Aqua, man

Construction has started on the Aquatic Resort at Montecillo, the smart growth community in West El Paso.

According to social media posts, the resort is scheduled to open in 2021 with a Marriott-brand hotel, event center, day club with three restaurants and patios, waterslides, a “lazy river” pool, business center, fitness facility, yoga rooms and private lounges.

The resort will be open to Montecillo residents and homeowners all the time, and to the public for special events.

Montecillo developer Richard Aguilar is also working on a town center near the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, with retail and office space, restaurants and apartments. 

No flag, man

The beautifully renovated Plaza Hotel is operating without a flag. That means it’s an independent hotel and not part of a big chain like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt or InterContinental.

The pros: a more local experience for travelers, without the predictability often found in corporate chains. The cons: not being a part of a big chain’s website for booking rooms and events.

But the Plaza is part of the Independent Collection, which includes upscale boutique, lifestyle and luxury hotels for the “independently minded travelers.”

Billionaire Paul Foster spent $78 million on renovations, and the Plaza has gotten lots of attention in the travel media.

Bless you, Rudolfo

When a national figure dies, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington honors them by exhibiting their portrait in a space called In Memoriam. With the museum now closed, portraits are posted virtually.

When “Bless Me, Ultima” author Rudolfo Anaya died in June, the museum posted online a portrait of him by El Paso artist Gaspar Enríquez. Commissioned in 2015, it was the museum’s first Latino portrait commission. 

Anaya, who wrote “Ultima” in 1972, emerged as a writer during the height of the Chicano rights movement. The semi-autobiographical novel is set in northern New Mexico, where he grew up. It tells the story of a boy who meets a curandera, or healer, during World War II, and learns the mysteries of nature and spirituality.

“Ultima” is the most-read Chicano novel of all time. A movie based on it premiered before a packed audience at the Plaza Theatre in 2012.

Enríquez called Anaya a great writer, a good friend, a mentor and a kind human being.

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