Monday, December 5, 2016

Plazita Lights: A "White" Christmas

I fully expect to get a lot of Hateraide for this post, so if you've got beef with what I'm about to say, once again my phone number is (915)694-5714 and you can email me at

That being said, I'm not a fan of the lights at the plazita.

They are beautiful.

They are very nice.

There are a lot of them.

But they have absolutely no soul.

The decorations at The Fountains have more soul than what we have at the plazita now.

I took my kid out to the tree lighting event and it was great fun. The city went all-out and even have an ice skating rink downtown now!

All things to be proud of.

I've never really bought-in to the idea that business leaders in El Paso were trying to make downtown less brown. I just figured that they wanted to drag El Paso kicking and screaming into the future and a lot of the griping was just people who don't like change. But the plazita is almost unrecognizable from its former self, which like many of us El Pasoans had its flaws, wrinkles, and love handles - but had a tremendous amount of down-to-earth character and appeal.

But it is undoubtedly an improvement, even if I miss some of the old stuff.

San Jacinto Plaza was redesigned for over-priced coffee drinking, skinny jeans-clad, man-bun, horn-rimmed glasses-wearing, bearded, pseudo intellectual hipsters who listen to indy music 'cuz they think they are cooler than us and order PBRs not because they are old school but because they are hipsters. Aside from the fact that those participation ribbon, lets-focus-on-my-feelings generation of people annoy the shit out of me - those people are the type of people the plazita appeals to now. Hell its not even really called San Jacinto Plaza anymore, the city calls it "SJP".

You know, like that kid who was named Guillermo but went by Billy because he was embarrassed his parents named him something so ethnic because it was his great-grandfathers name or something.

But going to the plazita for the lights this year was the first time that I felt like I could understand the folks that think that downtown is making a deliberate effort to look less "Mexican". Gone are the colorful, bright, maybe a little tacky, but deliciously festive lights and displays of the past. Frankly, that was the character and soul of El Paso at Christmas time.

The manger with the baby Jesus, the big tree with those huge bulbs, the colors of the season...that is what drew people downtown. Who didn't love bringing their out-of-town family downtown during that time to walk around, take pictures, and enjoy some champurado?

Now the lights are almost all white.

And the plazita now feels "all white".

It doesn't feel like El Paso's plazita holidays anymore. It feels like some corporate set-up. Like holiday decorations at an outdoor foodcourt at an outlet mall.

And thanks to ridiculous tax-payer funded toy train set to nowhere, parking was even more of a headache this year than in years past.

I think what the city needs to remember is that Christmas is about traditions. Its about tamales, menudo, and posole. Its about family and everyone squeezing into your abuelita's tiny house. Its about decorating your tree with old heirlooms and often child-made ornaments. Its like my family's Christmas tree. There are new editions to it every year, but its mostly a collection of stuff my siblings and I made as kids, and now the grandkids. Macoroni Christmas trees on a paper plate, hand prints, or toothless elementary school pics in the center of an ornament. Its a big gaudy monstrosity and we love it.

Because its family and tradition.

When a family doesn't have traditions it has nothing. And when a town doesn't honor their own traditions it no longer feels like that great big family that El Paso has always felt like. We lose our soul.

Again, its not that the lights and decorations don't look great, they most certainly do. I took a lot of pics and I'm sure I will as I visit downtown periodically during the holiday season.

But it doesn't look like El Paso.

Remember, even those douchey hipsters that the plazita was redesigned for - still like tamales at abuelitas house on Christmas Eve.

We can't, and should not, be ashamed of who we are as a community. I hope the city brings back some of the decorations, especially the nativity scene, from out of the boxes stored in the attic. Lets keep the fancy new stuff and incorporate it into our traditions - but lets not forget Nana's Christmas in the process.

Lets not forget we are El Paso. And that is something to be proud of.


Augustus Snodgrass said...

Billy Abraham drinks PBR? Well written article....perhaps the "Powers that Be" want something "new." I remember visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk during Christmas and they had gone to LED lights.....still Color, but LED.

The Natives were Pissed! They wanted the "Old School" lights that used more electricity, but had a softer hue. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word then, and still do, use the "Old School" lights....the heck with power usage!

Keep up the good work. At least El Chuco has a Skating Rink during need to fly to Rockefeller Center in N.Y. to do that.

Anonymous said...

This says it all, not just about the "SJP" faux, out of the box from New York retail Christmas season clearance, but about all of the city's DT QOL BS:

"when a town doesn't honor their own traditions it no longer feels like that great big family that El Paso has always felt like. We lose our soul."

It happens when your own sell you out.

Anonymous said...

You go out of your way to bash the hipsters, yet come across sounding like one yourself.. the "wrinkles, flaws, love handles.. down to earth character and appeal." If there's one thing hipsters love it's grungy dive bars, run down neighborhoods with character they can "gentrify," and "authenticity" for the sake of authenticity. To imply they are somehow more real and legit than the next.

Everything you've just done in the post is hipster to the max. Hipsters would never flock to the corporate, white washed, clean neighborhoods you speak of. They want character, they want edge. Jaime, it honestly sounds like you're the hipster that you claim to rail against. The Plazita isn't for hipsters like yourselves, Mr. Cooler than Thou. Call it mainstream, call it corporate, but you're way off the mark.

You might not wear horn-rimmed glasses, but man, you whine like a Hipster mourning the death of the authentic.

Anonymous said...

He nailed it. Now they want to build an arena to get more poor brown folk out.

C.D. said...

Thank you for mentioning/suggesting the lack of the nativity scene.

Gregory X Gonzalez said...

I remember when you were able to pull up (literally) at the San Jacinto sidewalk, eat out of the food trucks, and enjoy those good ol' moments. It seems now that you need extra uneasy steps for a less appealing experience. Great Article!

Anonymous said...

I do not like the white lights and yet I am one of those dreaded white folks. How can that be? I am supposed to be pushing the brown ones out of downtown.