the human ability to accept and love one another.
The victims of Crusius' heinous and appalling mass shooting will forever be intertwined in our social narrative. From here on out, El Paso will also be remembered as the city where one of the nation's deadliest mass shootings took place. But it will also be remembered for its resilience and its ability to unite the way El Pasoans know how; by disregarding our racial and ethnic differences, by dismantling language barriers, by transpiring true acts of love and kindness because we are not a divided community. We are El Paso, which means the step in English. We take each and every step together. We will take the steps toward change. While this post is not about gun control, it is inevitable to bring the topic up while discussing the mass shooting which transpired in El Paso. El Pasoans will stand up together and take a much-needed stand against the reluctancy to change gun laws.
Being situated in the desert, there is always warmth in El Paso at some level. This is the warmth that will prevent us from growing cold in our souls and in our hearts.