DJ's Texas Quizzes

Answers: A Quick Pass Through El Paso History

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Question 1: Chihuahua. Ciudad Juárez is the largest city in Chihuahua, followed by the municipality of Chihuahua. The state of Chihuahua includes the Copper Canyon, which is twice the size of the Grand Canyon.

Question 2: Juan de Oñate. Oñate was born in Mexico, the son of a Zacatecas mine owner. His settlement of New Mexico effectively extended the Camino Real by 600 miles. Many locals celebrate their own Thanksgiving Day, tracing to the Oñate settlement in 1598, well before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Cabeza de Vaca is believed to have passed through the area in 1535 or 1536, although his exact route is debated. Coronado explored the general area of West Texas in 1540-42. The Rodríguez-Sánchez expedition in 1581 at least saw the Pass of the North. This was followed by the Espejo-Beltrán expeditions, which then led to the colonizing expedition of Oñate.

Question 3: Ysleta. Ysleta, named after its predecessor community in New Mexico (Isleta), is now part of the city of El Paso. The full name was "Ysleta del Sur," which means "Little Island of the South." Between 1829 and 1831 the Rio Grande cut a new channel, which placed Ysleta on an island formed by the old and new channels. When the deepest channel became the international boundary in 1848, Ysleta became part of the United States. El Paso del Norte clearly became the principal settlement over the years. The community of San Lorenzo still existed in the 1860s but was no longer shown on maps of the 1940s, having been superseded by the community of Ascarate, which was later absorbed by the city of El Paso. The community of Senecú (originally Senecú del Sur) survived into the early nineteenth century. The community of Socorro continues to thrive today, located about ten miles southeast of downtown El Paso.

Question 4: Fort Bliss. Fort Bliss was named after Lt. Col. William Wallace Smith Bliss, Gen. Zachary Taylor's chief of staff during the Mexican War and later his son-in-law. The fort contributes more than $500 million per year to the El Paso economy. Fort Brown is located in modern day Brownsville, also on the Mexican border. It played a significant role during the Mexican War. Robert E. Lee was stationed there briefly in 1860. Fort Davis, located in West Texas, was established in 1854 by order of Jefferson Davis, then secretary of war of the United States. Fort Hood is a large fort in Central Texas, covering over 200,000 acres. Located near Killeen, it played an important role during the Gulf War. Fort Polk was located near Fort Brown. It was established in 1846 and was named after President James Polk.

Question 5: 25 days. The contract signed by the Butterfield Overland Mail was for a maximum trip time of 25 days, but the trip was often completed in only 22 days, representing an average of about 125 miles per day. Butterfield was one of nine bidders for the contract. He had earlier consolidated his express service with that of Henry Wells and William Fargo to form the American Express Company, the predecessor of today’s worldwide financial company.

Question 6: The Southern Pacific. The Southern Pacific came from the west. It was owned by four noted industrialists, including Leland Stanford, the benefactor of Stanford University. The Texas and Pacific was controlled by Jay Gould. It was still 130 miles away from El Paso when the Southern Pacific arrived. The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio arrived later in 1881, as did the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The Mexican Central arrived in 1882. The first transcontinental railroad took a more northerly route, and was completed in May 1869 in Utah. Leland Stanford was also a backer of that route. On June 4, 1876, in celebration of the nation’s centennial, a train called the Transcontinental Express traveled from New York to San Francisco on this route in the record-breaking time of 83 hours and 39 minutes (about three and one-half days).

Question 7: Porfirio Díaz. Porfirio Díaz had ruled Mexico since 1876. In the election of 1910, Francisco Madero campaigned against Díaz. As Madero gained strength, he was arrested by Díaz. After posting bail, he fled to San Antonio and issued, through the Plan de San Luis Potosí, a call to arms on November 20, 1910. The resentment against Díaz had been building for some years. Ricardo Flores Magón and his brother Enrique, who founded the newspaper Regeneración in 1900, were prominent dissenters, leading the "Magonistas." An outgrowth of the revolution was an effort by Mexican Texans to establish their own nation, intending to reclaim lands lost to Texas in 1836 and 1848. This effort was led in part by Luis De la Rosa. Francisco (Pancho) Villa, the best-known Mexican revolutionary, had a number of ties to El Paso. In 1910 he joined the Madero revolution against the Díaz government and visited Texas first in May 1911, when John Hart of El Paso invited him to a banquet for Madero sympathizers. Later in the same month Villa was Hart's guest at Cloudcroft, New Mexico. In January 1913 Villa, who had been imprisoned in Mexico City, escaped and made his way back to El Paso where, using his real name, he plotted against Huerta and recruited followers. Villa was popular in El Paso in part because of the quantities of supplies he bought from El Paso merchants. In the summer of 1913 he brought his wife and son to the city to secure them from the unsettled conditions in Mexico. After the United States recognized the Carranza government in Mexico, Villa turned against the Americans. A force ordered by President Woodrow Wilson to capture Villa was unsuccessful. Mexican federalists bought Villa's retirement by giving him an estate in 1920.

Question 8: John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy formally settled the dispute in January 1963, along the lines recommended by the 1910 international boundary commission. President Kennedy hoped that the settlement would strengthen the "Alliance for Progress" and solidify the Organization of American States. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, actually met on the border in 1967 to proclaim the settlement, more than 100 years after the 1864 flood that contributed to the dispute!

Question 9: William H. Taft. William H. Taft served as U.S. president from 1909 to 1913. An El Paso historian described the Taft-Díaz meeting as a "veritable pageant of military splendor, social brilliance, courtly formality, official protocol, and patriotic fervor." At the customhouse dinner, there were rich red draperies, paintings of George Washington and Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (a Mexican priest known as "the Father of Mexican Independence"), three train-car loads of flowers brought from Guadalajara, a gold and silver service that had belonged to the emperor Maximilian and was valued at a million dollars, cut glass from Chapultepec Castle valued at $200,000, and fine linens from the presidential palace. While not all of the conversations have been published, it appears likely that this meeting set the stage for the interim land agreement supported by the International Boundary Commission in 1911.

Question 10: Tony Lama. The founder of the Tony Lama Company was Tony Lama Sr., a native of Syracuse, New York. He was born in 1887, orphaned at age eleven, and raised by an uncle who apprenticed him to be a shoemaker. Lama served at Fort Bliss under Gen. John J. Pershing in the Sixth United States Infantry. After he started his own shop in 1912, his focus on western-style boots derived in part from the declining importance of the horse soldier in the military. He died in 1974 and was succeeded by his son, Tony Lama Jr

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