Despite the fact that Las Cruces is a 30-50 minute drive from El Paso, I felt a big difference while living in both cities. I lived on campus at NMSU and spent most of my time there while in school, which made me lose track of a lot of the excitement and change happening in my hometown – especially Downtown.
The Downtown I grew up with was one where my mom and I would shop for fabric and other decorative items for baby shower and quinceañera books she’d make for friends and family. I was always captivated by the store owners who switched between Korean and Spanish as if they were one language. In college, friends from places like Colorado and China were thrilled about this part of Downtown, filled with colorful shops that sold hats, socks, toys or eerily unique finds like the supposed mummified pistol finger of Pancho Villa at Dave’s Pawn Shop.
What excited me about coming back home was the amount of young locals striving to shake things up and make the art, holistic health and urban gardening scene thrive. I’ve come to know so many people who for little to no money put countless hours into workshops and events that make art and healthy practices more accessible.
Along with longtime trailblazers in the community and many proud El Pasoans, these young entrepreneurs and unconventional thinkers have made this city distinct, proving that we’ve gone past a city with potential and that we are a city of dynamic growth.
I’ve reflected on these thoughts thanks to the recent TEDxElPaso held at the El Paso Museum of Art. I unfortunately don’t have enough room in this column to go over the talks that especially resonated with me, but you can read an extended version of this column online.
I’ve known about Andrew Joseph as a photographer and was excited to see what his talk, “The Passage to the Future” was all about. My takeaway from his talk is that we have the power – through intention with empathy and design with storytelling – to foster a human-centered design of our city.
Joseph, a multimedia specialist who runs a tech startup called Guide, said that fragments – and in this case he showed a graphic of El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez municipalities – can give the illusion of insignificance.
“Over 20 jurisdictions and almost no synergy,” Joseph said.
He showed a graphic of these municipal fragments being pieced together like a puzzle and he formed the shape of Los Angeles. What was his point? We citizens of El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces have the ability to make a larger impact by not acting so separate. By collaborating more, we can transcend the status quo and drive more economic and cultural growth – growth that doesn’t depend on taxpayer resources or our income, he added.
I’ve enjoyed all three of the cities, but they do feel incredibly different from each other. If we worked together more in the creative, cultural and philanthropic areas, I can only imagine how we could shift negative perceptions to inspired ones – not only for out-of-towners, but for ourselves as well.