Profile of the El Paso Juárez and Ciudad Region

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Welcome to the El Paso–Juárez region, a fascinating blend of cultures and communities right on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. This area, known as the Borderplex or Paso del Norte, is home to over 3.4 million people. It includes the bustling cities of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, El Paso in Texas, and the nearby city of Las Cruces in New Mexico.

With the largest bilingual and binational workforce in the Western Hemisphere, this region is a vibrant hub of activity, blending the best of both countries in every way.

Demographics of the El Paso-Juárez Region

The El Paso–Juárez region, with a combined population of over 3.4 million people, is the second largest binational metropolitan area on the Mexico–U.S. border, following San Diego–Tijuana. This area is a bustling hub of cultural and economic activity, bridging two nations seamlessly.

El Paso Demographics

El Paso, Texas, has seen significant demographic changes over the past few decades. Historically, its population has been predominantly Mexican American and non-Hispanic white. However, the demographic balance has shifted considerably:

  • 1970: 57.3% Hispanic, 40.4% non-Hispanic white
  • 2010: 80.7% Hispanic, 14.2% non-Hispanic white
  • 2024: The latest data indicates that approximately 81.59% of El Paso’s population is Hispanic. The vast majority (94.26%) of this Hispanic population is of Mexican origin. Non-Hispanic whites now constitute about 18.41% of the population.

El Paso County also has a youthful demographic, with nearly 40% of its population under the age of 25 and a median age of 34. The county’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64) remains strong, constituting about 65% of the total population.

Juárez Demographics

On the Mexican side, Ciudad Juárez is part of the larger Juárez Metropolitan Area. This region has experienced rapid urban growth, driven by its role as a major industrial and manufacturing hub. While specific recent demographic breakdowns for Juárez are less readily available, the city is known for its young and vibrant population, with significant migration contributing to its growth and diversity.

History of the El Paso-Juárez Region

Map of El Paso in 1886

The history of the El Paso-Juárez region begins with the arrival of European explorers in 1598. These explorers reached the Rio Grande and held the first local Thanksgiving Mass, marking a significant event in the area’s history. In 1659, Spanish conquerors founded what is now Juárez on the southern side of the river. Thanks to the fertile grasslands, the region quickly became known for its thriving vineyards and fruit orchards.

Challenges in Northern Expansion

While the southern side of the river saw development, Spanish authorities faced challenges expanding agriculture northward into present-day El Paso. The presence of Apache tribes across the river hindered significant growth. However, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 prompted the Spanish to establish El Paso as a temporary base, marking the first modern settlement in the area.

Railroads and Economic Boom

The early 18th century saw El Paso and Juárez functioning as a single community. The arrival of the Texas and Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads in 1881 transformed the region. These railroads boosted trade with the United States and attracted a diverse array of newcomers, including priests and gunslingers. This period of growth also brought a wave of lawlessness and vice, particularly in El Paso.

Vice Crackdown and Surge of Tourism

In the 1910s, the U.S. Department of the Army took steps to curb vice activities in El Paso. This crackdown led to a surge in tourist activity in Juárez as visitors sought entertainment across the border. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a population decline, but the region bounced back with military expansion and new oil discoveries during World War II.

Post-War Redevelopment

The mid-20th century brought significant redevelopment to El Paso-Juárez. High wages and low living costs attracted numerous businesses, and the area became known for its manufacturing factories. This period of growth solidified the region’s importance as a major trade center.

Modern-Day History

Today, the El Paso-Juárez region is the second most valuable trade point on the U.S.-Mexico border and the 14th largest trade center in the United States, with a trade value of $81 billion in 2018. The region’s rich history of resilience and adaptation continues to shape its vibrant and dynamic community.

Economy of the El Paso-Juárez Region

A maquiladora

The El Paso-Juárez region is a vibrant economic hub, uniquely positioned as a major center for cross-border trade and commerce. Its economy is driven by a blend of key industries and strategic initiatives that leverage its binational character.

Economic Trends

The economy of the El Paso-Juárez region has shown robust growth, fueled by several key industries. Manufacturing is a cornerstone, with numerous factories (maquiladoras) in Juárez producing goods for export. These maquiladoras employ thousands of workers and are integral to the region’s economic vitality. El Paso, on the other hand, is known for its strong service sector, including healthcare, education, and retail.

Here are the industries prominent in the El Paso-Juárez region.

Recent statistics highlight the region’s economic strengths:

  • Manufacturing: Juárez houses over 300 maquiladoras, employing around 250,000 people. These factories primarily produce automotive parts, electronics, and medical devices.
  • Trade and Logistics: El Paso serves as a critical logistics hub thanks to its proximity to major highways and railroads. The city’s infrastructure supports the efficient movement of goods across the border.
  • Healthcare and Education: El Paso is home to major healthcare facilities and universities, contributing significantly to the local economy. The presence of institutions like the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) fosters educational growth and research.

Cross-Border Trade

Cross-border trade is vital to the El Paso-Juárez economy, driven by strategic initiatives and agreements that facilitate economic exchange between the U.S. and Mexico. The region’s geographical location makes it a critical gateway for trade. In 2018, the El Paso-Juárez region was the 14th largest trade center in the U.S., with a trade value of $81 billion.

Education in the El Paso-Juárez Region

College of Business Administration and the College of Engineering of the University of Texas at El Paso

The educational institutions in the El Paso-Juárez region not only provide academic programs but also engage in significant collaborations that benefit both sides of the border. Programs of exchange between UTEP, UACJ, and the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua foster a rich, binational educational environment. These collaborations enhance students’ and faculty’s cultural and academic experiences, contributing to a strong, interconnected community.

Major Universities

1. University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

UTEP is a leading Hispanic-serving institution in the United States, known for its commitment to innovation and research. It offers nearly 170 degree programs, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and significantly impacts local businesses and the community.

2. Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ)

UACJ is a prominent institution in Juárez, providing a range of undergraduate and graduate programs. It collaborates closely with UTEP and the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, facilitating exchange programs for students and scholars.

3. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

This institution is notable for being one of the few standalone medical schools in the region. It works closely with organizations like Doctors Without Borders and offers extensive healthcare education and research opportunities.

4. New Mexico State University (NMSU)

Located in Las Cruces, NMSU is a central educational hub offering a wide variety of programs. It has a strong reputation for supporting student success through a positive and welcoming learning environment.

Other Area Colleges and Universities

1. Universidad Tecnológica de Ciudad Juárez

This university focuses on technological and vocational education, preparing students for careers in various technical fields.

2. Howard Payne University-El Paso

A branch of the main Howard Payne University, offering a range of undergraduate programs in El Paso.

3. Park University, Southwest University at El Paso, Strayer University, and Webster University

These institutions provide diverse educational opportunities, including online and on-campus programs tailored to working adults and non-traditional students.

4. Western Technical College-El Paso

Known for its hands-on training programs in technical fields such as automotive, welding, and medical technology.

5. El Paso Community College (EPCC)

EPCC offers associate degrees and certificates, serving as a crucial stepping stone for students aiming to transfer to four-year universities or enter the workforce.

6. Doña Ana Community College (DACC)

Located in Las Cruces, DACC provides comprehensive educational programs and services, including transfer degrees and career technical education.

Cultural Highlights of the El Paso-Juárez Region

The El Paso-Juárez region is a cultural melting pot where American and Mexican traditions blend seamlessly. This vibrant area offers many cultural experiences that reflect its rich heritage and dynamic community spirit. Let’s explore some of the key cultural highlights.

Festivals and Events

Day of the Dead Altar and Dia de los Muertos

The region is renowned for its lively festivals and events that celebrate the unique blend of American and Mexican cultures:

  • Fiesta de las Flores: This annual festival in El Paso is one of the oldest Hispanic festivals in the Southwest. It features a parade, live music, traditional Mexican dances, and a pageant celebrating the vibrant cultural heritage of the region.
  • Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead): Both El Paso and Juárez celebrate this traditional Mexican holiday with colorful altars, marigold flowers, and sugar skulls. The festivities include parades, face painting, and family gatherings to honor deceased loved ones.
  • Sun Bowl: This college football bowl game held in El Paso is more than just a sporting event. It includes the Sun Bowl Parade, a Thanksgiving tradition featuring elaborate floats, marching bands, and festive cheer.
  • Festival Internacional Chihuahua: Held in nearby Chihuahua, Mexico, this festival features a month-long series of cultural events, including concerts, theater performances, and art exhibitions, showcasing the best of Mexican and international talent.

Food and Cuisine

Tacos on a plate

The culinary scene in the El Paso-Juárez region is a delicious fusion of flavors from both sides of the border:

  • Tacos: A staple in both El Paso and Juárez, you can find a wide variety of tacos, from classic street tacos to gourmet versions. Popular spots include Chico’s Tacos in El Paso and El Cometa in Juárez.
  • Tamales: Traditionally made during the holiday season, tamales are a favorite in the region. These corn husk-wrapped delights are filled with meats, cheeses, and chilies.
  • Tex-Mex Cuisine: El Paso is famous for its Tex-Mex dishes, which blend traditional Mexican recipes with American flavors. Dishes like enchiladas, nachos, and chile con queso are local favorites.
  • Mexican Street Food: In Juárez, street food vendors offer a variety of snacks, including elotes (grilled corn), churros, and tortas (Mexican sandwiches).

Arts and Music Scene

El Paso Museum of Art

The region’s arts and music scene is thriving, with numerous venues and events that showcase local talent:

  • El Paso Museum of Art: This museum features an extensive collection of American, European, and Mexican art, offering a diverse array of exhibitions and educational programs.
  • Plaza Theatre: A historic venue in El Paso, the Plaza Theatre hosts concerts, Broadway shows, and film festivals, providing a stage for various performances.
  • Centro Cultural Paso del Norte: Located in Juárez, this cultural center hosts a variety of events, including art exhibitions, theater productions, and concerts, highlighting local and international artists.
  • Local Music: The region boasts a vibrant music scene, with genres ranging from mariachi and norteño to rock and hip-hop. Venues like The Lowbrow Palace in El Paso and Hardpop in Juárez are popular spots for live music.

Tourist Destinations in the El Paso-Juárez Region

The El Paso-Juárez region offers a rich variety of tourist attractions that cater to diverse interests. There’s something for everyone, from historic landmarks and cultural sites to outdoor adventures and vibrant nightlife. Here’s a list of must-visit spots in the area:

El Paso, Texas

El Paso Skyline

  • Franklin Mountains State Park: One of the largest urban parks in the United States, this park offers hiking, rock climbing, and stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.
  • El Paso Museum of Art: Home to a significant collection of American, European, and Mexican art, this museum is a cultural gem in downtown El Paso.
  • Plaza Theatre: A beautifully restored historic theater that hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and classic film screenings.
  • El Paso Zoo: A family-friendly attraction with over 220 species of animals, interactive exhibits, and a splash pad for kids.
  • Scenic Drive: A must-do in El Paso, this drive offers panoramic views of the city, the Rio Grande, and Juárez, especially breathtaking at sunset.
  • Hueco Tanks State Historic Site: Known for its rock formations and ancient pictographs, this site is perfect for hiking, bouldering, and exploring Native American history.

Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua

  • La Rodadora: An interactive museum focused on science, technology, art, and culture, making it a great destination for families and curious minds.
  • Cathedral of Ciudad Juárez: This beautiful cathedral in the heart of Juárez is a stunning example of Mexican religious architecture and a peaceful place to visit.
  • Parque Central Hermanos Escobar: A large park featuring lakes, playgrounds, and walking paths, perfect for a relaxing day out with family or friends.
  • Museo de la Revolución en la Frontera (Museum of the Revolution on the Border): This informative museum, housed in a historic building, offers a chance to learn about the Mexican Revolution and its impact on the region.
  • Juárez Market (Mercado Juárez): A bustling market where you can find traditional crafts, souvenirs, and delicious local food.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

  • New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum: This interactive museum showcases the state’s agricultural history and offers live demonstrations, exhibits, and farm animals.
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument: A stunning natural area perfect for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, with dramatic mountain vistas and diverse ecosystems.
  • Mesilla: A historic town with charming adobe buildings, quaint shops, and the famous Mesilla Plaza, a great spot to learn about the area’s history and enjoy local cuisine.
  • White Sands National Park: Located a short drive from Las Cruces, this park features breathtaking white gypsum sand dunes, ideal for hiking, picnicking, and sand sledding.

Conclusion

The El Paso-Juárez region is a vibrant and culturally rich area that offers a unique blend of American and Mexican traditions. There’s something for everyone to enjoy – whether you’re exploring the arts, savoring street food, or hiking in the beautiful nature. This region can offer you a memorable experience that highlights the best of both countries. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover the diverse and dynamic world of the El Paso-Juárez region!

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