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I Remember that!

El Paso

“Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.”

The song “El Paso,” made famous by Marty Robbins, was a ballad about a cowboy in love.  Marty told his story in lyrics that told of the beautiful Felina. “Nighttime would find me in Rosa’s Cantina; music would play and Felina would whirl…”

Well, of course Felina was whirling! Who wouldn't be ecstatic when on a hot night under a big Texas sky, the aroma of Rosa’s El Paso Chicken and Rice filled the air? If you don't believe it, just try the recipe for yourself.

Unique with its climate, spicy food, silver trinkets, pottery, and sun-cleansed living, El Paso is the epitome of everything you always believed southwest Texas to be. 

El Paso boasts both mountains and dessert. The Franklin Mountains run directly through El Paso while the Chihuahuan Desert adds dust and open spaces to the unique picture of a city that is quite diverse geographically. 

In 1598, Don Juan de Onate claimed El Paso for Spain. The name literally meant “crossing the river of the north.” Ponce de Leon arrived over 200 years later with a land grant for this claimed but abandoned land north of the Rio Grande. Still, settlers were scarce until the 1840’s when Benjamin Franklin Coons came to El Paso and opened a mercantile store. He renamed the area Franklin after himself. Although the renaming of the city didn't “stick,” the nearby mountains do still bear the Franklin name. 

In 1846, the United States and Mexico fought bitterly for the Rio Grande land. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo finally established the Rio Grande as the official border between Mexico and the United States. Despite their beginnings as a New Mexico territory, the people of El Paso voted to become a part of the State of Texas. 

Railroads brought settlers, developers, merchants, teachers, and other pioneers to El Paso in the 1880’s. Then the Mexican Revolution in 1911 made the city a point of international focus. Soldiers, as well as Mexican refugees, flooded into the city. Today, El Paso is rich with the bi-cultural heritage that these years brought. 

The economy of El Paso relies on retail and wholesale markets as well as tourism. Manufacturing includes apparel and boots. Agriculture is a key element to the city's revenue, especially the growing of chilies, pecans , and cotton. Many different kinds of fruits are grown in the Rio Grande valley. Sheepherders work on the Texas plains, providing yet another facet of the thriving El Paso economy.

El Paso is rich in heritage; yet at the same time, it is a metropolis with a big city's future. Still, the atmosphere in the desert city is relaxed and informal at most times. A siesta when the sun is at its hottest is perfectly acceptable – especially if you are lucky enough to catch a breeze and a good daydream.

El Paso Rosa’s El Paso Chicken and Rice

Our thanks to Rosa’s descendants for sharing her famous recipe. 

Assemble the following ingredients:
1 lb. chicken strips
1 large onion
1 green pepper
1 large onion
1 large lemon
lemon pepper seasoning
celery seeds
butter flavoring powder
1 chicken bouillon cube
2/3 cup water

Dice onion and bell pepper. Sauté in skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray. Add the juice from one large lemon. For an especially “tangy” taste, peel the lemon and cut the pulp into small sections, adding this to the skillet mixture. Stir and continue to sauté for 15 minutes. Add water and bouillon cube. Add chicken. Season with lemon pepper, celery seeds, and butter flavoring, sprinkling lightly to cover all that is in skillet. Cook 30 minutes on medium heat. Stir intermittently. Add water if mixture begins to stick to skillet bottom. 
Serve over rice, with guacamole, sour cream, and diced tomato on the side for a west Texas flare. 

For a complete meal, Rosa liked to prepare mouth-watering cornbread and frito salad. Felina stepped up the music when Rosa put this cornbread in the oven!

Tex-Mex Cornbread

You will need:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup milk
1 can creamed corn
1/2 pound cheddar cheese
1 cup flour
2-3 peppers, diced (you can choose the type, 
            how spicy, etc. Rosa used jalapenos.)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 onion, chopped

Mix cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder. Add milk and oil. Blend well. Add creamed corn, cheddar cheese, peppers, and onion.  Bake in greased 9" square pan at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when cornbread is done. Note: If because of humidity, altitude, or other weather conditions, cornbread browns on the edges but is not getting done in the middle, cover edges with foil and continue baking. 

Frito Salad

You will need:
1 head of lettuce
1 tomato
1 bundle of green onions
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 ½ cups fritos

Tear lettuce into bite size pieces. Dice the tomato and onions. Toss in salad bowl. Just before serving, add kidney beans and fritos and toss again. Serve with dressing on the side.

Frito Salad Dressing

Combine the following ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Makes about one cup of dressing. 

Felina may have been the dancer that stole our cowboy's heart. But it wasn't Felina that most folks came to see. Rosa was packing ‘em in because people got wind of her cooking! After all, that’s why it was Rosa’s Cantina!


Twin Cities– Did you know that El Paso faces a sister city just across the border and the Rio Grande? The name of the city in Mexico is Ciudad Juarez.

Tex-Mex Cooking– Take corn, chiles, squash, cacti, tomatoes, avocados, and jalapeños, and what do you have? That’s right! The blend of the borders! And it’s some “good eating!” 

For a peek at what the 1810 Texas looked like - assemble this on line puzzle map. You might find yourself toe tapping right along with Rosa!

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    History Grade 1 Click Here
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    History Grade 3 Click Here
    History Grade 5 Click Here

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