Bordered by mountains and the Rio Grande and 500 mi/800 km northwest of San Antonio, El Paso is strongly influenced by Mexico and the Old West. A cultural mix of Hispanics, Anglos and Native Americans gives it an atmosphere unlike that of any other city in the state.
Pueblan tribes inhabited the area before 1581, when Spanish explorers arrived to establish a series of missions along the Rio Grande. You can still visit several of the old missions in the area.
If you want to get a better understanding of the complexities of the international border between the U.S. and Mexico, El Paso is a good place to start. For many decades, cultures and interests have both merged and clashed there. On the one hand, the city is where you'll find the Chamizal National Memorial, which commemorates the settlement of a border dispute. On the other, it's home to the U.S. Border Patrol Museum, which documents the history of the law officers who have the job of preventing illegal immigration and smuggling.
If you're in the area in April, join the people of El Paso in celebrating Thanksgiving. They're not on a different calendar—they're commemorating a different event: the Thanksgiving Spanish explorers are said to have held in 1598, decades before the famous Pilgrim-Native American dinner in Massachusetts.
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