This morning I was in a cafe and had just finished planning out the day by marking off what I wanted to see on the map, as well as a figuring out a bit of a route. There was background music playing and on came Talk Tonight by Oasis. Most of my favourite Oasis songs are the B-sides which seem to have stood the test of time and not been overplayed. Talk Tonight is one of my favourites. According to last.fm, this is the 25th most popular Oasis song. In the US you only tend to hear Wonderwall or Don’t Look Back In Anger so this seemed pleasantly obscure. While finishing off my drink I was browsing the internet and visited nme.com. With the same song still playing I noticed that the lead story was a bit spooky.“‘She saved Oasis’ – the woman who inspired ‘Talk Tonight’ has been found,” it read. This was genuinely a mind-boggling coincidence.
With El Paso being located on the border you get a good view of the city immediately across the Mexican boundary, Juarez. Apparently it’s possible to walk into Mexico although I couldn’t work out how do do it. According to the map, the Rio Grande ran very close to here, although I didn’t see any evidence of its existence during my time in El Paso. All I could see was a motorway, an industrialised area and fencing. Apparently you have to go outside El Paso to get a decent view of the grand river, as my ever increasing competence in Spanish is able to translate. What I’ve heard about Juarez would not want encourage me to visit. Some of the things I’ve read on the internet about the place are eye watering. It has commonly been labelled the murder capital of Mexico and even the world. Drug cartel violence is supposedly extremely prevalent, although the signs are that security has improved in the past couple of years. Before deciding whether to visit El Paso, I looked into safety around here. As it lies immediately adjacent to the infamous Juarez, the expectation was that El Paso could potentially be a bit dicey. What I discovered was very much contrary to this. Of US cities with a population more than 250,000, El Paso was 66/80 in violent crime stats, with number one being the most violent. My personal experience of the city backed this up. Despite the president-elect constantly warning Americans of the criminality of people of Mexican origin I didn’t witness any of these so-called “bad hombres.”
As would be expected I heard Spanish spoken all over the place in El Paso. I saw a lady serving in shop effortlessly switching between languages. Obviously my South American suntan must have worn off as I was addressed in English. To be honest I’m probably one of the easier guesses for her! Many of the big companies that would have one time occupied a lot of the downtown shops have moved out and many of these places are now occupied by Mexican-American businesses. On some streets I almost felt as though I could have been in Mexico. There were Mexican food vendors all over the place, clothes shops displaying their wares across the pavement and a general feeling of hustle and bustle. It certainly gave El Paso a vibrant and interesting feel.
As numerous US cities where a lot businesses have moved into malls outside of the city, the downtown area has a little bit of a “seen better days” vibe. On the positive side this meant that El Paso had all sorts of beautiful, intact old buildings. There were quite a few entertainment options in the city centre including some excellent bars right next to the hostel. I enjoyed a couple of ridiculously strong beers at Craft & Social to finish the day. Quite a few people were out and about tonight, presumably with it being Thanksgiving Eve. I certainly enjoyed the brief stay in El Paso and although the journey here was quite arduous, I’m glad that I decided to come. Just imagine how good it would have been if Morrissey had turned up tonight!