Chamizal National Memorial
The Chamizal National Memorial Visitor Center
The Chamizal National Memorial is a 54.9-acre site between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The Memorial was established to commemorate the peaceful settlement of the 100-year-old Chamizal boundary dispute. The boundary dispute arose because of natural changes in the course of the Rio Grande, the river being the defined boundary between the United States and Mexico for more than 1,000 miles. Chamizal National Memorial sits on part of the property that was assigned to the United States in the Chamizal Convention of 1963. The Government of Mexico established a similar memorial on the land assigned to Mexico as a result of that Convention. The Convention came as a result of negotiations managed by the International Boundary and Water Commission, an organization founded in 1889 to mediate border disputes and later to manage water allocations between the two countries. That Commission is also charged with maintaining water purity and dealing with flood control issues. Part of the settlement of the Chamizal Convention led to about 4.1 miles of the Rio Grande riverbed being cemented to avoid loss of life and property every spring as the river usually turned into a raging torrent as it swelled with snowmelt and spring runoff.
Chamizal National Memorial was authorized by an Act of Congress on June 30, 1966 but didn't open to the public as a unit of the National Park Service until February 4, 1974. The Park grounds are open from 5 am to 10 pm daily except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The Visitor Center, Abrazos Gallery and Los Paisanos Gallery are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm except on holidays when the park is closed. The Memorial serves primarily as a cultural center and also offers a theater and an amphitheater for public use. Inside the Visitor Center is a museum that offers details and exhibits chronicling the history of the United States-Mexico border.
There is no entrance fee to visit Chamizal National Memorial but there may be fees associated with theater performances and other permits. The Siglo de Oro Spanish Drama Festival was established at Chamizal in 1976 and has attained an international reputation for the quality presentations presented there by theatrical groups from around the world. Classical Spanish dramas by writers like Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Calderon de la Barca are presented during the Festival in both Spanish and English. Admission is free during the Festival and attendance is first-come, first-served. The Festival generally runs at the end of February into the beginning of March.
A view across Chamizal National Memorial
Upper left and lower photos courtesy of the National Park Service