Concordia Cemetery and Fort Bliss, El Paso

JW Hardin's grave

JW Hardin’s grave

Don’t you just love this photo of the cemetery of John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), gunslinger extraordinaire, in the magnificent Concordia Cemetery, El Paso? He is still in a jail cell after death and his defense for his various killings was “I never killed anyone who didn’t need killing.” There is no response to that really; he was just a bad ‘un. The best part about the shot is that you can see a man in an orange t-shirt through the bars. He was part of a group of prisoners cleaning this famous cemetery. Some of them looked very intimidating and they were really staring at me but perhaps they ain’t seen a cougar for a while? This is a link to Concordia’s Cemetery website in red. Listen to the song that plays along with the post about JW Hardin. Somehow it summons up the old wild west of Texas as did this cemetery. It was bought and divided into various sections by city groups, Chinese here, Masons there, Catholics in a separate place from Jesuits. Any Catholics out there will know that’s a good thing – Jesuits are scarier than gunslingers…

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

I love that this shot summons up every thing good about Texas. Skies that go on forever and eclectic people in life and death.

My guide Rudy, see my previous post,‘A tour of El Paso’ certainly had my number. What better place to visit than the cemetery and then Fort Bliss, the biggest military base in Texas – cool. Look at that warhead and the old tanks!

tour-of-fort-bliss

tanks-and-warheads

I have never been on a military base and this was astonishing – a complete small city. There was a town center, shopping mall, restaurants, cinema, schools and various suburbs for want of a better word. Rudy took us past the very large house that General Patton lived in and I was just awestruck. It could have been an upmarket suburb like any in my area, except the view was better. Rudy was a veteran and it was nice to see that the guard on duty saluted him with great respect (we had to show our driving licenses for security). This a link to the Wiki page about Fort Bliss. I could see that the terrain and temperatures would really help training fighters going to places like Afghanistan.

Rudy took us to see original adobe houses from the 60s up and down mountain tracks to get good views, right up to the border so that we could see what Juarez looks like – poor. I didn’t manage to capture photos of the amazing University of Texas at El Paso The architecture of the college is based on Bhutanese Monasteries and the red link tells you a little more about it.

library-el-paso
Courtesy of City Data

It was a perfect tour of a perfect city. This is a view towards Cuidad Juarez and the writing on the mountain side reads “La Biblia es la Verdad. Leela.” or “The Bible is the Truth, Read It.”

Mexican Mountains

Mexican Mountains

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El Paso, Texas

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

After being so sick this year, I was desperate to take a little late summer trip to a quiet town. Houston and surrounds has been blisteringly hot this year, so I wanted to go somewhere cooler but not cold. I swear I have lizard DNA; bask in the heat, hibernate into a death like state in the cold. There were still enough United Airlines points to go somewhere domestically so I decided to head to El Paso.

Y’alls know how big Texas is but El Paso is so far away from Houston (675 miles) that it is in another time zone. As I approached the city, I looked out in fascination at the mountains and river valley wondering whether I was looking at Mexico, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. It was so beautiful – bright sunshine, arid landscape and mountains. My fellow passenger and I were astonished at how quiet the roads were, even in the middle of the city. Bliss…

My friend Lisa lives in El Paso. This is her blog title with a red link ‘Life of an El Paso Woman’ . I can’t remember when we connected but she kindly asked me if I would participate in her Saturday interview after my book, ‘Letters from Cairo’ was published on Kindle. It is so strange how connected we can become with fellow bloggers, invested not just in their opinions but the lives that they choose to share with us. I am happy to share far too much and then am embarrassed when a local friend reads my personal thoughts – go figure!

I got an UBER at the airport and lickety-split, I was at my new hotel. The Hotel Indigo is in a refurbished building – link to the El Paso Times article on the hotel.  It was built in 1963 and refurbished at various times. Teddy has Intercontinental points so I was given a top floor room on the 12th floor (squeaking in delight). I was awestruck as I gazed out the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Texas and Mexico. It was a hip and groovy room; the architects did a great job. All the little touches added up to a fantastic whole.

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Curiously, on my first evening, I ate at the funky 5th floor roof-top bar where I met two architects. (I know that doesn’t make sense – the building was angled and some of the rooms had a view of the 5th floor bar). It was alongside the cute little pool which was lit up in different colors as darkness fell. The bar was underneath a roof but open on two sides, letting a cool north Texas breeze in. Temperatures were comfortable for me – a dry 95 degrees by midday.

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

The wonderful Electricity sign glowed with an array of colors at night, as did the pool.  Every little detail was perfect from the pink chairs, to the copper wall detail with wood and glass.

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Back to the architects; they had the privilege to be working on one of the many older buildings that are being refurbished. Downtown seemed to be reviving but you could see that El Paso was once a very rich city. It is directly across the Rio Grande River from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. This was once an open, busy crossing until the cartels made Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. There is a highly guarded fence between countries with a very high presence of border control. El Paso is home to the biggest military base in Texas, Fort Bliss, so there are many reasons to keep El Paso as safe as possible. For many years it was the safest city of its size and, in general, our Texan border towns are safer – see this article in the Texas Tribune

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

One look at El Paso and I was ready to move there. More posts to follow.