Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Not Having Diversity is a Nice Way of Saying there is still racism in El Paso

Is Not Having Diversity is a Nice Way of Saying there is still racism in El Paso
Doing Business the White Way: City Advisory Committee With No Latinos or Chicanos and more on diversity in El Paso
Every once in a while Deep Inside El Paso will focus on where Chicano and Latinos are not in El Paso. 

Even now in the 21st Century, there are places in El Paso where the glass ceiling has not been broken, no Mexicans or Dogs allowed, or Whites Only.

In doing these little surveys of El Paso we use the old tool of looking at how many Spanish-surnames are on the list of board members, advisory board, presidents, and so on. Now this is not the most precise method of doing this, but it does come very close. Second, I will use the term Chicano to describe people of Mexican extraction living in the city and Latino for people of Latin American extraction.

So let the fun begin.

Parks: No Mexican Allowed

Parks are among one of the most important things a city can have, except El Paso does not have enough of them. The Park & Recreation Foundation's mission is to To solicit, receive, administer, invest and disburse gifts, legacies, devises and conveyance of real and personal property for the purposes and benefit of the of the City of El Paso’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Nice, but in a city with so large a Chicano/Latino population, there are no Latinos on the board:

Lorraine Huit – President
A.C. Sanders III – Vice President
Francoise Feliberti – Secretary
L. Ray Cox – Treasurer
Diane Allen
Richard T. Dempsey, Jr.
Russell Hanson
Togo Railey

Where's the Brown? For more information on the El Paso Parks and Recreation Foundation and its lack Latino exclusion, click here. To call them and ask "Where's the Brown?" call 915-630-3312.

However, if you thought the lack of diversity regarding our parks ended here, you are surely mistaken, and don't worry, I won't call you Sherly.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board “act(s) as an advisory committee to the Mayor and City Council in efforts to promote close cooperation between the City and all private citizens, institutions and agencies interested in the establishment and development of parks and recreation activities. The board of parks and recreation shall advise on park naming and shall review and provide input to the Mayor and City Council on other legislative matters submitted to the board by the director of parks and recreation.”

No wonder we lack parks with names that are Spanish surnames; it's because we lack people with Spanish-surnames on the committee naming parks. Don't believe me? Here's who's currently on the advisory board:

Ardovino, Jennifer Barr 5/11/2010 10/14/2011 District 8
R Bombach, Carlos D. 7/6/2010 10/14/2011 District 5
R Caldwell, Frederick 2/1/2011 10/14/2013 District 4
R Cloud, Ralph T. 10/15/2009 10/14/2013 District 7
R Selzer, Janet 1/26/2010 10/14/2013 District 3
R Tolbert, James H. 10/15/2009 10/14/2013 District 2
R Turner, David 10/15/2009 10/14/2011 District 1
R VACANT District 6
R Wickstrom, Brian D. Mr. 10/20/2009 10/14/2013 Mayor R

What a splash of brown. Now, don't get me wrong. Some of these people may be Latino or even African-American and just do not have a Spanish surname, but we use the surname analysis as the best possible test of diversity when we can't get an actual survey filled out by the The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Who is responsible for the this advisory board looking this way, well, your city representative and Mayor:

“Effective on October 14, 2009, the board of Parks and Recreation shall be composed of nine (9) members. Appointments shall be made by the Mayor and City Council. Each member of the” City Council shall nominate one member to the board. Chapter 2.20 and Ordinances: 7021, 7671, 7672, 7791, 10872, 11469, 12557,017124 (effective 10/14/09), 017204.

So take a look at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and contact you representative and ask, “where are all the brown people?”:

Ann Morgan Lilly
Rachel Quintana 
  Eddie Holguin Jr
Robert O' 

Open Space Advisory Board

We found one Latino on the Open Space Advisory Board

What is this? 

This board “act(s) as an advisory board and provide recommendations to the City Council in efforts to preserve and acquire open space. The Open Space Advisory Board shall provide recommendations on the implementation of Towards a Bright Future: A Green Infrastructure Plan for El Paso, Texas, commonly referred to as the Open Space Master Plan. The Open Space Advisory Board shall review and provide input to the City Council on legislative matters pertaining to open space submitted to the board by the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, the director of the Developmental Services Department, the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Service Board, the director of the Economic Development Department and the City Flood Plain Administrator or their designers.”

These are the people who currently sit on this advisory board:

Addington, Bill Guerra 9/22/2009 6/30/2011 District 5 R
Ardovino, Robert 12/8/2009 6/30/2011 District 1 R
Balin, Lois Anne 7/7/2009 6/30/2013 District 4 R
Bilderback, Terry 10/5/2010 6/30/2013 Mayor R
Ruiz, Luis M. 6/23/2009 6/30/2011 District 6 R
Thomas, Richard L. 7/7/2009 6/30/2013 District 3 R
Tolbert, James H. 7/7/2009 6/30/2013 District 2 R
von Finger, Kevin T. 9/8/2009 6/30/2013 District 7 R
Wakeem, Charles S. 6/23/2009 6/30/2011 District 8 R

Wow, for a city that is 80% Hispanic, 75% people of Mexican extraction, one Spanish surname on the board means 11% of this board is Hispanic. For more information on this advisory board, click here.

Non-City Entities, Schools and Non-Profits

Now for the rest of our look at diversity, we will look at lists mentioned in the El Paso Inc. Book of Lists 2011. The private sector has no real responsibility to the community to diversify their executives and many executives are sole proprietors. However, in the cases of non-profits and government entities including colleges and universities, we need to ask “where the brown?”

School Districts

Among the public entities within the school districts, out of the 10 school districts ranked by number of students, 3 out of the 10 had a superintendent who is Latino or Hispanic.

Of the 9 universities and colleges, including those in Las Cruces and ranked by current enrollment, only 2 out of the 9 had a president who is Latino or Chicano.

El Paso Foundation and Charitable Trusts

The world of non-profits in El Paso is still a White one. In looking at the 25 El Paso foundation and charitable trusts ranked by amounts they awarded in 2009, only 4 out of the 25 listed have board chairpersons whom are Latino or Chicano. Of executive directors, only two were listed as having an executive director who is Latino or Chicano. The El Paso Inc. did not list all the executive directors for these foundations though. Of the seven foundations that could be considered family foundations (which is not a legal term, but we just note that this is related to a family), all 7 of them were chaired by a family member.

We mention this only because it is nice to think that these rich people set up foundations to help the public good. However, often the real reason is to give money to family members and friends without getting it taxed. It works this way, a rich person sets up a foundation. The rich person puts his wife or daughter or some other family member as chair, and then puts his wife, daughter or other family member as executive director. You put family members on the board. You make it that the foundation only has to pay the minimum. 

Private foundations must make charitable expenditures of approximately 5% of the market value of their assets each year. The salary for your family member, or sorry “executive director” is payed through expenses. 

As long as it is not excessive, and if the services are reasonable and necessary for the foundation's exempt purposes, this can be done. Sometimes what they pay out to the public is less than they pay their executive director. Furthermore, you can have family member serve on your board long after you are gone. In addition, family foundations can give money as grants to other family foundations, therefore paying the salaries of your rich friends' families members.

Advertising/Public Relation Firms

Currently, 8 of the 24 firms listed by the El Paso Inc., ranked by number of full-time employees, have a Latino CEO.

El Paso Print Media

Of the top 10 print media companies in El Paso ranked by frequency and then by circulation, 2 out of 10 have a Latino/Chicano owner or publisher.

Video Production Companies

Of the top 14 video production companies in El Paso ranked by number of employees, then by year established, 2 out of 14 have a Latino/Chicano owner.

Banking Institutions

We were surprised about banking institutions in how many Latinos/Chicanos serve as top executives at banks in our city. Board are another issue. Of the top 16 banking institutions in El Paso ranked by 2009 deposits, 9 out of 16 have a top local executive who is Latino or Chicano. That more than half, so this look promising. Again, their board are another animal to kill and this doesn't mean the banks are giving back to our community.

Credit Unions

Looking at the top 12 credit union ranked by total assets, 1 out of 16 credit unions had a Latino/Chicano principal. This does not look good. 

For example, I'm a member of Tip O' Texas Federal Credit Union. This credit union has a Latino or Chicano vice president, but that is where the diversity ends. The rest of the board it White, the supervisory committee is White, and the all the management is White. I was wondering why customer service had suffered at my credit union since, SPUR, the credit union for railroad workers, that merged with others to create Tip 'O Texas. How can you have good service to Chicanos and Hispanics, when there are none in your government. So I took my business to GECU.

Financial Planning Firms

Of the 21 financial planning firms rank by number of planners, then by year established, 5 out of 21 financial planning firms had a Latino or Chicano top executive.

Building Maintenance Companies

Of the top 18 building maintenance companies ranked by number of employees, then alphabetically, 11 out of 18 had a Latino or Chicano top executive.

Commercial Printers

Of the top 24 commercial printers ranked by number of employees, 12 out of the 24 companies had a top local executive who was Chicano or Latino.

Copying and Duplicating Services

Of the top 21 copying and duplicating services in El Paso, ranked by number of employees, 15 out of 21 had a Chicano or Latino owner.

Customs Brokerage Firms

Of the top 21 custom brokerage firms ranked by number of employees, 18 out of 21 had a Chicano or Latino top local executive.

Document Management

Of the 11 document management companies ranked by number of employees 1 out of 11 had a Chicano or Latino top local executive.

Local Cartage Companies

Of the top 10 local cartage companies ranked by number of drivers, then by number of trucks, 5 out of 10 are owned by Latinos or Chicanos.

Office Supply Companies

Of the top 17 office supply companies in El Paso, ranked by number of employees, the year established locally, 10 out of 17 are owned by Latinos or Chicanos.

Mailing Services

The El Paso Inc. only list three mailing services in El Paso and ranks them by pieces of mail processed in 2009. Of the three, none have a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanics.

Office Furniture and Equipment Dealers

Of the 18 office furniture and equipment dealers ranked by number of employees, then by year established locally, 3 out of 18 have a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanic

Uniform/Linen Service and Supply Companies

The El Paso Inc. only lists 3 uniform/linen service and supply companies. Of the 3, only 1 has a top local executive who is Chicano or Latino.

Public Warehouses

Of the 10 public warehouses ranked by facility size, of the 8 who give information on their top local executive, 3 out of the 8 are Chicano or Latino.

Shipping Companies

Of the 20 ranked shipping companies, 14 out of the 20 had a top local executive who is Latino or Chicano.

Sign Companies

Of the 20 ranked sign companies, ranked by number of employees and then by years in business, 8 out of 20 had a principal who is Latino or Chicanos.

Internet Service Providers

Of the 12 rank internet services providers ranked by number of accounts, 4 out of 12 had a top local executive who is Latino or Chicano.

Alarm Companies

Of the 20 ranked alarm companies ranked by number of employees, then by year established, 4 out of 20 had a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanic.

Computer Network and System Integrators

Of the 25 ranked computer network and system integrators, 5 out of 25 had a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanic.

Computer Repair Companies

Of the 23 ranked computer repair companies ranked by number of techs, then by year established, 9 out of the 23 had an owner or local executive who is Latino or Chicano.

Local Software Developers

Of the 12 listed local software developers ranked by number of software developers, then by total number of employees, 4 out of the 12 had a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanic.

Website Design Firms

Of the 15 ranked website design firms ranked by number of clients, 5 out of 15 had a top local executive who is Latino or Hispanic.

Career Schools

Of the 17 career schools ranked by current enrollment, 10 out of 17 had a director of admission who is Latino or Chicano. 7 out of the 17 had a president who is Latino or Chicanos.

Parochial Schools

Out of 33 parochial school ranked by number of students, 17 out of 33 has principals who are Latino or Chicano.
Private and charter Schools

Out of 17 private and charter schools ranked by number of students, 9 out of 17 had a principal who is Latino or Chicano.

Commercial Construction Companies

Out of 16 commercial construction companies ranked by number of employees 5 out of 16 had managing principals who are Latino or Chicanos.

NARI Registered General Contractors and Remodelers

Of 20 NARI Registered General Contractors and Remodlers, 6 out of 20 had owners who are Latino or Chicano.

Architectural Firms

Of 23 ranked firms ranked by number of local registered architects, then by number of employees, 12 had managing partners who were Chicano or Latino.

Mechanical Engineering Firms

Of the 9 firms ranked by number of licensed engineer, then by number of employees, 4 out of the 9 had managing owners who were Latino or Chicano. One, Bath Engineering Corp., is employee-owned.

Environmental Engineering Firms

Of the 13 environmental engineering firms, 2 of the 13 had managing owners who were Chicano or Latino.

Civil Engineering Firms

Of the 23 firms ranked by number of licensed engineers, then by number of employees, 12 out of the 23 had managing owners who were Chicano or Latino.

Electrical Engineering Firms

Of the 9 firms ranked by number of licensed engineers, the by number of employees, 4 out of 9 had managing owners who were Chicano or Latino. One was employee-owned.

Lawn Care Companies

Of the 13 lawn care companies ranked by number of employees, the by year established, 5 had a Latino or Chicano top local executive.

Home Builders

Of the 26 homebuilders ranked by number of houses built, 9 out of the 26 had a Latino or Chicano top executive.

Registered Interior Designers

Of the 13 registers interior designers ranked by year established then by number of registered interior designers, 1 had a Latino or Chicano top local executive.

Swimming Pool Constructors and remodelers

Of the 18 Swimming Pool Constructors and remodelers ranked by year established locally, 12 were Latino or Chicano.

El Paso Pioneer Companies

The El Paso Inc. also listed “pioneer” companies and we think this means companies by year established that are still in business. 

Th Inc. listed 50 of them which I will list: 

El Paso Times, 
Kemp Smith, 
Union Pacific RR, 
Well Fargo Bank of El Paso, 
The Clock Manor, 
New York Life, 
Samuel's Jewelers, 
Wyler Industrial Works, 
Union Fashion, 
El Paso Sheet Metal, 
American Eagle Brick Co., 
Caldarella's restaurant Supply, 
International Business College, 
John D. Williams Insurance, 
Salvation Army, 
Providence Memorial Hospital, 
Spectrum Imaging Systems, 
James A. Dick Co.; 
Mounce, Gree, Myers, Safi, Paxcon & Galatzan, 
Funeraria del Angel Harding -Orr and Mcdaniel Funeral, 
Funeraria del Angel Kaster, Maxon, Futrell Funderal Home, 
Weeks Roofing, 
El Paso Country Club, 
Hubb International Southwest, 
Price's Creameries, 
Azar Foodservice, 
Daniel's Movign and Storage, 
Boy Scouts, 
Angelus Cleaners, 
Tony Lama, 
Camino Real Hotel, 
Girl Scouts, 
Sheldon Jewelery, 
University Medical Center, 
Modern Iron Works, 
Casas Carpet and Tile, 
Goodman Financial Group, 
First National Bank, 
Southwestern Mill Distributors, 
Bailey-Mora Company, 
Burdick and Burdick, 
Bixler and Co., 
Dick Poe, 
Silva's Super Market, 
KTSM, and 
El Paso Tire Company.

Out of these 50, only 8 had Latino or Hispanic top executives.

Pet Groomers

Out of 31 pet groomers listed, 14 have a Latino or Chicano “top dog.”

There are still some other indistries to go through, but let's summarize. We were surprised at the number of local top executive at banks. So when we do find that Latinos and Chicanos are in these positions of power, the next question is are they giving back to their communities or selling out to big business and White elites in El Paso.

Looking at the top dog at institutes of higher education is frightening. No Mexican Need Apply. As for private foundation, also, No Mexicans Allowed. Again, the numbers of Chicanos or Hispanics on advisory boards for the parks and open space are an embarrassment for our city.

Diversity looks good in Building Maintenance Companies, Copying and Duplicating Services, Customs Brokerage Firms, Office Supply Companies, Shipping Companies, and Swimming Pool Constructors and remodelers. 

In some ranked industries, the number of Chicano or Latino executives is at 50% but other nada.  
Of the "Pioneer Companies" some are older then 100 years. They did not have non-White executives 100 years ago, and they still do not have them in the 21st Century.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It The Plaza Theatre Enough

Plaza Theatre in El Paso

Is the Plaza Theatre Enough
Should The Plaza Be the End of the Road for  Theater Renovation in El Paso

For decades the Plaza Theatre in Downtown El Paso sat unused and in need for renovation. At one time, The Plaza was the palace theatre of the Southwest: It probably is once more. However, by the 1960s, attendance had fallen significantly as Interstate 10 expanded and more modern theaters made a trip Downtown for a film superfluous.

Jim Crow Plaza

The Plaza closed in the late 60s or early 70s (depends who you talk to), but the dream of renovating it and reopening the theatre kept in the minds of many El Pasoans, especially the affluent and elite, but others as well. One cannot say that the nostalgia The Plaza garnered was one only of the rich and elite because many of El Paso's middle class and poor remember that days, when they were poor, of going downtown to see movies. However, for some El Pasoans, the Plaza was a not something of nostalgia, but a memory of Jim Crow.

The Plaza, at several times throughout its history, did not admit Blacks, or sequestered them to the top balcony, the so-called Colored Balcony. Bill Rast, in Cynthia Farah Haines book Showtime! From Opera Houses to Picture Places in El Paso says the “colored balcony” had “one exit and one stairway....” Farah Haines states, “As late as the 1960s, the segregation policy at the Plaza was maintained.”

Birth of a Nation

The Plaza would also do a yearly screening of D.W. Griffith's overtly racist Birth of a Nation, in which the Ku Klux Klan is portrayed as heroes riding in like cavalry to save White women from African-American mongrels (of course they were Whites in black face).

According to Farah Haines, in 1962, when The Plaza screened A Raisin in the Sun, a film with African-American actor Sidney Portier in which an “African-American man confronts racism when he attempts to move into a White neighborhood...Demonstrations were held outside the Plaza to protest the fact that Black patrons were not allowed to purchase tickets to see the film.”

Renovate The Plaza: Dale Gas

The Plaza even had a back entrance for Blacks as they were not allowed to enter thru the front. This also had a separate ticket seller for Blacks. Even sitting up their today, the chairs are thin and uncomfortable. It is no wonder, that some have no nostalgia for the theatre, as they were not allowed in or kept secluded on a Jim Crow balcony.

Despite its Jim Crow past, by the 1990s, the movement to renovate and reopen the The Plaza went full throttle. The El Paso Community Foundation led the effort to reopen the theatre and its is impressive what was accomplished. As far as the Jim Crow issues, some African-Americans supported the reopening and renovation. They wanted to see the theatre, as they were not allowed before 1962 when the El Paso City Council outlawed discrimination in public places.

Antique Theatres

When one visits other cities, old and working theatres like the Plaza are a dime a dozen, although none marvel the beauty of the Plaza

Kansas City for example had probably two dozen old theaters still in service: The Folly, the Gem, The Repertory, The Uptown, The Box. Some were used by Theatre troupes, other hosted the symphony and the ballet, others host shows and bands. Some are small, some are grand. The Gem in the historic 12th Street and Vine district brings in jazz concerts and more. 

The Gem in Kansas City's 12th and Vine District

Should El Paso stop with The Plaza?. What about smaller theatres? Many buildings that housed old theatres are still standing. El Paso lacks a smaller vintage stage for theatre works and for small concerts.

Who knows what renovations have been made to the point that the theatre aspect of the buildings in question, are only a memory. One example is The Colon, it hosts a store presently. El Alambra (The Palace) has hosted a never-ending of open and shut night clubs. Even outside of downtown, there is The Pershing Theater and the Mission Theatre in the Alameda-Piedras-Copia Business District. 

El Colon 2011, presently hosts three stores (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Balcony of El Colon, March 2011 (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Looking toward former stage area of El Colon, March 2011 (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Shield atop of stage at El Colon, Mar. 2011 (Photo: Ray Rojas)

The Alambra (aka The Palace) on El Paso Street (Photo: Altman Collection, El Paso Public Library)
The Alambra (aka The Palace) on S. El Paso Street, now a night club called______ (not worth naming as the name will change within six months)

The Pershing Theater serves as a studio. The Misson Theater, which catered to the African-American community until the late 1950s also served as a union hall for many years. It now sits unused. Farah Haines says the theater was “designed by architect O.H. Thorman to look like a Southwest mission. The exterior was cream-colored brick stucco, antiqued with false cracks, with a bell in the tower, colored Mexican tile in the arch at the top of the facade, and stain glass windows. The interior featured a 30-foot lobby and a mural with a Spanish theme.” I once sat 750 patrons on two levels. What the possibilities for this theatre to help revitalize the Chamizal neighborhood, only time could tell.

Former Mission Theater and United Steelworkers Hall on Alameda (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Pershing Theater in Five Points (Photo: Billy Smith)

Theatres do not have to be big to function. If anyone looks at the host of theatre troupes functioning in our city, one can imagine the use these theaters could offer. Then again, knowing the history of headaches the Plaza Theatre supporters went through to renovate and now keep The Plaza open, it not easy. Most certainly, The Community Foundation had to write business plans that The Plaza could follow to survive. Moreover, few are those who know how to renovate theatres and keep them open and flourishing afterward.

Some of these theatres were originally opened as movie houses, so use in stage production is a question. Definitively, the Plaza, despite is Jim Crow aura, is a good example.

On the other hand, some of these still-standing buildings that use to have a theatre are owned by private sector, so dreams of renovation and re-use as a theater may never be fulfilled.

However, the dreams for smaller theatre venues that theatre troupes can use may be a necessity and will further spur the theatrical arts in El Paso and spur bands that play small venues to visit El Paso.

Presently, theater troupe use the following venues:

Fox Fine Arts Center at UTEP (Fox Fine Arts Studio Theatre)
Fox Fine Arts Center at UTEP (Wise Family Theatre)
El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC Performers Studio)(good use)
Kids-N-CO. Education and Performance Center, 1301 Texas Av. (exclusive use for the Kid-N-Co.)
El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana (I'm not sure if this was a theatre originally. It is exclusively used for the El Paso Playhouse troupe)
El Chamizal National Memorial Theatre (heavy use)
UTEP Dinner Theatre (this is almost exclusively used for the dinner theatre. It was originally the Union Ballroom)
Philanthropy Theatre (this is in the Plaza Theatre complex seats 191)
El Paso Public Library Main – 250 seat auditorium
Magoffin Auditorium at UTEP

Rarely-used venues:
Adobe Horseshoe Theatre in San Elizario, Texas

Other stage venues:
Union Cinema Theater

The following are good for readings and lectures, not necessarily for plays:
UTEP Geology Building Auditorium
UTEP Geology Reading Room
Various Schools (El Paso High is used a lot, Socorro also has a good auditorium)
El Paso Public Library
UTEP College of Business Auditorium


The Glasshouse - this opened this year or last year near Texas and Cotton.

The former Princess Theatre was in this Benny's Pawn Shop location. It is unknown whether this was the Princess Theatre building. (Photo: Ray Rojas)

The Mexican Theater was at this location at 403 S. El Paso St. (Photo: Ray Rojas)

This was the location of the Eureka Theatre at 315 S. El Paso St. I'm unsure if this was the original building. The Loft Light Studio sits on the second floor. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
This building at 2317 Texas Ave. has a theatre front facade, but I'm unsure if this is the original Turn of the Century Theatre, which according to El Paso historian Leon Metz catered to African-Americans (Photo: Ray Rojas)

According to Farah Haines, Wigwam Theatre at 110 San Antonio was designed by architect Henry Trost. The name was changed to The Rialto in 1921, then back to the Wigwam in 1922. (Photo: Altman Collection, El Paso Public Library)
According to Farah Haines, The Wigwam was renamed The State Theater in 1949. It showed films until 1981 when it began showing X-rated films later closing in 1981. It now is a retail store and restaurant. (Photo: Ray Rojas).
This building at 702 S. El Paso was the location of the Star Theater. The building still has a theater like interior although I'm unsure if this is the original Star Theatre building. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Location of the Paris (aka Iris) Theatre at 606 S. El Paso. I'm unsure if this is the original edifice. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Crystal Theatre (Altman Collection: El Paso Public Library)

This building at 713 S. El Paso sits at the location of the Crystal Theatre. The black and white photo above is a side view of the Crystal. This location has a theatre facade, but I'm unsure if it is the original Crystal Theatre building. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
The Cine Mexicano was at this location at 815 S. Stanton. I'm unsure if this was the original building. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
El Alcazar (aka El Calcetin Parado) was at this location at 506-8 S. El Paso Street. Joey 2 and Payless Shoes currently sits on this corner directly across from the former El Colon. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
This building at 1323 Alameda in the Alameda Business District near Piedras and Copia has a theatre exterior. It may have been the Lincoln Theatre. It does sit at the address of the old theatre. The building appears to be vacate as of March 2011. (Photo: Ray Rojas)
Former Lincoln Theatre? (Photo: Ray Rojas)

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
Cookout will follow the tour at Lincoln Park
Bring your walking shoes

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