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Home | Tag Archives: Chihuahuita

Tag Archives: Chihuahuita

Video+Story: Mural of Chihuahuita, Water Plant Unveiled to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On Thursday, El Paso Water threw open the doors at the W.E. Robertson Water Treatment Plant in honor of the plant’s 75th anniversary.

Chihuahuita neighbors, former employees and water sector professionals streamed inside, eager to tour the historic yet pioneering plant, as mariachis and folklorico dancers provided entertainment.

“This plant represents the foresight of city individuals who dedicated their lives to ensure that El Paso has a continuous, safe and sustainable supply of water,” said President and CEO John Balliew, who fondly recalled beginning his utility career at the plant’s laboratory more than 30 years ago. “We had a great group of employees back then, just as we have now.”

Public Service Board member Dr. Kristina Mena spoke about the importance of river water and what it means to El Paso’s water supply. The water treatment plant came online during a time of remarkable growth for the borderland.

Residents faced crime, growth, health and environmental challenges, some linked to water quality and supply.

“This beautiful plant marked El Paso’s first step to diversify its water supply so El Paso could thrive and sustain itself,” Mena said. “The importance of river water cannot be understated. Today, El Paso relies on river water for half its water supply in a non-drought year.”

EPWater commissioned a painting by local, acclaimed artist Patrick Gabaldon to mark the occasion. The painting features the close relationship between colorful Chihuahuita and the water treatment plant.

“Although the community did have to part with some of their cherished sites to make room for the construction of this plant in the 1940s, within time many in Chihuahuita came to accept the plant and understand that it was necessary because it would benefit the city,” said Christina Montoya, Communications and Marketing Director. “Many residents also took jobs at the plant.”

Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association leader Manuela Rodriguez couldn’t contain her excitement once inside the plant.

“Just walking in brought a lot of memories of my dad who worked here for a long time,” she said. “We fished back here.”

The painting was the cherry on top and a nice personal touch, she said.

“What caught my eye was the poles of red, white and blue because my brother and the neighborhood decided to paint all the poles around the neighborhood with the colors of the flag when 9/11 happened.”

To benefit community improvement projects identified by the Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association, signed prints of the painting were sold during the event and will still be available, with funds collected by the El Paso Community Foundation.

From the left – John Balliew – Kristina Mena – Manuela Rodriguez

TxDoT’s Historic Preservation Program Celebrates El Paso Cultural Heritage

The Texas Department of Transportation historic preservation program is partnering with the El Paso Museum of History and the El Paso Public Library for a celebration of El Paso’s cultural heritage.

Their community event, ‘Festival Voces de El Paso’, will commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month and will offer educational hands-on activities for people of all ages.

“El Paso has such a rich cultural history,” said Rebekah Dobrasko, Historic Preservation Specialist for TxDOT’s Historical Studies Branch. “We are thrilled to partner with the community to highlight things that make El Paso so special through history lectures, arts and crafts and programming.”

TxDOT will be distributing information about one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods, Chihuahuita.

The neighborhood, nestled along the border, is considered the oldest in El Paso. TxDOT’s historians worked with Chihuahuita residents to develop an educational booklet and poster that documents the neighborhood’s rich history. The booklet is one way that TxDOT can preserve the stories of the past and share them with future generations.

“This free festival has been specially created to bring people together to experience the history of El Paso and its diverse residents,” added Dobrasko.

Via a news release, TxDoT added: “TxDOT’s historic preservation specialists are part of a larger environmental program that looks at how projects might impact the natural and cultural environment before roads are constructed…whether TxDOT is building a new bridge, repairing damaged roadway after a natural disaster or creating safer intersections, its teams of historians, archeologists and environmental scientists ensure that progress considers the preservation and conservation of the state’s resources.”

‘Festival Voces de El Paso’ will have activities at both the El Paso Museum of History and the main branch of the El Paso Public Library Saturday, September 22 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Chihuahuita, El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods on ‘Most Endangered’ List of Historic Places

Two of the city’s oldest neighborhoods have been placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s ‘11 Most Endangered Historic Places‘ List.

Located south of Downtown El Paso, the neighborhoods of El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita reflect the entire span of the city’s history, from the Spanish conquest through the modern era.

Stephanie Meeks, National Trust President and CEO stated, “These neighborhoods cannot meet the 21st-century needs of their residents unless we work to preserve and revitalize the places that make them unique.”

Local preservationist Max Grossman, Ph.D, who is also Vice-Chair for the El Paso County Historical Commission, says “Make no mistake about it. This is an extremely welcome development for our city. The new designation will draw national attention to the unique history and culture of Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita while calling attention to their plight.”

Dr. Grossman added, “The two neighborhoods have been decimated by demolition and development during the last several decades, and Segundo Barrio has no protection or overlay whatsoever–not city, state or national. There is only a single National Register monument in Segundo (Silver Dollar Cafe) and zero in Chihuahuita. The designation also has the potential to draw the attention of national non-profits and business groups that invest in areas such as Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, which will be in the national limelight for an entire year, starting today.”

In Wednesday’s release, the Trust states:

Through El Segundo Barrio’s historic role as the “Ellis Island of the Border,” these El Paso neighborhoods embody the unique trans-national character of the city’s border community.

They are home to an array of impressive historic buildings—such as adobe houses traceable to the 1850s and Victorian-era hotels and shops—and mark the start of El Paso’s urbanization. Throughout their history, the neighborhoods have been shaped by a long line of people, from legendary healers to Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, and from migrant farmworkers to muralists.

Today, a century after the first wave of Mexican families fled the Mexican Revolution and sought refuge in El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, the neighborhoods’ urban fabric and Latino and Chicano culture remain essential pieces of El Paso’s unique character. However, as El Paso’s development boom continues, El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita face renewed threats of displacement and demolition.

In particular, El Segundo Barrio has no existing protections of any kind. Despite symbolizing El Paso’s cultural identity, the story of these neighborhoods—homes and small businesses that have been in families for generations—remains threatened.

The communities of El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita have much to contribute to El Paso’s current progress, and the neighborhoods’ historic buildings can lead the way. The National Trust’s ReUrbanism work has demonstrated the ability of older and historic buildings to advance economic development opportunities while also adding to the livability and quality of life for urban residents.

By unleashing the power of older buildings in El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, El Paso has the opportunity to preserve the neighborhoods’ past while also improving their long-term health, affordability, and prosperity, in addition to the well-being of their residents.

The move to place both Chihuahuita and Segundo on the endangered list, comes only weeks after the Historic Trust recognized another Borderland treasure – the Rio Vista Farm  in Socorro – as a National Treasure.

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