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El Paso Gators in the Moat May 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, dinosaurs, history, sense of wonder, Texas, weird news, Wild West.

A lot has been made of Obama’s talk of a moat filled with alligators. I find it amusing that he made the talk in El Paso, which has a long history of alligators in a pond in the middle of the city. Really.

I lived in El Paso from the mid ‘50s to the early’60s and always got a kick out of seeing the gators in what is now called. Plaza de los Lagartos. The real beasties are long removed to the zoo and replaced with fiber glass replicas (which I find to be horrifyingly awful, but I am not a fan of this style of sculpture. At all.)

The trips downtown from the far northeast where we lived were always great fun. There was a newsstand to the east of the post office that carried…Ace Doubles! And cheap magic tricks and gag stuff. Better yet, in those days there weren’t bookstores but the big department stores had small book sections. The Popular and especially The White House on the plaza carried such treasures as new Tom Swift Jr books and Hardy Boys, though it was really the former I sought. And, of course, Rick Brant Science Adventure books

$1 per title, hog heaven for a kid like me. And a few blocks to the north of the plaza along Oregon Street was the main library (El Paso had a great library system–Carnegie Grant funded) and across from it was a super used bookstore (in later years).

But in the center of it all was the alligator pond. They decided to move the gators in the ‘60s when a drunk soldier got his hand bitten off. Most of the gators were huge and docile and more like lumpy logs. The smaller, younger ones were…hungry. Fast and hungry.

I was never able to find out for certain why there were gators there but one (probably apocryphal, but who can say?) story is that they were harnessed to ore carts and used to pull them out of the tin mines. In case you didn’t know, these are/were the only tin mines in the US. I spent too much time poking around in these mines as a kid but somehow didn’t die. But the image of a gator wiggling along on its spindly legs, pulling a tin-ore laden cart down a low-roofed shaft is somehow amusing. I suspect the real reason El Paso had alligators in the plaza is more prosaic, but who knows? Maybe they were anticipating the moat along the border.

Luis A. Jimenez, Jr. sculpture



1. Robert W. Franson - May 20, 2011

Alligators in a city pond! Definitely an attraction.

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