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Mark Cioc-Ortega

Mark Cioc-Ortega is a Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of many books and articles on modern European and American history.

Arts & Culture

Rosa’s Cantina: Was it really the inspiration for Marty Robbins’ "El Paso"?

Rosa’s Cantina: Was it really the inspiration for Marty Robbins’ "El Paso"?

by Mark Cioc-Ortega // January 29, 2014

The “El Paso” legend is now an El Paso “fact.” The notion that Rosa’s Cantina is “the real thing” is so deeply ingrained in popular culture that it’s not likely to be dislodged by something as banal as the truth. More…

Arts & Culture

The “First Thanksgiving”: Can a little myth reveal a big truth?

The “First Thanksgiving”: Can a little myth reveal a big truth?

by Mark Cioc-Ortega // November 27, 2013

San Elizario has been commemorating the “First Thanksgiving” every April since 1989. This celebration is the brainchild of Sheldon Hall, who was then the president of the El Paso Mission Trail Association, and a handful of local historians who wanted to draw attention to an important, but neglected event in American history: the arrival of Juan de Oñate and his entourage of Spanish-speaking explorers and priests in April 1598 near the present-day town of San Elizario. More…

Arts & Culture

Dead Reckoning: Where were El Paso’s earliest cemeteries?

Dead Reckoning: Where were El Paso’s earliest cemeteries?

by Mark Cioc-Ortega // September 25, 2013

Concordia Cemetery opened in 1884, Evergreen in 1893. The Smelter Cemetery was established in 1882, but it wasn’t used much before the 1890s. So, where did El Pasoans bury their dead before that? The answer, it seems, is “just about anywhere they wanted to.” Back yards, empty lots, hillsides. The population was small, the desert was vast, and the laws were lax. More…

Arts & Culture

Was Simeon Hart El Paso’s First Blogger?

Was Simeon Hart El Paso’s First Blogger?

by Mark Cioc-Ortega // August 1, 2013

Only one issue of El Paso’s first mass-print newspaper, the “El Paso Sentinel,” has survived. It’s dated November 8, 1873 and it’s a real eye-popper. Objective journalism it is not. It reads more like a blog. More…

Arts & Culture

What’s in a name? An homage to the original Newspaper Tree

What’s in a name? An homage to the original Newspaper Tree

by Mark Cioc-Ortega // July 4, 2013

“Newspaper Tree” is named in honor of El Paso’s first news source: a large ash tree that once stood on the southeast corner of Pioneer Plaza. Nobody knows when the tree took root, but it matured on the banks of the El Paso acequia during the 1840s, when the Southwest still belonged to Mexico and the future downtown was known as Ponce’s Ranch. The tree served as the main bulletin board for El Paso residents during the 1850s and 1860s, after the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848) put Ponce’s Ranch on the American side of the border. It was called “the newspaper tree,” “the news tree,” the “notice tree,” or simply “the tree.” More…