Apart for classic country western music, El Paso is a notable city (c'mon, I know you've heard of it) that gets glossed over in favor of more eccentric Austin or, well, that's about it. The rest of it is "texas," an adjective Norwegians now use to mean "crazy." Luckily for El Paso, it is so not Texas or even texas. El Paso is El Paso, and it is unlike anywhere else. It might be one of the most unique cities in the Union, and despite your friend insisting to you it's an armpit, it's not. We have proof.
The boot scene
El Paso is touted as the "Boot Capital of the World," and there's not an ounce of fabrication in the statement; even boot aficionados in Europe respect the "Made in El Paso" label. There are 49 bootmakers in the El Paso region, and most still continue the tradition of every boot being hand-made, despite the sheer size of factories like Lucchese and Justin Boots. The boots range from the ridiculously eccentric to the pragmatic and useful.
But what's more, the boots are pieces of art, and art always tells a story. A boot from Lucchese will wander, burn, soak, and hammer its way through 550 hands before it winds up on a pair of feet. A boot from Rocketbuster will spend weeks in one or two pairs of hands, being a one-and-only inspired by the customer. Everyone from Julia Roberts to Johnny Cash to Lyndon B. Johnson sports boots from El Paso, and for good reason: you shouldn't go anywhere else. Why would you?
The juxtaposition between old and new
If you're in El Paso, you gotta check out DIGIE. This cute diminutive nickname really stands for Digital Information Gateway in El Paso. That sounds way more boring and technical than it actually is: what it actually is a 90-ft long interactive wall that's a giant, futuristic toy to play with. With Minority Report-esque swipes of your hand, you can scroll through El Paso's history, make postcards and videos, and you can even contribute at DIGIE.org. The only thing like it is in Copenhagen. Pretty cool stuff.
Luckily, though, El Paso hasn't forgotten its roots, either. Places like the Magoffin Home preserve what El Paso looked like through the eyes of burgeoning Texans more than 150 years ago. The city was on the Santa Fe Trail, and pieces of time told through "Territorial Style" architecture keep that history alive. El Paso is integral to telling the story of when Texas was finding its feet, and America and Mexico were still in a love-tangle of land, war, and politics. To put it one way.
The confluence of cultures
Perhaps the neatest thing about El Paso is its geographical positioning and, therefore, the subsequent influx of cultural influences. It sits on the border between New Mexico and the country of Mexico, for no particular reason designated as a part of Texas. Go up Scenic Drive in the Franklin Mountains and you'll gaze into Juarez, literally able to watch life from another country. Mexico's influence runs rampant in the food and the color of El Paso, and at times it can feel like you're across the border when you're still on the northern side of the fence. Combine the flavors of Mexico with Marty Robbins and the Chihuahuan Desert, throw in a few food trucks, and you've got El Paso.
Leave the pomegranate flavoring at the bar: in El Paso, you want the classic, original margarita. It originated here, and there's no reason to stray from the best. Thank you, El Paso, for existing. From all of us.
The festival scene
El Paso seems like a city that's finding its stride at this very moment: Cool Canyon Nights (live music in a canyon? Sign me up!) to the Indian Food Festival (sign me up twice) to Chalk the Block, El Paso knows how to take advantage of what it's got. The festival scene, live music, food trucks, and community events are only growing; this year, Chalk the Block alone raked in 41,000 people. Between the fresh quesadillas, pad thai and corn on the cob, the street art, and the al fresco music, it's not hard to see why. That, and the cupcakes. Potentially the best red velvet cupcake you'll ever have. I'm trying to get one delivered by FedEx as we speak.
So, El Paso, keep doin' your thang. Austin is totally 2014, and 2016 is your year. I can feel it. You may not have enough spin classes per capita right now, but that'll come in time. Until then, just eat cupcakes.