El Paso: The Steps Toward Change
El Pasoans are resilient. The mass shooting that transpired on August 3, 2019 will not change that.
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 the house, you can see Ciudad Juárez, one of the largest and most populous cities in Mexico. 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 between the two countries are blurred. They are juxtaposed with one another, but also merging as 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 and even then, there were several kind neighbors to save me from harm's way.
El Paso 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. Many times, these embraces are followed by a kiss on the cheek. In El Paso, strangers are more like acquaintances than actual strangers.
Friends are everywhere, commodore is principle, family is everything.
After graduating, while living in Washington, D.C., I came to a juncture 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 well-being 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 U.S. 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—including and especially from our own former president and his minions—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, when Patrick Crusius drove from the metropolitan area of Dallas, Texas, to El Paso to merely 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 Mexican and Mexican-American population. And while he was accurate in that El Paso is mostly comprised of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, 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. El Pasoans can set their differences aside and agree on one doctrine: despite our varying differences, we're all part of one human existence.
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 dismissing 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've taken and will continue to take the steps toward change and improvement together. Situated in the desert, there is always warmth in El Paso at some level. This is the warmth that prevented us from growing cold in our souls and in our hearts then, back in 2019, and continues to do so.
It's been three years since Crusius drove the roughly 700 miles from Dallas to El Paso and opened fire on my community using an automatic rifle, killing 23 people and injuring many. On the heels of social uproar and unrest fueled by numerous unjust incidents of police brutality, spotlighted systemic racism and White supremacy, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we must recall what transpired on August 3, 2019 and allow it to charge our campaign for change. We must remain resilient, not only El Pasoans, but all multiply marginalized and underrepresented communities, BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ communities and everyone that White supremacy doesn't uphold. We must all fight back and envision a world where, indeed, everyone is equal.
About the author
I am a writer and journalist born and raised in the El Paso, Texas and the Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México, region. I write stories, blogs, essays, and prose that help myself and readers discover what it means to be human.
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