If I have one dream as a writer, it's to be published in Texas Monthly. That stupid magazine has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years now. One month I hate them, the next month they totally redeem themselves. Although, since I've moved to DC, I generally only get 10 of 12 issues. That's okay, they do a Willie Nelson profile every other issue so I figure I'm not missing too much. One issue I did get was the February 2013 "Cities Issue," that features El Paso (among others).
It should be noted that I am forever jealous of Sito Negron for having published work in Texas Monthly. He did a great job - deserved that accolade.
This month's issue was stowed away behind numerous New Yorker and Week Standard magazines on my dresser for a few weeks. Knowing that El Paso was featured as one of six of the biggest Texas cities in the magazine made me nervous. I desperately wanted it to be an indictment on the rest of the state's ignorance to your greatness, but could not bring myself to find out until last Sunday. I figured since I was traveling back to El Paso for my mother's 60th, I'd figure out what they said and how I would feel about it before I got there. Well, it didn't go well.... for you.
With the entire state intently staring at you on stage you did what you always do - lead with the charges of racism, follow with the poverty, sprinkle in some Chico Tacos, declare pride in your poverty and close with some more racism accusations. I couldn't have been more disgusted with the result if they'd simply printed an piece declaring the entire city's population deniers of the Holocaust.
Here's the breakdown.
First of all, Texas Monthly spends a lot of words describing you as forgotten and unwanted. That was not nice. However, the fact that out of all the contributors picked to write about El Paso exactly zero of them are a full-time resident of El Paso was quite embarrassing. Not only is El Paso the land that God (and Texas) forgot, they don't even have a full-time village idiot to tell their story. The city relies on expats who know only a little of what they are talking about.
The first, and featured piece, is by Dagoberto Gilb. Dagoberto admits immediately that he doesn't currently live in El Paso, but did for a while a very long time ago (a thousand years ago). Dagoberto is an extremely abstract writer whose style is very hard to follow, but you can glean at least one single clear point from his missive - his favorite memory of El Paso takes place 100 miles east of El Paso... Yeah, his greatest moment in El Paso, didn't have anything to do with El Paso. He was enjoying El Capitan when some German chick called El Paso the "armpit of Texas." That's his entire story. Oh, wait - when he was a El Capitan he was actually trying to get to Ft. Davis or Marfa or Big Bend - anywhere but El Paso. What a nice piece about El Paso.
Debbie Nathan, the part-time El Pasoan who carries Four Names Allala's tainted water, took her crack at the city next. She claims that the 2006 downtown revitalization plan was brought by rich white guys who were going to raze Segundo Barrio (the only place in El Paso worth visiting if you read these articles) with the residents still in their homes. She fails to explain how that didn't happen even though the plan was passed by council. Either she's lying or she's lying - you take your pick.
Not content getting the downtown plan situation wrong, she blames the Glass Beach presentation based on polling on the city and PDN as if they invented the results just to piss people off. Here again she gets all the facts completely wrong in her playing of the race card.
She does work in Four Names Allala into the conversation and even an outsider has to question how she alone fits with the story. Nathan ends by admitting that the voters of El Paso called bullshit on each of her points in the November election and thus negates her entire bullshit article. I mean, she really got all the facts wrong - just like an outsider listening to only one side of the story would.
Next up is Jazmine Ulloa a reporter for the Austin American Statesman who at one time lived in El Paso, but does not live there now. She is tasked with the obligatory Chico's Tacos story that serves to seal any stranger's view that El Paso is a complete hell hole that is not to be visited, much less cared about. Then she paints the place as a homophobic petri dish growing hate and gets the whole story wrong trying to prove her point.
She claims that Chico's "downtown location" had police throw out two gay men for kissing. First of all, the Chico's location right next to Blackie Chesser Park is not "downtown" and the incident didn't take place there either. Secondly, the cops didn't kick the men out, a security guard did and there's a lot of speculation over whether it was the kissing or their overall drunken behavior that led to their booting from the premises. The controversy was really aimed at the rookie cop who claimed there was a law against men kissing that could get them arrested. And she fails to mention that one of the gay kissers has a history of starting these kind of problems. Bottom line - she got the name of the eatery right and the description of the food. The rest just kills El Paso for no reason.
The next article is from Christine Granados and she waxes poetic about Album Park and you have to wonder what the hell she was thinking and why Texas Monthly thought this was a pertinent narrative about El Paso.
Finishing up the debacle is David Dorado Romo - a resident of New Mexico who happens to have an expertise on Segundo Barrio that nobody really cares about. Of course, Romo highlights a mural that 99 percent of El Paso has never seen nor heard of. As Debbie Nathan rang the racism bell for a stereotypical portrayal of Latinos, Romo was solidifying that notion with his idea that murals are on every corner of every Latino community - especially in El Paso. It's just gawdawful and not at all helpful.
Not a single flattering thing was written about El Paso while other cities enjoyed the riches of literary praise. The stark contrast of the stories told about each city compared to El Paso was shocking. Hell, most of the stories about El Paso were about Juarez or some place other than El Paso. It is just sad. Texas Monthly couldn't find a single current El Paso resident to tell the story and the people they did find just shit all over the city. You can't win for losing my friends... I'll see you tomorrow (which is likely today given the time of day I'm writing this).