It’s interesting for me to walk down the 500 block of North Stanton in downtown El Paso on a hot Texas day, the sun beating down on my head.
As I look at the bars in the area, I can’t help but think how this block may look like any other block to any El Pasoan passing by. To me though, this block changed my life.
This block isn’t just any other block, this block is Pride Square.
These establishments are more than just bars to get drunk at – though I can admit that I’ve had my share of crazy experiences here – these establishments represent my finding of acceptance in a world that’s scared of what’s different.
These establishments, some of which have stood in this exact spot for over ten years, represent a community that dances together, a community that laughs together, and a community that can feel heartache together.
Furthest north, and around the corner, there’s Chiquita’s, then down the line we have Epic, then The Briar Patch, the Toolbox, 8 1/2, and underneath that, the newest addition to the square, The Speak Easy.
During the day, these establishments sleep, awaiting the moon that brings life and energy through their doors.
The importance of these establishments goes far past that of giving bored LGBTQ youth something to do on Friday and Saturday nights. Some of these establishments allowed people to find refuge in their walls from a world that only ten years ago didn’t know how to react to things deemed different from heteronormative ideals.
Of course, the idea of gay bars being safe spaces for queer people to come together is not one founded in El Paso, but can be traced back to the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The cultural significance of these spaces not only speaks volumes on the spaces themselves, but also on the acceptance and diversity that El Paso itself represents.
La frontera, our Borderland, El Paso, – the place I’m proud to call home – is home to a variety of cultures and people from all walks of life. Our city is rich with Mexican heritage and culture that leaks into the gay culture of Pride Square on Sunday nights when you can catch local drag performers paying homage to late legends like Selena Quintanilla and Jenni Rivera.
Of course, these places are not exclusive to those who identify as LGBTQ, but inclusive to anyone who wants to celebrate being themselves.
Pride Square is part of El Paso history. It’s made its mark, and shaped a generation of El Pasoans by granting them the reassurance that they too are not just created equal, but created beautifully.
That not only should they take pride in being who they are, but also celebrate it while screaming along to “Como La Flor” under the flashing lights of the dance floor.
It’s no wonder why Pride Square has stood proudly with its rainbow flags hanging high for so long. It not only represents the pride of the LGBTQ community, but also the pride of El Paso and its acceptance of all people, not just the straight ones.
Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo