El Paso, the sixth largest city in Texas and the seat of El Paso County, is located at the western tip of Texas on the northern bank of the Rio Grande. Across the river, in Mexico, lies El Paso's sister city, Ciudad Juárez. The cultures and economies of these two cities are seamlessly linked, and together they form one of the largest international metropolis areas along the U.S.-Mexican border (second only to San Diego-Tijuana). El Paso is a major port of entry to the U.S. from Mexico, and a starting point for American tourism to Mexico.
In 1598, the area was first claimed for Spain by Juan de Oñate, who dubbed it El Paso del Rio del Norte ("Northern River Pass"). The establishment of several missions led to the growth and development south of the Rio Grande, but it wasn't until 1827 that a settlement was established to the north, near the ranch of Juan Maria Ponce de Leon. In the wake of the Texas Revolution of 1836, the land north of the Rio Grande was ceded to Sam Houston for the Republic of Texas. The city of El Paso was incorporated in 1873, but didn't really begin to experience growth until the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1881. In 1888, the Mexican government renamed El Paso del Rio del Norte to Ciudad Juárez to honor of statesman Benito Juárez. However, the city remained El Paso on the U.S. side of the river.
The city of El Paso is truly bilingual, with Spanish actually dominating English as the language of choice in many places. El Paso hosts a number of festivals in honor of their diverse culture and heritage, from the Saint Anthony's Day Celebration to the Fiesta de las Flores. The historic Mission Trail connects several old Spanish missions, many of which are still used as churches in El Paso, and the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens offer exhibits highlighting the natural and social history of the surrounding desert. The Franklin Mountains extend down into the city from the north, basically dividing El Paso in two. These mountains provide ample opportunity for year-round hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing, while the southern peak of Mount Franklin provides a breathtaking view of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.
Fort Bliss, which began as the largest cavalry post in the U.S. in 1854, has gone on to become the home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Center. Allied troops from all over the world come here to train, as Fort Bliss is one of the largest air defense centers in the world. The U.S. Army Air Defense Museum is located within the compound, as are the five adobe buildings that replicate the original Fort Bliss army post.