The border makes America great sprawled across the cap on Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s head, Representative of the 16th District of Texas, after all the negative rhetoric against the borderland created by the 2016 Presidential Elections.
“I was born and raised here,” O’Rourke said. “This is my city. It’s a place that I’m incredibly proud of.”
Despite the perception against the border, O’Rourke persists on the positive things that make this city great. When outsiders of the borderland think of illegal immigrants and terror in the streets, Congressman O’Rourke talks about the $90 billion of trade passing through our ports of entry creating one out every four jobs in the community, over 50,000 jobs in Texas, and six million jobs nationally.
“You have this bi-national community, unlike any other that I know of in the world,” O’Rourke said. “Where two countries come together at one point, Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, three million people, two languages, two cultures, two national identities, that essentially become one, right here.”
The community has contributed to this stereotypical view of the borderland. The reality of El Paso and its identity seems not to really understand how powerful its stories are. And they’re powerful because El Pasoans truly understand, first hand, what it is to be an immigrant, and what it is to live in two countries at once. They are the only ones that can tell their own story.
“We kind of sold ourselves to the rest of the world, as a dusty, sleepy, little town that was great for low-wage, low-skilled labor,” O’Rourke said. “Not a cosmopolitan, bi-national community that was the source of ideas and art and people that you couldn’t find anywhere else.”
O’Rourke’s love for the Sun City echoes through those who see his work. Interns at Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s El Paso office can attest to his faith in the city. This enthusiasm is contagious. It makes citizens proud to call themselves El Pasoans.
“It’s only until we recognize our great fortune in being part of this bi-national community, and having these incredibly powerful stories of who we are and where we came from, who we’ve become. It’s only when we’re able to do that, when we convince the rest of the world of how special we are, that we will stop hearing the border or El Paso demonized in the national media,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke has conducted various Town Halls, specially after the 2016 Presidential Elections, advocating for immigrants and this border town. He has participated in TEDx Talks to spread his message. These like many other examples showcase how O’Rourke intends to tell our story to the world.
“I think that it’s the issue that we need to be very aware of; that if we do not write our story, it will be written for us, by people who don’t understand us and don’t know us,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke enjoys being a tourist in his own city. He posts on Snapchat his frequent climbs through the Franklin Mountains and his visits to local restaurants such as, Ardovino’s Pizza on Cincinnati (or the one in Sunland Park), L&J, and La Colonial.
He has also participated in the international 10K run between El Paso and Juárez, which has probably helped him lower his calories from all the donuts he eats.
O’Rourke said, “to have the opportunity to represent this place in Congress, and to tell our story to my colleagues, to those in the country who are curious and interested and want to listen, to work on laws, and work with the administration, to find a way to improve what we have, or build upon what’s moving here, or fix problems that are unique to this region, all that is terribly exciting to me.”
“This is the coolest city in America.”
– By Aimée Santillán