Anyone who’s read this blog before has probably figured out by now that I am sort of a National Park aficionado – I own several guidebooks, have been to several parks and monuments (Grand Canyon, Zion, Appalachian Mountains, and White Sands to name a few) and I generally love exploring the outdoors, especially when the weather is decent.
So why have I never visited Chamizal National Monument in El Paso, TX despite its proximity? Honestly, it just never seemed appealing. However, I was in El Paso for Valentine’s Day and the weather was surprisingly lovely so I decided to finally tick it off my list.
I’m not sure if the monument is actually difficult to get to or if my GPS just enjoys torturing me, but I managed to drive through all sorts of unlikely roads, twists and turns, and even found the El Paso Zoo before I was done. And yet, when I finally left by another route, it took less than 5 minutes to find the interstate again.
Chamizal National Monument was established in 1974 to celebrate the peaceful settlement to the 103 year land dispute between Mexico and the United States over a 600 acre area in the El Paso, TX area. Apparently, the Rio Grande river had been shifting, resulting in an international dispute over whether or not the river was in fact the international border between the two nations, or if there should be a more concrete , unchanging line. Finally in 1963, the dispute was settled by creating a man-made concrete 4.5 mile channel, permanently establishing the border.
The monument is located mere minutes from the channel and directly across the border from Mexico’s version – El Parque Chamizal. The U.S. memorial is quite small, especially in comparison to other national monuments, and is, in my opinion, rather underwhelming. There is a small exhibit explaining the history of the land and border dispute (in both English and Spanish, naturally), the tiniest gift shop I have ever seen in my life which doesn’t even carry postcards unique to Chamizal, and a few walking trails on the grounds, which aren’t exactly the most scenic considering the monument is located not only smack-dab in the middle of El Paso, but along the border as well.
Currently there is a gorgeous art exhibit in Los Paisanos gallery and there is a large, interesting mural decorating the outside of the visitors center depicting “la historia” of the area, but not much else. If you have a personal connection to the area or are really interested in US-Mexican relations, then Chamizal National Monument would be an interesting place to visit. If not, then I recommend you don’t make a special trip.