Russell Lee visited El Paso in July and August, 1949. Lee joined Lyle Saunders, the director of the Study of the Spanish-Speaking People on a fact-finding tour and at meetings with various civic groups in El Paso. At the time, the need for new housing and the renovation of existing substandard boarding houses absorbed the community. Several dozen photographs detail housing conditions in the tenements and provide contrast to the new small homes that were being built away from the center of town. Other concerns of the period were unemployment and inadequate sewer and water systems. Children found relief at the Armijo Park Bathhouse and in bicycling nearby.
Several classic images show the details of women's personal belongings on table tops and vanities, as well as the furnishings and décor of bedrooms in ramshackle homes. A hand-painted sign announces Cuartos Se Rentan, "Rooms for Rent." Russell Lee also captured a local meeting of the Pan American Progressive Association. The association fought housing discrimination and deed restrictions that excluded Mexican and African Americans from owning desirable properties.