Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ain't No Sunshine: Graffiti Plaques Central El Paso Neighborhood

Former Lincoln Theatre at 3123 Alameda Av.

 Ain't No Sunshine
Graffiti Plaques Central Neighborhood

by Raymundo Eli Rojas
Alameda Avenue was busy as usual this past Saturday. A hint of overcast covers you has you exit Interstate 10 at Piedras Street. Once on Piedras going south, take the overpass over the rail yard and turn right on to Texas Avenue. That exit bridge to Texas gives a view of several buildings that are full of graffiti.

After a recent Oscars in which a documentary about a graffiti artist was nominated, it is easy to let graffiti pass. In fact, many resident grow use to it.

But this is not artful graffiti, most of it is what some muralist and graffiti artist call “taggin.” Tagging has few fans. The walk toward Copia Street from Poplar Street will give a person a good dose of graffiti. The El Paso Chicano(a) History & Preservation Project is doing a Barrio Tour which will cover this area, Sat. March 26.

This area of town centered around the Piedras-to-Copia Alameda Business District was one of the most racially diverse in El Paso. With a mix of Chicanos and Blacks residents and businesses, this area may have been what 18th and Vine was to Kansas City's African-Americans back in the 1930s. Alameda was full of theaters and venues for African-Americans. 

Interstate 10 was in the distant future. In fact, the interstate project when if finally came in the early 1960s would demolish several blocks cutting off these neighborhood residents from their north-side neighbors.

The business strip is still busy with bars and groceries and other businesses. In the 1990s, one could still see peradas, or mariachis that go from bar to bar ("en talon") charging patrons by song. This area has a few of the frequent afterglow venues, such as the Good Luck Cafe, Lucky's, and Hamburger Inn, which cater to after midnight bar crowds.

Alameda, Piedras to Copia is still a gem although many building remain vacant and in dire need of repair and renovation. Stores, business, industrial shops, bakeries, El Paso's oldest pharmacy, old theaters: if only the city would reinvest in this area and if it is already doing so – invest more.

San Pedro Pharmacy

However, graffiti is littered on the walls and alleys. Many people don't know that graffiti can be easily removed by the city with a simple phone call or online report. If resident don't know this, is the city doing enough to publicize this? Where is the Spanish-language media to let residents know hot to keep their barrio beautiful?

This is where residents and others whose minds are occupied with keeping barrios beautiful, can, well – keep their barrio beautiful.

Report graffiti – and if it comes up again – report it again.The El Paso Graffiti Hotline's number is (915) 621-6789.

By calling this graffiti hot line, city workers will come and paint over the graffiti. Homeowners and business need to have paint matching the exterior of their building, or the city will paint over the graffiti with white paint.

However, for some buildings and houses, those living inside are not the homeowners, just renters. Or the business in the building does not own he building, they are just renters. The city needs the owner's permission to paint over the graffiti and many landlords, don't care.

On the door of one restaurant is flier for the Chamizal Project. It gets one wondering, is there an organization, either business or residential, that covers this area, maybe a neighborhood association.

The city use to keep the names of neighborhood association and contact on their website, but upon going to the Neighborhood Services website, the information is no longer posted. 

On Monday, a call to the City of El Paso's Neighborhood Services knowiing I can get this information.

I'm told I must file an Open Records Request for that information. 

One wonders if the city is trying to hide something or just make things inaccessible. 

An overcast day walking down Alameda. It's not the only thing that needs some sunshine?

Barrio Tour of El Pujido and "El East" (El Paso's Old East)
March 26, 2011, 9am beginning at the 
California Cafe at 1419 E. San Antonio Av. at Cotton St.
Please R.S.V.P.
To R.S.V.P. or for more information, call Ray at (915) 258-0989 or rayerojas@gmail.com
Cookout will follow the tour at Lincoln Park
Bring your walking shoes

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