The history of El Paso is a vibrant blend of cultures and customs that creates the thriving and unique metropolitan area that exists today. Our region’s history spans more than 400 years; blending Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and the American Cowboy into one culture.

In 1581, Spanish explorers reached the Rio Grande River and viewed a pass between the two mountain ranges rising out of the desert, naming it El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). On April 30, 1598, the area was colonized by an expedition under Don Juan de Oñate who brought Spanish civilization to El Paso del Norte, later to be called El Paso, Texas. The territory included all land drained by the Rio Grande River.


In 1659, Fray García de San Francisco founded Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission, which still stands in downtown Ciudad Juárez, the oldest structure in the El Paso area. The Pueblo revolt of 1680 sent Spanish colonists and the Tigua Indians of Northern New Mexico fleeing southward to take refuge at the Pass. By 1682, San Lorenzo, Senecú, Ysleta, and Socorro settlements were founded. The increase in trade led to the building of a presidio in 1684 at San Elizario. The trade route became one of the historic “caminos reales” or royal highways, a name that is still used today.


Not until the end of the Mexican War in 1848 did El Paso finally become part of the United States with a military post that later became Fort Bliss, which was established one year later. El Paso became incorporated as a city in 1873; and with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1881, the community was assured a stable future.


The Wild West was El Paso; the city flourished during the rambunctious era of gunfighters, cattle rustlers, saloons, famous marshals, and the Texas Rangers. Famous and infamous characters like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Pat Garrett also roamed the dusty roads of El Paso. Then in 1911, the Mexican Revolution thundered into town and refugees streamed out of Mexico by the thousands into El Paso. The people that remained helped build the unique culture and heritage that is El Paso.


The transformation of this city since the days of the Wild West has been tremendous. Today, El Paso is a thriving community reveling in the blend of cultures and a number of revitalization projects. Through the years, El Paso has retained its unique history, celebrates its present prosperity and looks eagerly toward its promising future.

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