Celebrating the Founding of Presidio’s Sister City Ojinaga

By DIANA AGUIRRE ARMENDARIZ

OJINAGA, CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO – Last Thursday kicked off the Ojinaga Regional Fair 2016, inaugurated by Municipal Administrator Orvil Ramos Rodríguez, who attended on behalf of the Mayor of Ojinaga, Miguel Carreon, and was accompanied by schoolteacher and city secretary Carmen Franco, as well as other dignitaries.

“We hope you enjoy these days in family, in fun and in entertainment to commemorate another year of the founding of our town,” said Ramos Rodríguez.

Also among the attendees present were Ojinaga Tercentenary Queen Jeimi Judith Garcia and the candidates for Miss Ojinaga 2016: Mitzi Rodriguez and Karime Flores Galindo.

(photos by DIANA AGUIRRE ARMENDARIZ) The Chihuahua popular band, Esencia, on stage at the fiestas.

(photos by DIANA AGUIRRE ARMENDARIZ)
The Chihuahua popular band, Esencia, on stage at the fiestas.

Afterward, the inaugural band, Essence, arrived on stage with the popular song “El Corrido de Chihuahua,” followed by the bands Quinto Elemento and Sierra Norteña.

“I am proud to be part of this celebration, which is held every year, and I consider these dates as a time to remember our customs as Ojinagans and a return to our roots as brothers in this warm land,” said Jeimi Garcia.

The history of the founding of the city of Ojinaga dates back to the expedition of Alvaro Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca who, after his shipwreck in Florida, arrived at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos.

Full Story at Big Bend Sentinel

New Economic Assessment of Shafter Mine

The company that owns the Shafter Silver Project has started a preliminary economic assessment of the presently dormant mine.

The Aurcana Corporation, a Canadian company that owns the Shafter Silver Project, is exploring the “potential economic viability” of resuming operations at the mine, according to a company press release. A “preliminary economic assessment” (PEA) will provide Aurcana with an idea of the costs associated with resuming mining in Shafter with existing infrastructure and machinery.

The PEA is being conducted by two firms, Mine Development Associates of Reno, Nev., and Samuel Engineering Inc. of Denver, and is expected to be finished later in 2016.

Mining in Shafter has been on hold since late 2013. Aurcana purchased the mine in 2008 but was not running commercial silver production until December of 2012.

The mine operated for just a year before putting production on hiatus. In January, 2014, amid a 38-percent fall in silver prices, Aurcana laid off more than 150 mine employees and put the mine in “care and maintenance” condition, according to Big Bend Sentinel/International reporting from the time.

Aurcana’s subsidiary, Rio Grande Mining Company remained in litigation with the Presidio County Appraisal District over property taxes until mid-2014. The company finally agreed to pay $38 million of an initial $100-million appraisal.

Full Story at Big Bend Sentinel

The Day the Border Goes Away

by Cameron Dodd

LAJITAS — For one afternoon, there was no border. People from both sides of the Rio Grande waded across the river, sharing music and company without the burden of presenting permits or passports.

Together, Americans and Mexicans celebrated the fourth annual Voices From Both Sides festival at the former site of the river crossing at Paso Lajitas on Saturday, May 22.

From stages on each riverbank, Mexican and American bands took turns playing sets. Music drifted across the river without distinguishing any frontiers. Likewise, adults and children enjoyed swimming in the muddy water of the Rio Grande without concern for border restrictions. Organizers from the US side had the consent of Border Patrol, and from the Mexican side, a few armed police officers just stood watch.

Jeff Haislip, one of the festival organizers, said the annual party started four years ago when he and others were frustrated with restrictions on the formerly open border crossing. Haislip lives in Terlingua, but said he has visited Lajitas for years and has seen the culture change since the longtime crossing was closed.

“We wanted people to experience how it used to be,” Haislip said.

Full Story at Big Bend Now

The Story of Life at the Junction of Two Rivers

The history of Texas prior to the Alamo might be even more fascinating than all the cattle drives and railroads and tech startups that have contributed to the state’s legend. The stories, little told but epic in scope began mostly in a region around Presidio known as La Junta de Los Rios. The fertile valley where the Rio Conchos flows into the Rio Grande is believed by archaeologists to be possibly the oldest continually occupied spot in North America.

A new historical project called “La Junta de los Rios por El Camino Real” will attempt two archeological digs on both sides of the Rio Grande, a documentary, and a book to capture and tell the broader story of an area critical to the history of Texas and the American Southwest. A formal kickoff for the three-year endeavor will be the weekend of May 21 and 22 in the cities of Presidio, Texas and Ojinaga, Mexico and will be attended by the Miguel Angel Mazarambroz, Ambassador of Spain and the country’s counsel general in Houston. Numerous officials from both cities, Mexico, Texas, and Spain will also include Andy Cloud, Director of the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University in Alpine.

“People often think of our community as out of the way,” said Brad Newton, Director of Presidio’s Municipal Development Department. “But history has shown the exact opposite is true. We are, and always have been, a crossroads of commerce and culture that have led to the development of this region. We are joined by rivers, not divided.”

The public is invited to attend the kickoff meeting for the project at Fort Ben Leaton, east of Presidio on Highway 170, 1:30 pm, Saturday, May 21. The scientific and diplomatic delegation will visit Genevieve Lykes Duncan archaeological site on the 02 Ranch, the Millington site at Mission San Cristobal, the city of Ojinaga, and the Guadalupe Mission.

The La Junta region, an oasis in the midst of the Chihuahuan Desert, was one of the first locations where Spaniard explorers established a presence that led to Catholic missions. Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to travel through La Junta in 1535, and he described small villages with farms as well as hunting and gathering peoples, probably the indigenous Jumanos.

The present day location of Ojinaga and Presidio was an important historic crossroads on the Chihuahua Trail, and is increasingly relevant to Texas and U.S. commerce. New pipelines and railroad crossings to Mexico are being constructed, and Presidio has become the gateway to Big Bend Ranch and the national park, both accessible along the River Road. While talk of walls dominates national political news, residents of the two cities in La Junta de los Rios continue to demonstrate how to live in mutually beneficial communities with trust and prosperity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Texan Who Made Big Bend National Park

by Mike Cox

If any mountain or some other notable geologic feature in the Big Bend remains unnamed, by all rights it should honor one Robert M. Wagstaff.

The reason that now little-known West Texan deserves to be remembered with a distinctive landmark goes back to a winter day in West Texas during the Great Depression. Scanning the colorful array of magazine covers competing for attention on the shelves of an Abilene newsstand, the attorney reached for one publication that caught his eye. Its cover featured a yellow map of Texas over a blue background that stood out, well, as big as Texas.

Wagstaff gave the December 1930 Nature Magazine a quick glance, seeing that the whole issue focused on the Lone Star State. Newly elected to the House of Representatives, he figured he’d better see what the publication had to say about Texas, particularly his corner of it. He paid 35 cents for the issue and read it cover-to-cover when he got back to his downtown law office.

The article he found the most interesting was by J. Frank Dobie, a University of Texas faculty member from South Texas beginning to get a name for himself as a writer of history and folklore. The piece, “The Texan Part of Texas,” is what Wagstaff read first. Next he turned to an article by Claude S. Young about the Big Bend: “The Last Frontier — The Big Bend Country of Texas Still Sleeps, Untamed.”

In his article, Dobie —who never lacked for an opinion — expressed his dismay that Texas had squandered most of its once vast public land holdings. And then, he wrote: “Texans of cultivated minds are lamenting with increasing regret that none of the beautiful ‘hill country,’ none of the deep forest land, none of the coastal marshes, none of the wild Big Bend Country, none of the cool Davis Mountains, none of the deep and mighty gorges of the plains — not one acre of the multiplied millions was set aside for parks and public enjoyment as so much federal land has been set aside (nationally).”

Full Story at Abilene Reporter-News

The Battle for Big Bend

Will Hurd is the kind of guy Republicans want – and need, especially this election cycle – to succeed. A former CIA employee, Hurd is the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas, representing Congressional District 23, a sprawling area that stretches from San Antonio to near El Paso.

The signs have been promising for Hurd, who faces a re-match against former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, an Alpine Democrat who spent years in the Texas House. Hurd raised $511,000 in the first quarter of this year, according to the Texas Tribune, compared to Gallego’s $312,000 in that same period.

The Big Bend race is the only competitive one in Texas this year, and the House GOP is dead-set on keeping it in their column. Last weekend, San Antonio Express-News’ Bill Lambrecht wrote about all the support House leadership has given Hurd in last few months.

He went to the Middle East with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has worked to emphasize Hurd’s expertise in national security and technology. The House passed Hurd’s bill last week that would allow the federal government to design software for other countries to screen terrorists more easily.

Lambrecht’s got the numbers: “Since last year, nine bills that Hurd either wrote or had a hand in have passed the House. He was chief sponsor of two bills that also passed the Senate and became law: one fixing Border Patrol agents’ pay complications and another reducing duplication in Homeland Security IT purchases.”

It is that kind of record that seemingly any politician in Washington would want. Hurd got it as a freshman, which even Ryan’s office acknowledged was an exception on Capitol Hill.

Ryan’s spokesman told the Express-News that “even as a freshman, Will has quickly proven to be a leader on pressing national security issues by leveraging his experience in the CIA. … With all the threats we face in the world, he was an obvious choice to take part in our delegation.”

Hurd is, in that case, an essential part of the Republican majority in the U.S. House, which is the only body in Washington that, arguably, isn’t up for grabs in November. There are still many months before the general election, but the White House and the U.S. Senate seem to be on everybody’s mind.

Full Story at Houston Chronicle

West Texas Factoids for Neophytes

West Texas (WTX) is a 33,800 square mile region, one-eighth of the State of Texas.

The region’s latitude is equivalent to that of the northern half of Florida, entirely south that of Tucson.

The subregions of WTX are, in order of size: (1) central WTX, (2) west Wingtip of Texas, (3) Big Bend.

Counties

WTX comprises all or part of twelve counties. Eight of those counties lie entirely within the region.

Jeff Davis County (2,265 sq mi, Fort Davis county seat) is the only WTX county entirely within central WTX. El Paso County (1,013 sq mi, El Paso) is the only WTX county entirely outside of central WTX.

The Wingtip comprises all or part of seven counties. Counties with all or most of their area in the Wingtip are El Paso, Hudspeth (4,571 sq mi, Sierra Blanca),Culberson (3,813 sq mi, Van Horn) and Loving (669 sq mi, Mentone).

Far West Texas, a sub-subregion of the Wingtip, comprises most of Hudspeth County and all of El Paso County.

The Big Bend subregion comprises the southernmost parts of Presidio (3,855 sq mi, Marfa) and Brewster (6,184 sq mi, Alpine) counties. Big Bend National Park is in Brewster County. Big Bend Ranch State Park is in Presidio County and in southwesternmost Brewster County. Brewster County, the largest county in the State of Texas, makes up 18 percent of WTX. It is the 39th largest of the over 3,000 counties in the U.S.

Loving County (Mentone) is the smallest county in WTX and makes up two percent of the region. Ward County (836 sq mi, Monahans) is second smallest, barely smaller than Winkler County (841 sq mi, Kermit).

In WTX there are 10 tri-county points; that is, points shared by three counties. Four of the 10 tri-county points are shared by sets of counties that are themselves entirely within WTX. Centrally located Jeff Davis County shares all four of those points. The most well known tri-county area comprises Brewster, Presidio and Fort Davis counties.

More at Ft.Stockton Pioneer

 

Where’s Fort Stockton?

In general terms, PECOS/FORT STOCKTON (county/seat) is in southwest Texas, which includes western south Texas, southern and northern west Texas, and (southern, mid and parts of northern) west central Texas.

The metropolitan area closest to PECOS/FORT STOCKTON is ECTOR/ODESSA, which is 72 miles north-northeast. It is in northern west central Texas near what is both the southeast corner of New Mexico and southwest corner of the Texas panhandle.

FORT STOCKTON is located in west Texas, the west wing of Texas. It is innorthern west Texas and is the eastern gateway, on Interstate 10 (I-10), to the region known as West Texas.

Specifically, PECOS/FORT STOCKTON is in the eastern Trans-Pecos (as the ecoregion* just west of the Pecos River is sometimes named) along withREEVES/PECOS (town) and with TERRELL/SANDERSON, which is in southern west Texas.

SANDERSON and FORT STOCKTON are near the 153-mile imaginary line between the southeast corner of New Mexico and the northernmost point of the Rio Grande River (Mexican border) east of the region known as Big Bend (of the Rio Grande). FORT STOCKTON is 78 miles from Mexico; SANDERSON is 18 miles from the border.

I-10 runs 327 miles through West Texas, 100 miles in Pecos County, from FORT STOCKTON, where the I-10 corridor bisects that gap (described above) between New Mexico and Mexico, to near EL PASO/EL PASO in the wingtip where the boundaries of Texas, New Mexico and Mexico meet. That region is sometimes called Far West Texas and also includes HUDSPETH/SIERRA BLANCA.

Neighboring PECOS/FORT STOCKTON are:

  • REEVES/PECOS (northern west Texas)
  • TERRELL/SANDERSON (southern west Texas)
  • JEFF DAVIS/FORT DAVIS (southern west Texas)
  • BREWSTER/ALPINE (southern west Texas)
  • WARD/MONAHANS (northern west central Texas)
  • CRANE/CRANE (mid west central Texas)
  • UPTON/RANKIN (mid west central Texas, the Upton and Pecos county lines are two miles apart)
  • CROCKETT/OZONA (southern west central Texas)

The geographic coordinates of FORT STOCKTON are 102.9°N latitude and 30.9°W longitude.

Read More at Fort Stockton Pioneer

What Big Ben Leaton Left

Fort Leaton serves as the western Visitor Center for Big Bend Ranch State Park. Permits for backpacking and camping (no hookups) at Big Bend Ranch State Park can be obtained at Fort Leaton or the Barton Warnock Visitor Center, on the eastern edge of the park near Lajitas. Visitors can also purchase river-use permits, licenses, and information about the Big Bend region.

Fort-Leaton_3588

The park is day use only and offers picnicking areas, guided tours, plus exhibits on the history from 15th century, natural history, and archaeological history of the area. The site serves for historical study activities.

Fort-Leaton_3586

Fort Leaton State Historic Site, consisting of 23.4 acres, five of which are the site of a pioneer trading post, is located in Presidio County. The park was acquired Dec. 8, 1967, by deed from a private owner and was opened to the public in 1978.

In 1848, Ben Leaton built a fortified adobe trading post known as Fort Leaton. He dominated border trade with the Apache and Comanche Indians before he died in 1851. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission placed a marker at the site.

More Info on Fort Leaton