Sunday, October 29, 2006

Alligators in El Paso

The public square of El Paso is known as Plaza de los Lagartos. This is because the public square was home to several alligators from 1883 until 1965. When it was too cold for the alligators in the winter, men would wrap them in coffee sacks, take them to the saloon and have them stay by the stoves to keep warm!

How did the alligators get to El Paso? Two possible stories come from Borderlands:

One story claims that the alligators were sent to a local miner from a friend in Louisiana as a joke. The miner then presented the alligators to Mayor C. R. Morehead, who had them placed in the park pond. Another story claims that Satterwaite [J. Fisher Satterwaite, El Paso Parks and Streets Commissioner] brought the reptiles to El Paso in a box and kept them in a barrel of water at a local saloon until a pond could be built around the fountain in the Plaza.

The alligators were often used for pranks and were targets of vandalism. One alligator died of internal injuries from a failed attempt to kidnap him and others died from stoning. The El Paso Zoo eventually became their home. Today, the plaza has a sculpture made by Luis Jimenez commemorating the alligators' history in the city.

Sources: A Guide to El Paso, Texas, Borderlands
Photo source: Early El Paso Area, picture by Hendrik "Henry" Van Bruggen


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