The Star on The Mountain in Sun City


Benjamin Ponce De Leon, Journalist

On November 29, 1940, In “Sun City” El Paso, Texas, the El Paso Electric Company had lit a massive star at 6.10 p.m. on the Franklin Mountains. “The star, more than 400 feet long and 300 feet wide, is illuminated with more than 300 blue-white daylight lamps which give a twinkling effect.” said Roy S. Nelson, who was the former President of E.P Electric in the 1940’s.


The star, which had been lit to be a festive aspect of the holiday season, also acted as a reminder that America was at peace. “We hope that all of our people on this side of the border, as well as our neighbors in Juarez, will be reminded of the fact that America is at peace this Christmas time, and that we should all feel an obligation to do our part toward preserving and protecting the peace and liberty we enjoy.” said Mr. Nelson. This was likely referencing World War 2, which was around a year old at this point, with Christmas being seen as a sign of peace and joy.


As time went on, the star underwent changes in size, going from 300 bulbs to 350. It was reconstructed after a massive storm and constructed with 459 bulbs in December 1946. It could be seen from 100 miles away, and covered a small chunk of the Franklin Mountains. For the next 50 years, the star was only lit during the Christmas season, but had few exceptions. The star was lit for 444 nights during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 in support of the U.S hostages, before going dark when the hostages were freed. Other exceptions include shining the star in August 1991 to celebrate the last Fort Bliss soldier returning from the Gulf War. For context, Fort Bliss is an army base with its headquarters located in El Paso, Texas.


More recently, on August 3, 2019, a shooting occurred in a Walmart store in El Paso, which unfortunately cost the lives of 23 victims. In honor of those victims, people looked towards the star for strength, and found it flashing its lights 23 times in honor of the victims at 8:30 P.M. “We wanted to do what we could to honor the victims, grieve for El Paso, and help our community heal… For 80 years the Star on the Mountain has been a symbol for El Paso. A symbol that means hope, that means unity, that means home. We wanted to show El Paso that even in these socially distanced times we are a community and together we are ‘El Paso Strong.” said the El Paso Chambers past President and CEO, David Jerome.


Today, 80 years after the first star was constructed, there is now a “Starlighter request”. For $50, El Pasoans living in the Sun City can pay for the star to be lit for the city and those in Juarez to see in honor of a loved one’s accomplishments or memory. Those who pay for the star to be lit also receive a certificate with information about when it was lit, who it was lit in honor of, and a signature from the C.E.O of the El Paso Chamber. 


I was born and raised in El Paso for the majority of my life, before moving to Colorado in 2018. For years living there and decades before I was born, the star is and has always been a true sign of peace, honor, and strength.