Will The Ghosts Of Its Past Shape El Paso's Future?

Four Dead in Five Seconds. John Wesley Hardin. Dallas Stoudenmire. No, that’s not the latest Juarez murder statistic and those aren’t the names of poor gringos that have lost their lives while vacationing in Mexico. They are all significant parts of our past that go largely unrecognized. Fifty percent of you reading this probably have no idea what I’m talking about and that saddens me. The Four Dead in Five Seconds gunfight made the O.K. Corral’s look like a schoolyard brawl yet there is no evidence of it on the streets of downtown.

John Wesley Hardin was a notorious Old West killing machine that met his demise with a bullet to the head in the Acme Saloon that is now a dollar store. Yes, you heard me right…a dollar store! While living downtown, I’d often sit on the ledge of my loft and imagine ol’ Dallas, as proud and tall as he was, prowling the dirt roads, drunk out of his mind, as outlaws shied in the shadows of saloons and saddle shops. On many nights I could have sworn I heard him shooting at a bell tower or challenging the Manning’s to a fight.

I have many fond memories of downtown both good and bad. Like the ever eclectic clientele at The Tap, the drunken homeless fights at 4 a.m. and even the horrific memory of watching a man plunge to his death from the roof of the lofts but, it saddens me to see such beauty become blighted. I often fantasize about taking a trolley downtown and having a beer and a shot of whiskey at the newly refurbished Acme Saloon 2011. I fantasize about turning the corner on El Paso Street and hearing the pop of gunfire and seeing a reenactment of that fatal and famous gunfight. I’d love to see the once “Broadway of The Southwest” become just that again.

I have hope that our city leaders will finally step in and make our past the path to our future. I know that we as a people can contribute to this change as well. We just need to grab a hold of our huevos (pardon my French) and charge it head on. Let’s face it, downtown El Paso will most likely never be the economic powerhouse that places like Austin and San Antonio are but we can profit and take pride in our past. As plump in history that our city is, we have more than enough historical resources to make this happen. It also amazes me that no one from our young, talented and budding film community has taken advantage of this and made the next hit western.

We should be ashamed of ourselves for our complacency and turning our backs on the city that has provided so much to us from generation to generation but, as my dear abuelita used to say, “del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho!” Andale El Paso!

Esteban Luis Soto

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