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A Slice of El Paso’s Past: The Smeltertown Cemetery at Sunset [PHOTOS]

Took a walk to the Smeltertown Cemetery at sunset the other day. You barely notice the place sitting behind a hill just west of I-10 and just south of Executive Center. But if you do, it’s striking to see an old cemetery — many of the crosses made from pipe and copper most likely created at the Asarco smelter — all by itself in the desert just west of a modern business park.

Smeltertown is the neighborhood where many Asarco employees lived, raised families and died. When the smelter was shut down in the 1990’s most of those families had already moved away. But the cemetery remains, standing sentinel over a slice of a 19th- and 20th-century engine of El Paso industry — stuck in time between a major interstate highway and Mexico.

Like a lot of interesting things about El Paso, if you didn’t know it was there you’d drive right by it.

Despite the recent environmental backlash against the smelter and the motives of Asarco ownership, which created a PR campaign about starting the facility up again (though many believed it was just a ruse to get out from under the cost of cleaning up the site), most who grew up in Smeltertown are proud to say they came from there. More than one caller to Buzz Adams and the KLAQ Morning Show had said their fathers’ jobs at Asarco put them through college.

Whether you’d like to see the place wiped clean or not, whether or not you want to bring down the 828-foot smokestack that has defined the El Paso landscape since it went up in 1966, there is no denying this part of El Paso history. Smeltertown is a real place, made up of real people.

Some are still there, keeping watch on our past.

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