As Neil Sedaka once said, breaking up is hard to do. And sometimes breakups happen in very awkward ways – over dinner, in a public place, via text or even on social media. This week, Steve Fischer, an El Paso attorney, posted a break-up letter at the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk.org commentary section titled “Y’all, we need a divorce.” The relationship he wants to ditch is one between his hometown and the rest of Texas. His argument: El Paso has been neglected by the rest of the state for the last 168 years, culminating in a certain disaffection many El Pasoans feel today.
Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas – El Paso, says Fischer is becoming the Jonathan Swift of west Texa, with his own “Modest Proposal.”
“Attorney Fischer is right to an extent that in El Paso we feel a bit distant from the rest of the state,” Pineda says. “In reality what I think is really happening in El Paso is that people are in this last period have seen some real affection for the community. We have [congressman] Beto O’Rourke barnstorming the state. You’ve got Aaron Jones with the Green Bay Packers who flashes his 915 after he scores a touchdown. We’re in an interesting renaissance.”
The distance between El Paso and other Texas cities does leave some natives feeling out of touch, Pineda says. In the past, the city has had to push to be recognized by the state or receive funding that was regularly denied it.
“I think that there are definitely some shortfalls in the way the state thinks about El Paso,” Pineda says. “ I do think there’s a history of either isolation or sort of self-imposed exile from the rest of the state. I do think that’s a state of mind.”
El Paso’s culture is shaped by Mexican-American influences because of its proximity to the border, Pineda says.
“If you go into northern New Mexico, culturally, they still talk about being Spanish as opposed to Mexican or even indigenous,” Pineda says. “I think there’s those cultural differences. I think that’s so hard to overcome. “
O’Rourke continues to shine the spotlight on his hometown of El Paso, as the midterm elections approach. Although some El Pasoans may not be voting for him, they still have a sense of pride because they’re receiving national attention, Pineda says.
“He’s a hometown boy who is on national television, who’s receiving national attention, who is well representing this community,” Pineda says. “Regardless of your political feelings or regardless of how people vote in the Senate race, he is probably one of the strongest ambassadors that El Paso’s had in quite some time. I think this is a moment.”
Written by Brooke Vincent.