This article originally appeared on 24 August 2017.
Here in my hometown, I have never witnessed the kind of hatred and bigotry that so many other cities across the nation are dealing with. I am grateful for the diversity of our city, and the mutual respect I witness daily for those of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and beliefs.
No, here, our hatred and bigotry is more oblique. More subtle. More entrenched.
El Paso’s cool with Mexicans. Our official policy is that we’re cool with Mexicans as long as they look like Penelope Cruz or Matthew McConaughey. If they look like mestizos, though, we move the bus stops and knock down their barrio to sweep them under the rug.
Remember, this is the official branding policy of the City of El Paso. The policy was adopted in 2006, and has remained in place unmodified since then.
That’s why we erected a statue memorializing Don Juan de Oñate, the butcher of Acoma, who killed and maimed Native Americans. That’s why the City gives out Conquistador Awards to its favorite citizens, even though the conquistadores enslaved peaceful indigenous populations, trafficking them through this area to work in their mines along the Camino Real. That’s why the City is intent on colonizing downtown, to remove the unsightly impoverished Mexican-Americans who live there so the rich can watch basketball from luxury suites.
But effective branding is rooted in authenticity. If you’re a zebra, you can’t tell everyone that you’re a quarterhorse. El Paso can’t pretend to be home to the rich and famous when we are the poorest Metropolitan Statistical Area of its size in the United States.
And when you look at recent history through a prism of classist exclusion, everything makes more sense.