With “Big” Mexico undergoing a peaceful turn, will “Little” Mexico in El Paso thrive?
By Joe Olvera ©, 2013
Creating a “Little” Mexico in El Paso is like creating snow in the North Pole. Let’s face it, it already exists. With 85 percent of El Paso’s population being Mexican or of Mexican descent, Little Mexico already exists everywhere one looks. Want a Mexican restaurant? Why, there’s an abundance of such eateries dotting the area from north to south and from east to west. The joke goes that when another Mexican restaurant opens in the Sun City, people look at one another and remark: “Oh, another Mexican restaurant, just what El Paso needs.” Better to create a little El Paso in Juarez, perhaps that’s what that city truly needs,
We can understand the desire to attract tourism, and we can understand the desire to keep them here, thus eliminating their need to go into Juarez for a day of revelry and what not, but, isn’t Juarez – once labeled as the most dangerous city in the world – continuing to improve, continuing to open new businesses, eliminating the deadly pallor that once shrouded the city of more than one million people? According to the Juarez Chamber of Commerce and the state’s Governor, Juarez is returning to normal, with wide-spread corruption almost returning to the days when a traffic stop meant a $5 mordida, but, not what had been taking place for more than four years, with murders incorporated becoming the law of the land, bodies hanging from bridges and pedestrians being killed indiscriminately by drug cartels.
But, wonder of wonders, on the day of the inauguration of the new Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, no homicides or other acts of violence were reported. One can only wonder why. Did he make a deal with the cartels that he would give them carte blanche to practice their trade without interfering? Do the cartels feel that they can now ply their trade without interference from former President Felipe Calderon? At one point, as many as seven people were murdered on any given day, with more than 10,000 deaths occurring between 2008 and 2012. We don’t know what gives, but, Juarez returning to its heyday as the Gateway to Mexico is certainly good news.
But, once again, with this good news, is a Little Mexico truly needed in El Paso? Would tourists really prefer to remain in El Paso, to attend a make-shift Mexican environment, than to cross the border to feel and experience the real thing? One begs to differ. Think of it, Little Mexicos already exist in El Paso. The Café Mayapan is one such example. There one can find goods and other Mexican products to fill a good person’s heart. Not only that, but, restaurants there offer food that originates in the real Mexico. Foodstuffs from Oaxaca, such as grilled grasshoppers and other delicacies abound for the risk-takers who would sample unknown foods.
Mariachis? Carlos and Mickey’s offers such fare, so does Andale Restaurant on the Gateway. My friend, Lidiana Castro still exercises her vocal chords on any given night at any given restaurant – her beautiful voice still fills the heart with gladness. Remember that Little Mexico on Alameda that, much like Café Mayapan, featured stalls that sold everything from Mexican shirts, guitars, dresses, velvet paintings of Elvis Presley and many other Mexican curios and curiosities? That Little Mexico didn’t last very long, did it? Other attempts have been made to create little Mexicos all over the city. Remember La Placita that was created downtown? That was supposed to be some slice of Little Mexico that would draw tourists and even locals to shop at stores there. Again, it didn’t happen. Efforts have been made, only to fail because it’s not the real thing. Or should we say – too much of the real thing.
Except that the real thing already exists – in Juarez. In years past, Juarez Avenue offered tourists and locals everything they couldn’t get in El Paso. Mariachis? Why, the Carlos Bar featured any number of great singers and musicians. The Kentucky Bar was a great place for libations and good conversation. For the young folks, there were the Lobby Bar, El Noa-Noa, The Mint, and, of course, the Bullfights; an old tradition that refuses to die. Where in El Paso would you place such a bullring? Why – no place. So, with Juarez making a comeback, with new businesses opening up and old businesses making come-backs, Juarez, if the trend continues, will once again steal tourists from El Paso just as it has always done. El Paso will, once again, become merely the Gateway to Juarez. Hey, maybe if Juarez were to once again open up its Quickie Divorce business, we could attract movie stars and other famous people. They would stop off in El Paso, wouldn’t they? Maybe that’s the best that El Paso can hope for. The good news, however, remains in Juarez. Come back, Juaritos. El Paso needs you,