Paso del Sur announced Friday the launch of a new citizens initiative petitioning the City Council to pass an ordinance so that voters can decide on proposed changes to Proposition 2 of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Election.
The group, according to their facebook page, “works for the rights of residents and workers of El Paso’s barrios against displacement, demolition, and erasure of history,” and has been very vocal about the city’s plan to destroy a portion of Downtown that dates back to the city’s earliest days.
Via a news release organizers say, “These changes represent a viable solution for the problems that the City is facing in fulfilling its promises to the people of El Paso.”
“In 2012, voters were promised numerous projects through the Quality of Life Bond and voters approved $228 million for Proposition 2. The particular amounts allocated by City Council for each project were not stated in either the ordinance or the ballot. Therefore, the voters did not approve the amounts set out for each project. Although the City Council has authority to change the amounts allocated to each project, they have remained steadfast with the original allocation,” officials added.
The main projects included in Proposition 2 were a Children’s Museum ($19 million), a multi-purpose performing arts facility ($180 million), and a Mexican American Cultural Center ($5.75 million).
The release goes on to state:
“The multipurpose performing arts facility is embroiled in litigation due to the City’s decision to locate it in the historically significant neighborhood of Duranguito. The City’s insistence in designing the performing arts facility for sporting events was disapproved by a state district court judge and the case is on appeal. The Mexican American Cultural Center cannot be constructed because of insufficient funding.”
In addition to the initiative to pass an ordinance to vote on the bond specifics, Paso del Sur has an alternative plan for the entire section of Downtown slated for demolition.
“…the solution is in cancelling the construction of a new multipurpose performing arts facility, reallocating the funds and enhancing existing assets. Rather than construct a new performing arts facility, the existing Abraham Chavez Theater can be renovated and expanded. The Mexican American Cultural Center and Corridor can be located in and become a part of a transformed old town Duranguito that will include a historic corridor reflecting and leading to the global roots of our City. This would create a thriving residential neighborhood and tourist attraction.”
For those wishing to support the group, they will be holding a launch event Monday morning.
What: Citizen’s Initiative Requesting an Election to make changes in the 2012 Bond Projects.
When: Monday, June 25, 2018 at 9 a.m.
Where: Firefighters Memorial Park, 316 W. Overland
Via a news release on Wednesday, preservationists announced that 11 properties owned by the City of El Paso and one property owned by a private party in Duranguito are being nominated to the Texas Historical Commission (THC).
Should the properties be approved as State Antiquities Landmarks, the archaeological remains below ground receive legal protection under the Antiquities Code of Texas.
The nominators are Dr. Max Grossman, Dr. David Carmichael, Mr. Harry W. “Skip” Clark, and Ms. Elia Perez .
Dr. Grossman shares, “This is an important step in the process of preserving archaeological sites in Duranguito for all El Pasoans…we are confident that the THC will approve the nominations in the near future.”
The structures in the area – as well as the archaeological sites buried just below the foundations of the buildings – are within the footprint of the proposed downtown arena, which is currently in legal limbo.
Preservationists cite several surveys and original plats from the mid- to late-19th century, that indicate the locations of historic remnants – including Juan Maria Ponce de Leon’s original ranch and the two acequias (irrigation ditches) that were used for irrigating the fields that existed long before the towering skyscrapers of Downtown El Paso.
According to the preservationists, a 1998 archaeological survey conducted by the City of El Paso identifies the probable remains of Ponce’s 1st ranch, just below the surface.
They add, “The same survey included a ground-penetrating radar study conducted by archaeologist Mark Willis. That study identified probable structural remains (architecture) in the area of Chihuahua Street and [also] West Overland Avenue.”
In addition to the studies, actual excavation in the area revealed more of the city’s long-buried history.
In the release announcing the nominations, Dr. Grossman shares:
“Archaeological excavations in 1970 and 1984 immediately to the north and east of the Arena Footprint identified the physical remains of the “Acequia Madre,” which is a second acequia that traversed Duranguito further to the north, where the Convention Center is now located. The Convention Center excavation confirmed that the 1827 stratum lies very deep below ground.”
The group goes on to explain that the nomination process is quite different from a historical designation.
“The Texas Antiquities Code and Texas Natural Resources Code are complex and require much attention to understand…archaeological sites are not the same thing as structures above ground. The law provides that nominating a structure as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) requires registration on the National Register of Historic Places…this is NOT required for archaeological nominations.”
Any citizen can nominate a public property or a private property (with the owner’s consent) as an archaeological SAL provided the criteria are met.
As a Dane I have had the privilege – since 1978 – to visit the US maybe 30 times. Often I write articles about America along the way. I love and respect America.
A couple of weeks ago I visited El Paso for the first time. It turned out to be a great experience. I stayed at the Gardener hotel – next to John Dillinger’s room – visited the most interesting art museum and I saw the Magoffin Home. I bicycled all over town enjoying the kindness and safety of this great city.
Visiting Duranguito, however, I was surprised- not to say shocked – to learn that the most interesting part of this neighborhood is going to be demolished. The idea seems to be to build a sports arena on the ruins of that neighborhood. A sports arena sounds like a great idea. But it seems to me the location chosen is so wrong.
I have studied the history of Duranguito and here is what I found out:
Duranguito is El Paso’s oldest platted neighborhood and tells the story of the origins of this border community like few other places. It’s roots go back to indigenous peoples including Apache, Pueblo and Manso Indians. It is the site of the Ponce de Leon ranch in 1827 and was located right down the middle of major trails that traversed this gateway city from the four cardinal directions. Including the Camino Real Trail and the Butterfield Overland Wagon Trail. The homes that are currently standing include 130-year-old structures and sites of memory from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the first major social revolution in the twentieth century. Duranguito and other South El Paso neighborhoods has been called the Ellis Island of the border because immigrants from all over the world lived here. The Chinese laundry constructed in 1901 is one of the last remaining landmarks to El Paso’s Chinatown from the early twentieth century. La Morena Grocery was run by Syrian immigrants in the 1920s. Many other buildings in this historic neighborhood were the residences of Italian chefs, German-Jewish merchants, Mexican writers, Japanese immigrants, etc.
In this sense Duranguito represents not only local and regional history, but world history as well.
I am convinced that people from Europe and other parts would rather come to learn about this history if it were highlighted and explained in historical museums, small gift shops, bookstores, traditional mercado and performance spaces rather than a big box arena that isn’t at all unique to the area.
For this reason but first and foremost because the people of El Paso have a right to their own history, I kindly suggest that the plans to tear down Duranguito are being reconsidered and hopefylly skipped. Instead this beautiful and interesting neighborhood should be restored to its former glorry days.
Erik Boel, Danish Tourist
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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Preservation Texas announced the addition of the Duranguito neighborhood in downtown El Paso to its Most Endangered Places list. at the 2018 Preservation Summit in Brownsville on Tuesday evening.
The neighborhood has been at the center of an intense political and legal debate about the future of a proposed new public building that would result in the loss of Duranguito’s historically-signiﬁcant architectural and archaeological resources which date back to the earliest days of settlement in the city.
Preservation Texas’s listing of Duranguito as one of the state’s most threatened historic places is intended to raise broader statewide awareness of the issues that local preservationists are facing in El Paso and build increased support for their eﬀorts. Saving Duranguito will ensure that the architectural and cultural fabric of downtown El Paso will retain its strength and authenticity.
“In the last few years, signiﬁcant private investment in the rehabilitation of El Paso’s downtown landmarks proves that historic preservation can be a major economic development strategy for El Paso,” said Preservation Texas’s executive director Evan Thompson. “Duranguito is a part of the cultural and architectural DNA of El Paso. Protection of its modest yet culturally signiﬁcant historic resources is essential to preserving the city’s diverse and authentic sense of place. Selectively saving the facades of certain buildings in the neighborhood is not preservation.”
Designation of Duranguito’s historic resources on the National Register of Historic Places would make federal and state tax credits available for up to 45% of the costs rehabilitating the neighborhood’s historic buildings. Local preservation ordinances and voluntary conservation easements can provide long-term legal protection for the buildings.
“Large-scale new developments should be encouraged in areas immediately adjacent to the historic core of the city, and recent land-use planning proposals have identiﬁed sites in which a large public building could be built that would allow El Paso to have a ﬁrst-class entertainment venue without requiring the demolition of Duranguito,” said Thompson.
Since 2004, over 150 sites have been named to Preservation Texas’s Most Endangered Places list, and only eight have been lost. Founded in 1985, Preservation Texas is a member-supported non-proﬁt historic preservation education and advocacy organization based in Austin with a statewide board of directors.
Numerous sites in El Paso have been named to the Most Endangered Places list in recent years, including the Albert Fall Mansion that was saved through the leadership of the City of El Paso.
Other sites named to the Most Endangered Places list this week are Ship-on-the-Desert, a 1940s-era house in Guadalupe Mountains National Park; the mid-19th century Neale House, perhaps the oldest frame house in Brownsville; and six threatened historic railroad depots in Central Texas.
The findings of fact surrounding the albatross sandwich of the arena in the Duranguito neighborhood should outrage all El Pasoans.
Such facts as those concerning the manner in which the properties were acquired, the secrecy needed to accomplish demolition and, now, city leaders willing to jump off the proverbial cliff to make this project happen regardless of court decisions.
If we take a step back, we must understand that it is incumbent upon us to preserve and capitalize on our history—a history that begins the story of Texas. Capitalizing on heritage tourism works. The benchmark for El Paso’s success has long been San Antonio, a city that built an entire heritage tourism industry on the back of the Alamo and then established other heritage clusters throughout its center.
The arena debacle has turned into a larger conversation about vision and leadership. Thanks to “outsiders” like J.P. Bryan and Max Grossman, who have exposed the city in a way that has never been done before, the days of “business as usual” are over.
Sadly, we have politicians who are told what to do and how to do it by individuals with an agenda which, though certainly progressive, risks eliminating major cultural assets, either inadvertently or intentionally.
When I came back to El Paso in 2007, I was eager to get involved in our community. Indeed, something special was happening in El Paso and I was happy to have a front row seat. As time passed, however, I realized that I was part of a movement that included only a few hundred people, incredibly gifted folks (some that are dear friends) who were helping to dictate direction and policy for our community.
In our minds we had the solutions and knew what the city needed to be better and everyone who was in disagreement either was clueless or didn’t care. Our arrogant position was an easy one to take because, obviously, we had volunteered hundreds of hours, attended several events showcasing our city, and made countless donations to all types of causes to make El Paso better.
I certainly subscribed to that mindset. It was the kind of thinking that lay at the heart of the Quality of Life bond and brought it to fruition. A group of caring and dedicated individuals worked hand-in-hand with the city to create something that would function as a lynchpin for future development.
The problem is that one cannot build trust and engage an electorate with this attitude—an attitude that has been alive and well in El Paso for decades now. We have a population that is often described in political circles as apathetic, and I have come to believe that is an excuse used by politicians who are unable to connect with the people they represent.
We, as a city, are divided. There is a clear line being drawn between leadership and the people.
It was only a few years ago that we had a city manager, another “outsider”, who was so eager to push through the QOL bond that language was used to intentionally mislead the voters, and this has been proven in court. She created a bully culture (D.Crowder. “Retired firefighters bring attention to hazing” El Paso Inc. 2/5/18) in our government and I recall attending meetings where she would make fun of the opposition.
That culture continues to this day, so that when citizens like J.P. Bryan and Max Grossman take a stand, they are vilified. By contrast, when our political leaders are called to account, somehow the deck is reshuffled and these same people end up in different leadership positions throughout the city, with the same disdain for the people who balk at their policies.
It’s time to abolish the culture of “business as usual” in which mediocre politicians are told what to do by their powerful donors and act over the objections of the majority of El Pasoans. We need to hit the reset button and work towards prosperity, together as one family, in a manner that showcases what makes our community unique and authentic.
We are, after all, from the World’s Famous West Texas Town of El Paso and we can, and must, do better.
Written by: David E. Saucedo
Saucedo is a native El Pasoan, Cathedral and Notre Dame Graduate who returned to the Sun City with an accounting degree to help run his family’s century-old locksmithing business.
On Monday, City of El Paso announced the completion of its review of signatures on a petition filed to try to impose historic designation zoning on the site selected by City Council for the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center by placing the matter on the ballot of the next general election.
The petition was filed on September 11, 2017. The City Clerk’s office authenticated a total of 1,974 signatures of registered voters on the petition. The process was completed within the 20 working days as required by the City Charter.
The City Clerk’s office certified that the necessary number of signatures required under the City Charter, 1,666 signatures, have been submitted but the certification does not automatically place an item on the ballot.
The City Council is the body required to call an election. The matter will be placed on the agenda for the City Council meeting to be held on October 31.
The proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance included in the petition seeks to create a new Historic District and related use restrictions in the area bounded by San Antonio Avenue, Paisano Drive, Durango Street and South Santa Fe.
Via a news release, city officials said, “On June 27, the Council was advised about what Texas law provides in regards to attempts to impose or repeal zoning by initiative or referendum…Texas Courts have consistently held for decades that zoning matters have been removed from the field of initiative and referendum, irrespective of broad Charter provisions.”
The group Paso del Sur, who submitted the petition on behalf of residents of Duranguito, released the following statement:
Today the Citizen’s Initiative submitted by Paso del Sur on behalf of the residents of Barrio Duranguito on September 11, 2017 was validated by Interim City Clerk Laura Pine.
This second petition was signed by more than 2,200 El Paso voters, and went through a 26-hour validation process by members of Paso del Sur prior to submission to ensure the validity of all the signatures collected.
The City Clerk validated 1,974 signatures, exceeding the required number of 1,666 signatures.
The first petition, which was submitted on May 15, 2017, contained over 2,400 signatures and called upon City Council to establish a historic overlay in Duranguito. City Council refused to take action, which triggered the second round of the petition initiative. With this second petition City Council is bound by its own charter to present the item for a vote in the next general election as a ballot item.
Thousands of people have supported the petition initiative across two rounds. Both petitions were made possible by a diverse group of volunteers ranging from students, elders, and members of grassroots community organizations. Volunteers were able to reach the required number of signatures needed despite the fact that they were limited to only gathering signatures of registered voters who had voted in the May 2017 election – a day with a record-low voter turnout. Apart from signing petitions, hundreds of El Pasoans have also spoken at City Council, attended neighborhood meetings and community events, and have written letters to voice their opposition to the City’s reckless and fiscally irresponsible push to destroy El Paso’s history.
We await City Council’s response in hopes that they will respect the wishes of their constituents who demand that Duranguito be protected from demolition and established as a historic district.
While the fight with the city over Duranguito has been going on for quite a while, it is just now, with the dramatic actions taken and the media focused on the issue, that many people are giving it some thought.
Unfortunately the City, whose plan is to demolish the neighborhood and build a sports arena, has purposely tried to confuse the public. How much misinformation and lack of transparency must we endure from City officials before we say, “!Basta!”?
It started with the omission of sports in both the ordinance and the ballot language when the bond election was held in 2012. If everybody knew that they were voting for sports, as arena supporters argue, why not be up front and transparent and just include it in the language?
Could it have been because of the fallout regarding the way things were done with the baseball stadium?
If you recall, we were told that it would be paid strictly with hotel-motel taxes paid by out-of-town visitors, yet taxpayers ended up paying the difference when a multi-million dollar shortfall was announced. Taxpayers also are paying for police and other ongoing costs for services associated with the games.
For the record, I am a supporter of the baseball team, but I support transparent, honest government even more.
The City knew they couldn’t pass the bond if it said sports, but they also knew the project wouldn’t be viable without sports, so, thumbing their nose at transparency, they omitted it the language with the idea that later they would figure out how to convince the public they voted for it.
The no transparency game they decided to play has really gotten the City into trouble because the omission of sports is the basis of Max Grossman and his team of attorneys’ lawsuit, and now, after wasting millions of dollars, a judge has ruled the City cannot use bond money for anything sports related.
And speaking of the ballot language, though I have always advocated for a downtown location other than Duranguito, nothing we voted on states that the arena must be downtown. However, the City continues to lie to the public, stating that it did.
The City’s game continued when, on October 18th of 2016, the Council voted to place the arena in Duranguito. The announcement came just a few days earlier, however no information was provided to the public regarding how it was determined El Paso’s oldest neighborhood was the best site, nor was there any backup on the agenda item on the 18th.
A public presentation was given for the first time during the meeting in which the vote took place. A “study” was and continues to be quoted, but never publicized, and it took months for the City to post any relevant public documents on its website.
To add insult to injury, when information regarding other possible sites came out, the City claimed that the site east of the new City Hall, owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, was vetted and not an option. That was a lie.
What really happened was, when the City approached UP for land to build the ballpark, UP agreed to give it to them, but with the condition that they close a number of railroad crossings throughout the city. A wish-list of 31 closures was provided, and UP asked for 7.
When the City was moving to its new home, the option to purchase the railroad’s land behind that location came up. However, UP told the City there would be no negotiations until they made good on their first promise: closing 7 crossings. It was 2013 and there were still 4 open.
Fast forward again to 2016, nearly 10 years from the original deal, and the City still had not made good. The railroad company told us they never had discussions with the City regarding a possible arena location because of this. There was NO vetting of the railroad site.
The only reason the railroad site wasn’t a viable option was because the City duped UP.
So, to keep the public from finding out about it, they made up a huge lie. They said Union Pacific would ask the city to close as many as 31 railroad crossings in exchange for its land, and predicated on that one, huge lie, members of Council began to throw out excuses as to why the rail yard wouldn’t work, saying traffic would be hugely disrupted, people’s access to I-10 would be cut off and that it would be too costly.
Another story the City fabricated was that the arena had to be built within 1,000 feet of the convention center so they could receive $25 million in state incentives that was needed to expand from 12 thousand seats to 15 thousand. That one was completely debunked by the El Paso Inc. in an article written in January of this year.
One more on the long list was that the rail yard was so contaminated and it would cost millions upon millions to remediate. This absurd claim was never substantiated because, again, there was absolutely NO of the site.
There are so many lies.
Duranguito is the site not only of the first urban neighborhood, it also is the site of the first European settlement in Paso del Norte, the Ponce de Leon ranch. It is a historical treasure trove, yet the city denies these plain facts, too.
The sports arena has already cost us dearly, in both taxes and in the damage to public trust. I implore the current City Council and the business community that supports the arena to quit looking the other way and to say, “! Ya basta!”!
No matter where you stand on the issue of the arena, one area that we can all agree on is the rule of law. It is the central pillar upon which our country is built.
If you disagree with a law or court order, you are allowed to appeal the order, to protest, to voice your opinion, and even – if necessary – have an entirely new law is written or court order issued. This applies generously to both sides in any legal debate.
It may take time, it may delay a process, but it’s a central theme to our getting along civilly in this society.
So when a member (or members of a community) violate that compact – the reaction is swift. A law or court order has been broken, and the means to remedy that action are very clear.
Now – again I say – regardless of where you stand on the arena debate, we should be able to agree that the courts now have jurisdiction here; the competing sides will have their sides heard by an impartial judge and the rule of law continues as it has.
Those sides include, to varying degrees, the Duranguito preservationists, the city, and the property owners within the footprint of the arena. All have agreed – if not themselves personally – but through actions by those that represent their side to follow the rule of law.
The city (and those arena supporters) have been patient through this long, legal process – as have the preservationists. Even when in direct disagreement with one or more of the court’s decisions, they have followed the rule of law. Protest, appeal, make statements, appear in court. Rinse, repeat.
So in light of Monday’s decision, it was thought (or hoped) that all sides would continue this pattern; the city went so far as to issue a letter to the lawyer representing the owners of the property (Ltr to M Shane.) asking them to follow the rule of law.
Early this morning, supporters of the arena and preservationists alike got their answer in the form of demolition equipment tearing into the heart of the arena’s footprint where the privately-owned homes are located.
Social media calls for supporters to rush to the area came too late, preservationists were only able to catch the aftermath and a few photos of the demolition equipment leaving the area.
So now the questions arise: was this a ‘simple mistake?’ Did the message not get to the demolition company in time to stop their contracted duties?
Or was this a calculated move, on the part of the property owners, to force the hand of the city.
In either of those scenarios, the law was quickly and definitively broken and the remedies are clear. But an important line has been crossed.
One could probably make the argument that the company simply did not know the demolition had been delayed by the courts; but that would require that everyone involved completely ignored the ruling, the letter from the city to the property owner’s lawyer, traditional media reports from across all the outlets here in the city – as well as the instant-information of social media and the internet.
And one could possibly say that the uninformed demolition crews started their work at one site, only to be told of their mistake, and they immediately stopped.
But the crews didn’t start on one building, they moved from site to site, ripping structurally-important pieces of the structures out. And then left the area, leaving debris, stunned preservationists and confused law enforcement in their wake.
The actions of Tuesday morning have an unfortunate air to them, and are similar – if not in content, but in execution – to the way this project has been seemingly rushed from the start; from site selection to vote, it all feels forced.
And it’s time for two things to happen.
First, the judge in the case needs to come down hard – and fast – on the violators in this case. From the property owners, to whoever it was that did (or did not) give the order to proceed. They all need to pay the legal price for their actions.
Second – and more importantly – this is no longer about the need of a downtown arena, or the preservation of a once-thriving neighborhood, this is about the lengths some will go to, in order to get their way.
If ‘someone’ decided to allow the demolition to continue even with the court order, what is to stop the next someone from ‘deciding’ to go ahead and build the arena with enough space for the much-discussed NBA G-League team (or other sports-based team) in violation of that court decision? How long would that half-built structure stand as lawyers fight it out?
The legal ‘what ifs’ are enough to give everyone headaches for years to come and the lawyers on all sides plenty of business.
No one person or group is above the law; to that end, this process must be stopped here and now and the entire project sent back to the drawing board and the voters.
And while it may cost a bit more in the long run, at the very least – and more importantly – the rule of law will have been followed.
Below are statements from Preservationist Max Grossman, Mayor Dee Margo, and the City of El Paso
I sent one of my attorneys, Lisa Hobs, to Duranguito this morning with court order in hand to stop the demolition. The demolition has been halted, but more than a half-dozen buildings have been gravely damaged by the demolition company. We had to call the police to help enforce the court order.
Make no mistake about it. The City of El Paso and the two property owners, Dr. Roberto Assael and Alejo Restrepo, have violated a court order signed by all three judges of the 8th Court of Appeals. The demolition action this morning was a blatant act of cowardice and a violation of the law. We filed contempt of court charges at 10:29am and have requested a hearing today. I am on way to Duranguito now to assess damage – Max Grossman via email
“The series of events regarding the MPC has been unfortunate. The City of El Paso is complying with the Order issued by the Eighth Court of Appeals. The City does not yet own or control the properties within the MPC footprint, and did not initiate the demolition scheduled for September 12. The property owners were not part of the order; however, the City issued a letter to their attorneys requesting they not proceed with the demolition. The City will continue to comply with the law regarding the MPC.” – Mayor Dee Margo
The City of El Paso is complying with the Order issued by the Eighth Court of Appeals which prohibits the City from taking steps related to the demolition of privately-owned properties within the MPC Footprint.
Last night, the City Attorney’s Office contacted the attorney representing the private property owners and requested that the property owners comply with the order, even though the property owners are not named in the order, and that the property owners not proceed with the demolition of the properties.
Earlier today, the appellate court amended the order to add an address which had not been included in the original order requested by Mr. Grossman’s attorneys. – Statement released by the City of El Paso
Staff Report June 22, 2017NewsComments Off on Sacred Heart Church to Hold Procession Honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Duranguito
Fr. Rafael García, S.J., of Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church will lead a procession honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in solidarity with the vulnerable people of barrio Duranguito tonight at 7 p.m.
The participants will walk, reflect on Scripture and pray the rosary for the safety and well-being of the impacted residents of the neighborhood who have been struggling to maintain their community in the face of evictions and the imminent threat of demolition.
For over a century, Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church has served the people of South El Paso, including Duranguito.
Sagrado Corazón stands with the vulnerable residents of Duranguito, who are typically of low-income and immigrants, as well as for the preservation of historic neighborhoods and architecture in our city. In the words of Pope Francis:
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 19)
The procession will begin at 7:00 p.m. at Firemen’s Memorial Park, 316 West Overland and proceed through the neighborhood. The matachines, Danza del Sagrado Corazón will join the event.
For more information, interested persons can contact Fr. Rafael García, S.J., Associate Pastor and Ministry with Migrant and Refugee Persons, at Sacred Heart Church at 915-532-5447.
Paso del Sur (PDS), a coalition to preserve Duranguito in Union Plaza, will be submitting over 2,400 signatures to the City of El Paso, in hopes of saving the neighborhood in downtown, slated for demolition for the proposed arena.
The petitions are the result of several weeks of collection and request that a Historic-overlay be established in Duranguito, creating the historic district that the city’s own architectural survey had recommended 19 years ago.
According to the group’s news release, the coalition includes “residents of Barrio Duranguito, the small business owners of El Tiradero Market, Paso del Sur, the El Paso History Alliance, as well as the people of El Paso who stand against the displacement of our communities and the erasure of our history.”
PDS Officials go on to state, “This petition is a direct call by the registered voters of El Paso County to Mayor Oscar Leeser, City Council Representatives Peter Svarzbein, Jim Tolbert, Emma Acosta, Carl L. Robinson, Dr. Michiel Noe, Claudia Ordaz, Lily Limon, Cortney Niland and their successors to designate Duranguito as a historic district and prevent the demolition of El Paso’s first and oldest neighborhood.”
“The city propaganda machine would have us believe that the fight for Barrio Duranguito has been lost—that there is only one holdout in the neighborhood unwilling to sell. However, with the submission of this petition we will show that the people of El Paso stand firm, in solidarity with the residents and small business owners in Duranguito, calling on the Mayor and City Council Representatives of El Paso to move the arena, not the people.” PDS officials added.
The petition will be submitted to City Clerk Richarda Duffy Momsen at her office Monday afternoon. Officials say that immediately after the petition is turned in, a statement will be given to the media in front of City Hall.
To read our previous coverage of the arena saga, click HERE.Photo gallery courtesy Jon Eckberg
The residents and small vendors of Duranguito invite all El Pasoans to celebrate the rich culture and history of their neighborhood. To that end, the residents have organized a ‘Save Barrio Duranguito Festival.’
There will be activities and cultural workshops for the whole family, food trucks, educational booths, historical walking tours of Duranguito and music from 4 to 10 pm on Friday, May 5th – the day before City elections.
Residents are invited to come listen to son jarocho, Chinese dance performance, an all-women mariachi group, danzantes Aztecas and more. The evening will end with an open air performance by Frontera Bugalú.
When: May 5 from 4 to 10 pm
Where: Mercado Tiradero/Duranguito Arts Market (corner of Paisano and Chihuahua Street)
4:00 Bienvenida and Opening Remarks
4:15 Blessing/Oración Fr. Garcia
Followed by a bilingual Historical Tour (Dr. David Romo & Dr. Max Grossman)
5:00 Danza Azteca Omecoatl
5:30 Performance by the Ai-Hwa Chinese School
6:00 Fandango con Maria, Yahvi, Rubi, and Leo /Dr. Max Grossman
The following is the text of the statement read during public comment at Tuesday morning’s El Paso City Council meeting on behalf of state Sen. José Rodríguez:
The City of El Paso is growing. As it does, we consistently are faced with decisions at every level about how to support the growth, how to encourage it, and how to manage it for the benefit of our residents and newcomers.
One way to do that is through quality-of-life investments. Most recently, municipal voters in 2012 gave the City of El Paso permission to sell bonds for almost $500 million in projects. Included in that were more than $200 million for three signature projects.
Those were the Children’s Museum, Hispanic Cultural center, and a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility, which was introduced under the heading of “Museum, Cultural, Performing Arts, and Library Facilities.”
El Paso voters gave this permission because they wanted to invest in themselves. I myself was one of them. We wanted quality of life amenities at both the neighborhood level in the form of parks and other amenities, and at the regional level in the form of museums and other cultural facilities.
We still want this. However, we require two things to make it happen the right way.
We need to know that these projects will enhance our community, which means respecting the people, places, and history that is so special and unique to El Paso.
We need to know that we are getting exactly what we asked for, that there was a process that was consistent, transparent, and inclusive every step of the way.
People did not vote for an arena. They voted for a “multipurpose center” meant for performances and cultural events.
Down to the terms used for the facility, the process has lacked transparency.
The vote to impose the facility on Duranguito was Oct. 18, 2016, only days after a proposed location was announced not by the Mayor or any City Council members but by city staff.
On that day, members of the public were able to see a presentation regarding the site selection for the first time. This presentation was not included as backup on the agenda. There was conflicting information regarding whether property owners and residents had been contacted, and what they had been told.
There were questions about parking and traffic. There were inconsistent assertions made about efforts to discuss other properties, specifically the railroad; spokesmen for Union Pacific had to clarify incorrect statements made about contacts made with the railroad, and about supposed demands by the railroad for a number of crossings to be closed.
The extent and nature of the facility “footprint” itself, and the impact on surrounding areas has not been clear throughout the process. Neither has the question of federal beautification monies put into the neighborhood not for economic development, but for the residents themselves.
And importantly, there is the question of respect for history. That has been particularly concerning to me. Both the major bodies set up to help restore, protect, and nurture El Paso’s historic neighborhoods voted to oppose the location, as did the City Plan Commission, and the city itself in 1998 called for detailed study and long-term preservation. Yet, the city is moving towards the destruction of an irreplaceable piece of the “First Ward,” part of the first Anson Mills plat map of 1859.
These questions pile on top of the original question – the nature of the facility City Council put forth and the voters approved – and are of such deep concern that I am in support of whatever means may be necessary to stop an irreversible action that will wipe out history and community.