El Paso (; from Spanish, The Passage) is the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States, and lies in far West Texas. As of the 2010 census the city's population was 649,121. El Paso is the 19th most populous city in the United States and the sixth most populous city in the state of Texas. Its metropolitan area covers all of El Paso County, whose population in 2010 was 800,647.
El Paso stands on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The two cities form a combined international metropolitan area, sometimes called El Paso–Juárez, with Juárez being the significantly larger of the two in population. They have a combined population of two million, two-thirds of which reside in Juárez. In 2010 El Paso was awarded an All-America City Award, the oldest community-recognition program in the United States.
El Paso is home to the University of Texas at El Paso (founded in 1914 as The Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, and later, Texas Western College; its current name dates from 1967) and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. Fort Bliss, one of the largest military complexes of the United States Army, lies to the east and northeast of the city, with training areas extending north into New Mexico, up to the White Sands Missile Range and neighboring Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. El Paso is the first large city in the world to have a spaceport in the vicinity. Spaceport America, which lies 90 miles from El Paso, has seen the completion of several successful manned, suborbital flights. The Franklin Mountains extend into El Paso from the north and nearly divide the city into two sections; the western half forms the beginnings of the Mesilla Valley, and the eastern slopes connect in the central business district at the south end of the mountain range.
The El Paso region has seen human settlement for thousands of years, as evidenced by Folsom points from hunter-gatherers found at Hueco Tanks. The earliest known cultures in the region were maize farmers. At the time of the arrival of the Spanish the Manso, Suma, and Jumano tribes populated the area and were subsequently incorporated into the Mestizo culture, along with immigrants from central Mexico, captives from Comanchería, and genízaros of various ethnic groups. The Mescalero Apache roamed the region as well.
Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate was born in 1550 in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, Mexico and was the first New Spain (Mexico) explorer known to have observed the Rio Grande near El Paso, in 1598, celebrating Thanksgiving Mass there on April 30, 1598 (several decades before the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving). However, it is thought that the four survivors of the Narváez expedition by the names: Juan Dirac, Francisco Chuvash, Maria Munoz and Terea Franco passed through the area in the mid-1530s. El Paso del Norte (the present day Ciudad Juárez), was founded on the south bank of the Río Bravo del Norte, (Rio Grande) in 1659 by Spanish conquistadors. In 1680 the small village of El Paso became the base for Spanish governance of the territory of New Mexico, remaining the largest settlement in New Mexico until its cession to the US in 1848, when Texas took it in 1850.
El Paso remained largely undeveloped during most of the period of Spanish control. Instead, Spanish settlement was centered on El Paso del Norte (the present day Ciudad Juárez). Although, the Spanish crown and the local authorities of El Paso del Norte had made several land concessions to bring agricultural production to the northern bank of the river in present day El Paso City, frequent Indian raids and warfare overwhelmed any attempts. The Apache Wars and subsequent Comanche Wars left northern Mexico, then including present day New Mexico, Texas, Coahuila, in a state of perpetual instability. Consequently, present day Juárez remained the northern-most villa with the Río Bravo del Norte, (Rio Grande) and Apache attacks dissuading settlement and development north. The water of the river, the sand dunes to the south (médanos) and the fortifications at Paso del Norte and El Real de San Lorenzo, provided a natural defense against further raids; however, in some decades several thousand strong Apache armies made raids deep into Mexico, slaughtering the male population and enslaving women and children. As a result, the Rio Grande proved a boundary line of actual Hispanic presence.
Nonetheless, in the early years of Spanish power, areas north of the Rio Grande were gradually colonized after several decades of attempts. The Hispanic civilian and military population, and the small community of Spanish friars and their Amerindian wards ranched the area, which was a grassland at the time, and developed small scale but successful agriculture consisting of vineyards and fruits. However, in 1680, after the successful Pueblo Revolt that decimated the Spanish colonies in northern New Mexico, Paso del Norte became the base for Spanish governance of the territory of New Mexico with the present-day El Paso remaining a neutral battle-ground.
From El Paso, the Spaniards led by Diego de Vargas, grouped to recolonize the Spanish territory centered on Santa Fe stretching from Socorro to Taos. The Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century affected the Paso del Norte region, as New Spain's enlightened bureaucrats deemed the region—with a thriving population of over 10,000 by mid-century—capable of self-defense. Viceregal troops garrisoned in the Presidio of Paso del Norte were redeployed elsewhere on New Spain's frontier. New policies of Indian gifting helped to stabilize relations with the Apaches and Comanches, providing a respite to El Paso's agriculturalist population.
With the Mexican Constitution of 1824, part of present-day El Paso became the southernmost locality of the Territorio de Nuevo Mexico (modern New Mexico) and part of the newly-established state of Chihuahua. It communicated with Santa Fe and Mexico City by the Royal Road (Camino Real de Tierra Adentro).
The Texas Revolution (1836) was not felt in the region as the area was never considered part of Texas until 1848. As early as the mid 1840s, alongside long extant Hispanic settlements such as the Rancho de Juan María Ponce de León, Anglo settlers like Simeon Hart and Hugh Stephenson began to establish themselves. Stephenson, who had married into the local Hispanic aristocracy, established the Rancho de San José de la Concordia, which became the nucleus of Anglo and Hispanic settlement within the limits of modern-day El Paso, in 1844. Given the reclamations of the Texas Republic that wanted a chunk of the Santa Fe trade, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo effectively made the settlements on the north bank of the river a formal American settlement, separate from Old El Paso del Norte on the Mexican side. The present Texas–New Mexico boundary placing El Paso on the Texas side was drawn in the Compromise of 1850.
During the Civil War, there was a Confederate presence in the area until it was captured by the Union California Column in 1862. It was then headquarters for the 5th Regiment California Volunteer Infantry until December 1864.
After the Civil War's conclusion, the town's population began to grow. El Paso was incorporated in 1873 and encompassed the small area communities that had developed along the river. With the arrival of the Southern Pacific, Texas and Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads in 1881, the population boomed to 10,000 by the 1890 census attracting newcomers ranging from businessmen and priests, to gunfighters and prostitutes. El Paso became a violent and wild boomtown known as the "Six Shooter Capital" because of its lawlessness. Prostitution and gambling flourished until World War I, when the Department of the Army pressured El Paso authorities to crack down on vice (thus benefitting vice in neighboring Ciudad Juárez). The city developed into the premier manufacturing, transportation, and retail center of the U.S. Southwest.
The Mexican Revolution greatly impacted the city, bringing an influx of refugees—and capital—to the bustling boomtown. Spanish-language newspapers, theaters, movie houses, and schools were established, many supported by a thriving Mexican refugee middle class. Large numbers of clerics, intellectuals, and businessmen took refuge in the city, particularly between 1913 and 1915. The population exceeded 100,000. The Jesuit Order established a network of schools catering to the children of the Mexican community, and the large number of refugee floating population was attended by various philanthropic organizations, including the National Catholic Welfare Fund.
The 1920s and 1930s saw the emergence of major business development in the city, partially enabled by Prohibition era bootlegging, but as in the rest of the United States, the Depression era hit the city hard, and El Paso's population declined through the end of World War II. Following the war, military expansion in the area as well as oil discoveries in the Permian Basin (North America) helped to engender rapid economic expansion in the mid 1900s. Copper smelting, oil refining, and the proliferation of low-wage industries (particularly garment making) led the city's growth. Expansion slowed again in the 1960s, but the city continued to grow in large part because of its significant economic relationship with Mexico.
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