El Paso

El Paso, Texas

El Paso, Texas

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El Paso is at the far western tip of Texas, where New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet in a harsh desert environment around the slopes of Mount Franklin on the Rio Grande, which has often been compared to the Nile. As they approached the Rio Grande from the south, Spaniards in the sixteenth century viewed two mountain ranges rising out of the desert with a deep chasm between. This site they named El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North), the future location of two border cities—Ciudad Juárez on the south or right bank of the Rio Grande, and El Paso, Texas, on the opposite side of the river. Since the sixteenth century the pass has been a continental crossroads; a north-south route along a historic camino real prevailed during the Spanish and Mexican periods, but traffic shifted to an east-west axis in the years following 1848, when the Rio Grande became an international boundary.

The El Paso area was inhabited for centuries by various Indian groups before the Spaniards came. The first Europeans in all probability were Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions, survivors of an unsuccessful Spanish expedition to Florida, who passed through the El Paso area in 1535 or 1536, although their exact route is debated by historians. Several years later, in 1540–42, an expedition under Francisco Vázquez de Coronado explored an enormous amount of territory now known as the American Southwest. The first party of Spaniards that certainly saw the Pass of the North was the Rodríguez-Sánchez expedition of 1581; its arrival marked the beginning of 400 years of history in the El Paso area. This was followed by the Espejo-Beltrán expedition (see ESPEJO, ANTONIO DE) of 1582 and the historic colonizing expedition under Juan de Oñate, who, on April 30, 1598, in a ceremony at a site near that of present San Elizario, took formal possession of the entire territory drained by the Río del Norte (the Rio Grande). This act, called La Toma, or "the claiming," brought Spanish civilization to the Pass of the North and laid the foundations of more than two centuries of Spanish rule over a vast area.

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W. H. Timmons | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

El Paso is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists

Yes

Place type

El Paso is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Concordia)
  • (El Molino)
  • (Franklin)
  • (Frontera)
  • (Magoffinsville)

Location

Latitude: 31.84836490
Longitude: -106.43287000

Has Post Office

Yes

Is Incorporated

Yes

Population Count, 2020 View more »

678,815

Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes

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