Reinvigorated San Jacinto Plaza draws crowd to downtown El Paso

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After three years spent renovating the San Jacinto Plaza, the heart of downtown has officially captured everyone’s imagination once again.
El Paso’s oldest area of the city has now become one of its newest attractions. What used to be just “Los Lagartos” is now something more than a park that many years ago displayed as many as seven live alligators at one time.
San-Jacinto-Plaza“It’s really nice, there’s a lot of shade for people to sit around, walk and enjoy their time here,” Estrella Gonzalez said. “Today me and my friend came to a Pokemon hunt with the new Pokemon Go game.”
Pokemon Go is a popular and rapidly growing mobile device game that focuses on finding characters in various places and locations in a city or community. It tracks locations and, based on those locations, the mobile game app tells players whether there is a Pokemon character nearby.
“The most unordinary thing that happens here is Pokemon Go players, that’s about it,” said Stephanie Piedra, an employee at a food stand near the plaza said.
Not only is the plaza being used for finding Pokemon characters, but it also schedules monthly festivals such as the Neon Music Festival and Chalk the Block that attract a crowd.
“It gets extremely packed, sometimes we have four workers in here and that’s still not enough, we might have a line all the way to the street,” said Piedra, who sells lemonade and strawberries and cream, among other items.

Photo by Clarissa Gonzalez, Journalism in July

Photo by Clarissa Gonzalez, Journalism in July

In the summer many people also take advantage of a mini water park at the Plaza. Many children look forward to making a splash. Another attraction is a table tennis game that anyone can play.
“I came to bring my daughter to the water fountain,” Charly Vasquez said.
Even when there isn’t any a special event taking place downtown, the San Jacinto Plaza is still a main attraction.
“On the weekends we’ve been seeing an increase in customers,” Piedra said.
“Even now on weekdays we see people coming here all the time just to hang out.”
Piedra predicts El Paso’s downtown will continue to grow and attract new businesses and restaurants. The Camino Real hotel, long an anchor of the downtown area, is slated for a renovation in the next few years as a major convention hotel for the region.
“I definitely think the Plaza will continue to grow and even all of downtown and all of El Paso,” said Piedra, who enjoys seeing more El Pasoans visiting and attending events downtown.
The heart of downtown is beating again, with a refurbished San Jacinto Plaza that is key to the city’s identity.
“It makes El Paso look like there’s something to do,” Gonzalez said.

This article was produced as part of Borderzine’s Journalism in July 2016 summer workshop for high school students sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund and the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Communication.

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