Since 2016, a falsehood has been spread nationwide about El Paso’s history that has cost citizens millions in legal fees and tarnished its reputation.

It is on the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt in a segment featuring El Pasoan David Romo. While Romo stood inside the Pancho Villa stash house on Leon Street in front of lights and cameras, he repeated the untruth that El Paso will destroy its Latino heritage by bulldozing “Duranguito.”

What Romo failed to say is that the Villa stash house – a real Latino heritage site – is a block away from “Duranguito,” the name he and Max Grossman gave to three blocks south of El Paso’s civic center after the city designated them as the location for its voter-approved multipurpose center.

The facility is needed to enliven El Paso’s binational Downtown, expand conventions and give purpose to historic buildings. Yet Romo and Grossman – in a self-proclaimed effort to “beat the city” – persist in spreading the lie that three deserted blocks – 70% asphalt – are the “birthplace of El Paso” and its “oldest neighborhood.”

The deceit has seeped into Wikipedia in an entry for “Duranguito,” where footnotes link to articles from the controversy Grossman and Romo stirred up. It lists the Villa stash house and the Trost firehouse within the “neighborhood,” though they lie outside the area.

El Paso’s crown jewels of historic preservation – the Paso del Norte Hotel (1912), Plaza Hotel (1930), Aloft Hotel (1930), Stanton House (1911), Mills and Centre buildings (1911-1912), and modern Hotel Indigo – area a block away, as is South El Paso Street, lined with frontier architecture in need of refurbishment. Knowing the surroundings of the MPC site lends credence to the city’s wisdom.

Enrique Guajardo, a historic preservationist from Juárez, has invested in four historic buildings along one side of the MPC site. His plans are to turn the Villa stash house into a restaurant/bar, offering Mexican cuisine from different states and a variety of tequila, sotol and mezcal. The time is not yet right, he says. Other restaurants in the neighborhood have opened and quickly closed.

He’s also restoring the “Coffin House” – El Paso’s first wooden home, built in the 1880s after lumber arrived with the railroad. He’s turning it into an Airbnb.

As he looks across the street from his historic properties towards the fenced-in site of the MPC, Enrique says he’s glad the people who lived in the area – in one case a family of 14 in a 2-bedroom apartment – have been relocated to homes and a better way of life.

When asked about the city’s planned facility – a project overwhelmingly passed by citizens in a 2012 quality of life bond election – Enrique responds enthusiastically, “It’s a good idea!”


Adair Margo is the former first lady of El Paso and founder of the Tom Lea Institute. She received the DAR Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation in 2019.

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(1) comment

JTX

Gaslighting 101 by a preservationist of exclusively white culture and benefactors of wealthy white developer largesse.

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