From a mysterious hummingbird to information on getting free at-home COVID-19 tests, El Paso Matters stories repeatedly went viral in 2022, creating impact beyond the Borderland.

Here are our five most-viewed stories of the year.

A hummingbird mystery

Danielle Prokop, our environment and climate change reporter, told a story in February of a green and blue hummingbird whose origins were a mystery to scientists and amateur birders alike.

And there are a lot of amateur birders out there. And many of them were deeply interested in this mystery. It was – by far – El Paso Matters’ most-viewed story of the year.

Prokop revealed in November that part of the bird’s parentage had been solved through DNA tests, but the paternal lineage was still being studied. 

A humanitarian crisis begins

El Paso has been in the national news since August, when a growing number of migrants began crossing the border, creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Immigration reporter Cindy Ramirez has been covering the story extensively, and her reporting has been shared around the globe. But a story she wrote on Sept. 12, in the earliest days of the migration crisis, was our second-most-viewed story of 2022.

The number of Venezuelans sleeping on the streets near the Greyhound Bus Station in Downtown continues to grow. On Monday, Sept. 12, one group of men thanked the public for dropping off food and other goods, including mattresses. (Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Matters)

Her story revealed that El Paso had sent 25 busloads of migrants to New York City, and was struggling to provide shelter to a growing group of Venezuelan migrants. 

The challenges for El Paso continued to grow throughout the rest of 2022.

Free COVID-19 tests

In January, the U.S. Postal Service began sending free at-home COVID-19 tests upon request. Our brief story on how people could order the tests became our third-most-read story of the year.

A COVID-19 rapid antigen test shows a positive result. (Image via JJonahJackelope/ Creative Commons)

Thanks to the magic of search engines, readers across the country kept finding their way to the story throughout 2022, often hundreds of times per day.

El Paso’s strange role in birthright citizenship

While listening to the “Throughline” podcast in June, El Paso Matters founder Robert Moore’s curiosity was piqued by a brief mention that the man behind a Supreme Court case that established birthright citizenship for children of immigrants was arrested by immigration agents in El Paso – after the Supreme Court ruling.

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco and spent most of his life there. The United States government tried to deport him when he returned from a trip to China, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1898 that Wong and other children born in the United States to immigrant parents were U.S. citizens. The ruling transformed the lives of millions of people.

A 1901 photo of Wong Kim Ark, required as a condition of his bond after his arrest in El Paso. (National Archive photo courtesy of Amanda Frost)

In 1901, Wong was again subjected to possible deportation when he was arrested crossing the border from Juarez to El Paso. The government eventually let him go after he proved that he was the Wong Kim Ark in the famous Supreme Court case three years earlier.

Through interviews with scholars and some original research, Moore wrote a story on the Fourth of July that provided the most thorough account to date of Wong’s arrest in El Paso. It was our fourth most-read-story of 2022. 

Helping migrants

As the migrant humanitarian crisis deepened toward the end of the year, a frequent question from El Pasoans and others was, “How can I help?”

People drop off clothes, food and personal hygiene items to migrants stranded and sleeping on the streets of Downtown El Paso on Thursday. (Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Matters)

El Paso Matters health reporter Priscilla Totiyapungprasert put together a list of nonprofits that were assisting with migrant relief. The story gave information on how to donate or volunteer to help in the effort.

Despite being published with only 15 days left in 2022, it was our fifth-most-read story of the year.