The next destination is El Paso. Indeed, I have made it. I am just about as far west in Texas as I can go. For centuries the mountain pass for which the city is named has been a key route across the Americas. About 82 percent of the city’s 615.000 inhabitants are Hispanic origin. Thus, I get back my knowledge of Spanish and start to communicate. It works.
I am walking down to San Jacinto Plaza, the soul of El Paso. The border crossing into Mexico is not far. It’s a vibrant, historic locale with an unique, bustling and energetic blend of Mexican and American culture. Men with cowboy hats and speakers with loud Mariachi music are on the streets. I am passing the Plaza Theatre, originally constructed during the Depression as an “atmospheric” movie theatre. It has an unique twinkling-star-and-floating-cloud ceiling.
The closer I get to the border, the more the atmosphere changes. Maybe I just entered Mexico without knowing it! Rousing Mexican music, colorful storefront displays, merchants standing outside their stores beckoning you inside and sidewalks crowded with shoppers, all heighten the across-the-border shopping fantasy, making it easy to think I am in an exotic place! Well, it is. It is not just a tourist place but more a thriving retail district mostly populated with day-trippers who come north to shop.
This area was once known as the Golden Horseshoe. Years ago, this “U-shaped” section was so named by the shop merchants there because visitors streamed across the bridge from Mexico and started shopping on El Paso Street and finally hit the remaining shops on Stanton Street on their way back to the bridge. “Golden” was added because this steady stream of daily shoppers made it a veritable gold mine. And it still attracts hordes of shoppers and remains the best place to bag a bargain.
Well, I am strolling around El Paso’s downtown historic district, which is a paradise for taking pictures. It makes my day.