From Concordia to Lincoln Park, an Urban History of Highway Building in El Paso, Texas

Miguel Juárez, University of Texas at El Paso


Located in West Texas, El Paso is where two nations (the United States and Mexico) and three states (Texas, New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico) meet. This work studies the events, communities and personalities associated with the creation of El Paso's freeways, but it also explores a multi-ethnic urban history from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. My research is not just about building freeways; it details how the lives of El Pasoans were reshaped as a result of highway building. El Paso as a borderlands city became synonymous with expanding nation states which encroached on people's lives and properties and displaced them in the name of modernity. The history of El Paso's freeways is told utilizing the following threads of history: borderlands history of the Southwest and changes that occurred in the built environment; city planning and transportation at local, state and federal levels; federal programs such as the Highway Act of 1956, urban renewal, and Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty; and historical memory. Central in this work is the Lincoln Park community in South Central El Paso which experienced a process of rapid urbanization in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. This study seeks to uncover how El Paso's freeways were built, who decided where they should be placed, who paid for them and what communities were moved to build them. Also, what were these communities like before the creation of the freeways and what happened to those communities after the freeways were built? This dissertation covers events from 1840 to 2018 and includes the activism by the Lincoln Park Conservation Committee (LPCC) in reclaiming the neighborhood and fighting against the demolition of Lincoln Center. In the 1990s, the Lincoln Park neighborhood also became a living museum due to the creation of numerous outdoor murals and annual activities that made it into a site of Chicano/a identity, culture and resistance. The effort to re-open Lincoln Center continues to this day. Using archival sources and oral histories, this work seeks to recover the voices which have been silenced by the reconfiguration of space in a city whose citizens were not part of the decision-making process. It is also informed, influenced and inspired by local activism and participant observer research, and aims to become part of a larger conversation about the impact of displacement during a time of urban planning, mapping and reconstruction.

Subject Area

American history|History|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Juárez, Miguel, "From Concordia to Lincoln Park, an Urban History of Highway Building in El Paso, Texas" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10813963.