Jan. 31: Fiesta Drive-In, El Paso TX

It’s Day 31 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, the end of Month 1, and it marked a visit to an unusual drive-in. There are only two Fiesta Drive-Ins in the US, and they happen to sit just over two hours apart. Yesterday was the three-screen Carlsbad NM version. This one was the Fiesta of El Paso TX, the one that shows adult movies.

According to CinemaTreasures, this Fiesta is not the Fiesta Drive-In that operated in El Paso from the 1950s until the early 1980s. Its commenters suggest that the adult version opened before 1999, and that it has switched to digital projection.

More clues come from a 2015 article in the University of Texas-El Paso newspaper, The Prospector. The author said she interviewed Fiesta manager Lee Wilson, who said that the movies change every night and that the theater has “two large outdoor movie screens, a projection booth and a concession stand.” But every other source I’ve seen says the Fiesta has only one screen, and the overhead view from Google Earth shows only the one obvious screen with its back to US 62. The official Facebook page mentions “an 80ft outdoor screen,” so I’m guessing that the UTEP reporter misread a note.

Unlike most drive-ins, the Fiesta encourages patrons to bring their own refreshments. “The theatre is BYOB, meaning bringing your own beer, booze, babe, burger, barbecue, etc,” Wilson said.

That Fiesta Facebook page, which lists the business’s start date as 1981, sometimes lists its movies, but the service is pretty spotty. Previously shown titles include Superstars Open Wide and Registered Nurse #3. Because Registered Nurse 1 and 2 left so many unanswered questions.

Miles Today / Total:  146 / 3754 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: not counting this one / 21

Nearby Restaurant: I can’t visit a place this close to the Mexican border without trying some authentic Mexican food. The L & J Cafe downtown provided that plus plenty of cold beer in a sports bar atmosphere. I’ll bet this place is great on weekends, albeit even more crowded.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Call me crazy, but I thought the closest place to stay was a great bargain. Sure, the Value Place is the kind of chain that features long-term, no-frills lodging near military bases, but it gave me a full kitchen, a decent TV and a full-sized bed for the lowest price I’ve paid all month. And it was the only hotel close to the Fiesta.

Only in El Paso: With all this talk about the border between the US and Mexico, few think deeply about what that border really is. In El Paso, it’s the Rio Grande, but rivers can shift over time. One chunk of land used to be on the Mexican side, then shifted to the US after the Flood of 1864. The Chamizal National Memorial commemorates “the harmonious settlement of a 100-year border dispute” as it provides a peaceful urban park.

Next Stop: Glendale 9 Drive-In, Glendale AZ.

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