The U.S. / México border is a unique space where cultures meet, collide, and mesh in an atmosphere of constant change.
El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, known as a Borderplex, is a binational metropolitan area on the border between México and the United States. More than 2.5 million people are estimated to live in this binational region and it is considered the largest area where the First World meets the Third World.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 82% of El Paso County consists of persons of Hispanic or Latino origin. 74.8% reported having a language other than English spoken in their home, with more than 25% of the County’s population reported to live below poverty level.
Despite its proximity to Ciudad Juarez, known for its increased violence in recent years, El Paso was ranked the safest large city in the United States (lowest crime rate among cities of more than 500,000 population) in 2011. Since 1997, the city has been ranked in the top three safest cities of its size.
El Paso, home to University of Texas at El Paso, serves as a hotspot for activism, specifically for immigration issues. El Paso offers many opportunities for involvement in borderland issues, on both a regional and national level.
Nearby Las Cruces, NM is also considered a part of the border region, referred to as El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces or El Paso-Juárez-Southern New Mexico.
Las Cruces has a population of 97,168 (U.S. Census, 2010) and is the second largest city in New Mexico. Since 2000, the population is reported to have increased 31.4% which has considerably changed the area’s landscape.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 40.1% of the city of Las Cruces reported having a language other than English spoken in their home, with more than 20% of the County’s population reported to live below poverty level.
Las Cruces, home to New Mexico State University, hosts a consortium of social service agencies that provides comprehensive services to the local population. The Las Cruces community is close-knit and socially-conscious, boasting a nationally-recognized Farmer’s Market, an active community forum known as “The Great Conversation,” and a wealth of cultural and outdoor activities.
Many people on the borderland (especially the children with which we work) consider themselves tri-lingual. “I speak three languages,”they say. “English, Spanish, and Spanglish!” And indeed they do.
The regional cuisine provides opportunities for sampling a variety of dishes. Taste true Mexican foods (just decide your level of spiciness) as well as excellent Southwest dishes. FYI: Be prepared to answer New Mexico’s official state question, “Red or green?” (Which type of chile do you prefer?).
The Chihuahua Desert climate has very hot summers with little or no humidity and mild, dry winters. As a high desert location, temperatures tend to be warm during the day and cool during the evening hours.
Outdoor activities are plentiful. Mountain ranges (Franklin, Doña Ana, and Organ) have hiking trails, as well as opportunities for over-night camping. North on the Rio Grande, dams provide places for a mixture of beach and lake, which are wonderful for camping or day visits. During the winter season, Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, NM accumulate snow that affords some winter activities. Additional areas of interest in the region include White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Hueco Tanks.
Both cities host a variety of educational and health care institutions that care for the regions of southern New Mexico and southwest Texas.