How Did a Bunch of Alligators Wind Up in Downtown El Paso?
There was a time when a group of alligators inhabited San Jacinto Plaza downtown. No, they didn't swim up out of the Rio, they were put there on purpose.
A congregation of alligators ... Yes, "congregation" is what you call a group of 'gators. They're not a "herd", "flock", "school", etc ... once lived right smack in the middle of Downtown El Paso.
Just so you know, "congregation" applies to alligators. Crocodile gangs go by "bask" or "float" depending on where they are. I'll save you the guess work ... a "bask" are 'crocs on land, "floats" are 'crocs in the water. Knowledge is power.
Obviously, alligators are not a native species to our area and they're not all that into travel so, how did they get to San Jacinto Plaza?
It all began in 1889 when park commissioner Sam Ecker received a baby 'gator which he expected to enjoy life in the Plaza's pond and "occasionally take in a bad boy". A thinly veiled threat aimed at keeping young men well-behaved.
Other alligators were donated by people from all over the country. As it turned out, young troublemakers had less to fear than the alligators themselves.
Not much separated the alligators from onlookers who would throw rocks at them and/or burn them with cigarettes to get them to move.
In the '50s, some UTEP students stole one 'gator and put it in a professor's office.
Side note, I knew one of those guys' granddaughters ... his version of how it all went down was hysterical.
Anyway, they were bothered a lot so, in 1965, the congregation was moved to the El Paso Zoo.
The city tried bringing them back in '72 but, after a couple of years, back to the zoo they went.
Further plans to bring the live alligators back proved too expensive so a statue was erected at the site of the former pond area in 1995.
The city is currently considering moving the statue to a different spot where it won't be as badly damaged by the elements.