El Paso (ĕl păˈsō) [key], city (1990 pop. 515,342), seat of El Paso co., extreme W Tex., on the Rio Grande opposite Juárez, Mex.; inc. 1873. In a region of cattle ranches and cotton and vegetable farms (irrigated from the Elephant Butte Reservoir), the city is a port of entry and a commercial, industrial, financial, and mining center. Among the city's diverse products are refined petroleum, processed metals, foodstuffs, machinery, and boots. Fort Bliss, a U.S. military installation and air defense center, is a major employer. The city is the seat of the Univ. of Texas at El Paso, and has an art museum and a zoo. Franklin Mountains State Park, with its tramway, is within El Paso. The area's dry warmth also attracts tourists and seasonal winter residents.
One of the largest of the border cities (and said to be the world's busiest border crossing), El Paso is a blend of the United States and Mexico, its history closely linked to that of Juárez. The region was once known as El Paso del Norte, for the route through the mountains from Mexico to the north. In the 16th and 17th cent. missionaries, soldiers, and traders came here. Although missions were founded at Ysleta and elsewhere north of the river, the major settlement was on the south (Juárez) bank. Not until 1827 was the first house built on the site of El Paso. After the U.S.-Mexican border was set, settlement increased, and the coming of the railroad in 1881 prefaced the arrival of cowboys, exiles, border traders, and adventurers. As a result of the settlement in 1963 of the Chamizal border dispute, a small area of El Paso was transferred to Mexico.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.