It never ceases to amaze me how much history I come across in my various research projects that is connected to El Paso. It surprises me, not because it involves El Paso, but because the rich historical connections are routinely ignored by the El Paso elites. I know there is much history in El Paso and it frustrates me to no end because El Paso is constantly and always looking to emulate other cities. At first, I thought that the historical aspects of El Paso were ignored because no one had taken the time to properly document the history. Unfortunately, as I better understood El Paso’s oligarchy, I soon realized that it was not ignoring El Paso’s history but rather re-envisioning it into something less Mexico-centric.
El Paso has always used certain historical aspects to identify itself but those historical events are nothing more than an attempt to shed El Paso’s “Mexicanisms” and make it more Anglo-centric. Take, for example, the “First Thanksgiving” branding event the city has been peddling for a few years now. Thanksgiving Day has always been identified with the Anglo-centric north-eastern part of the country – basically the region of the original thirteen colonies. Thanksgiving is as “American” as apple pie is.
The problem for me with this bastardization of a US holiday is that there is no need for it. El Paso is rich in history, more so than the original thirteen colonies. In many ways, El Paso is representative of what the US is, an assimilation of various ethnicities and cultures coexisting and melding into a country made up of various identities.
The fact is that the Anglo-centricity of the US is slowly diminishing and evolving into a multicultural identity that is representative of a country based on various cultures all striving to lead the world well into the future. Tacos are now as common as hotdogs in almost every city across the nation.
However, therein lies the problem, tacos and everything else associated with El Paso’s rich history is apparently too Hispanic or too connected to Mexico for the oligarchs of the city. This is precisely why El Paso is always comparing itself to other cities; celebrating when an Anglo-centric overpriced grocery store opens up in the city or El Paso gets noticed in some uppity magazine for something not too Mexican, or ethnic for that matter.
I started thinking about this again when I came across Oscar F. Perdomo in some research material I am working on currently.
First Lieutenant Oscar F. Perdomo was born in El Paso, Texas. I believe that not many reading my blog today have ever heard of Perdomo although he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in combat. I had never heard of him until I came across his name in a thesis I am reading for a current project I am working on. In a city dependent and coexisting with the military, it saddened me that no one had ever brought him to my attention.
So why did I care about Oscar Perdomo?
Combat pilots who shoot down five or more aircraft in combat have been accorded the distinction “ace” since air combat became part of war. As technology increased in air combat achieving the honorific title of “ace” became more difficult. As a matter of fact, Cesar Rodriguez, who retired from the US Air Force in 2007, has the most air-to-air kills of any US pilot then and currently on active duty. Rodriguez retired with three kills to his credit, not enough to earn him the title of “ace.”
Oscar Perdomo has the distinction of being the last “Ace in a Day” fighter pilot for the United States in World War II. On August 13, 1945, Perdomo shot down five Japanese fighters in a single day, earning him the honorific title of “Ace in a Day.” As far as I can ascertain there have been less than fifty “Aces in a Day” pilots.
Perdomo was the last US fighter pilot to have earned that distinction in World War II.
I realize that the story of Oscar Perdomo may not be significant enough for recognition within the general community of El Paso. However, his achievement should have been noted somewhere in a community where the military is a significant participant. I point out the story of Perdomo because, although not significant enough to warrant a whole event around, the fact that I had not heard about him before shows me that El Paso doesn’t seem to care to embrace Hispanic, or Mexican-centric history. Instead, El Paso is always looking to invent Anglo-centric holidays and historical events in what I believe is a continued attempt to distance the city from its Mexican roots.
Just as many of the readers today were probably not aware of Oscar Perdomo, like me, there are many more significant historical events centered on El Paso – that not only is the basis of the identity of the city, but also could be the catalyst that El Paso is so feverishly searching for in economic development.
The problem, though, appears to be that the El Paso leadership wants nothing to do with El Paso “Mexicanism” and instead looks for ways to be like other cities, the more Anglo-centric the better it seems.
Im very glad that you bringing this up and hopefully many hispanos can read and understand the importance of this. I’m tired of reading the gabacho history’s versions only. Look now into the battle of Rio Rapido IIww in Italy.
I don’t understand your title or ending of this story. Who is this “leadership” you refer to? What proof do you have that Mexicanism is being wiped away? Your own example of The First Thanksgiving is also puzzling. Onate was Mexican, born on Spanish soil. His mother was Moctezumas grand daughter. His 300 colonists were also. I saw a huge sculpture at the airport last month of him. I don’t understand your point? Do you want to honor the Ace Fighter pilot? Great, you should form a committee, team up with the air museum or someone and get it done. Every memorial or work of Art needs a group of volunteers to make it happen. You seem to just complain rather than go out and actively do. So why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and get your Ace Memorial project going.
Jorge..Onate was evil and that statue created a lot of controversy. You are out of touch.
Maybe it is you and Martin that are out of touch. I’d say the truly evil one of that time period was Moctezuma himself. Daily human sacrifices and genocide of ones own race is far worse. I don’t see the controversy and would love to see a sculpture of Moctezumas one day. You both have double standards. It’s ancient history after all.
Here’s a very interesting description of what DF used to look like back in the day.
Jorge, it has been my policy not to allow links to other websites on my blog. Please feel free to post a description if you like. However, I did not make any comments about the appropriateness of Don Juan de Oñata on my piece. But you should note that I believe that Onate’s place in history should be noted for establishing various communities across the Americas. I support a statue of Juan de Oñate in El Paso but not one paid for by the taxpayers of the community. Also, my comments on the First Thanksgiving has nothing to do with Oñate and everything to do with revisionist history about a thanksgiving feast in El Paso. As Catholic, the Conquistadores routinely held thanksgiving masses as they progressed through the New World. As a matter of fact, the indigenous populations were forced into Catholicism as part of the conquest of the New World. I imagine many thanksgiving events were held as more Indians were forced into slavery.
Thank you for your comments on my blog,
You use words like “conquest” and “forced into slavery”…. “forced into Catholicism” ect…. Wasn’t Moctezuma doing the same thing to the same indigenous people only on a much grander and evil scale? I’m still having a hard time understanding the point you are trying to make with your summary of erasing “Mexicanism”… San Elizario celebrates the first thanksgiving as if it were indeed a Mexican thing unique to this region. El Paso even named the baseball team after the State of Chihuahua? Our culture here is unique, but then again you live in Florida….you went as far away from Mexicanism as you could. Double Standard.
Martin, another hero, not well known is Marcellino Serna. Born in Mexico, served the U.S. as a citizen of Mexico although he was given the opportunity more than once to be discharged.
We are working with legisilators and DOD to upgrade his award from the DSC to the Medal of Honor.
Do the research and know the rest of the story
Thank you for pointing him out. I am aware of him and I am planning a piece on him. Those that follow my Twitter @martinparedes or the blog’s Twitter at @epnewsblog may have already seen the graphic I made listing the seven citizens of Mexico who have earned the Medal of Honor for valor in war while still citizens of Mexico. As a matter of fact tomorrow I’m unveiling a project on my blog showcasing the many Mexican contributions to the United States.
That’s a great idea. You should start with first thanksgiving in San Elizario. That would make sense to do it chronologically.
Everything Mexican is odious to me and I do not desire any association with it. Even their food – glop fried in lard – is sickening to eat.
Martin, most people don’t know but there was a Mexican that received the MOH in WWI. He was awarded the medal before they realized his full name was Barkley-Cantu. He didn’t tell them of his heritage and used Barkley as his name.
The basis of a review is that Serna did the same thing that SGT Alvin York accomplished but he did it by himself. Whereas SGT York went with 17 men and a SGT in charge.
Jorge go read The Last Conquistador. And then we can have a book club moment.
Oh ya Jorge, murder is murder and one killer is not better than an other. The Aztecs got what they had coming to them. Now what? You are out of touch.
Erecting a statute to Juan de Oñate is like erecting a statue to commentate Hitler– in Warsaw where the Jewish ghetto was. You cannot erase or deny history but it is immoral and highly offensive to pay tribute to genocidal tyrants.
I don’t know that it’s anti-Mexican racism per se as it is bigotry against the poor who are overwhelmingly Mexican or Chicano. Whether it’s removing the city buses from the “new” progressive DT to Segundo Barrio or placing the spaghetti bowl and future interchange right through the poor Chamizal neighborhood and the destruction of Lincoln Center and the Chicano murals. It is associated with poverty and the oligarchs and their puppets like Escobar, et. al. enable that. The infamous Glass-Beach study is the ultimate symbol. That’s not to say there aren’t bigoted elements in power.. Just read Morgan-Lilly and Niland’s insults against the people of SB or the “hip hop clubs” and the “dark cloud” they cast over the Union District. There’s also Stevo Ortega’s ignorant writing about “Juareños” and Bytd’s comments to Playboy about the troops bring their otherness and big city gangs to town proving you liberal scan be bigots and don’t have to be white to be a bigot even against your own kind (which Steve rejects because he associates it with poverty and he sees himself in a higher rung). All you have to do is read the El Paso times and it’s glorification of people like the de la Vegas or the Juarez oligarchy and its refusal to acknowledge accomplishments or major news involving the commoners that only El Diario or Telemundo and Univision will.
WTF has Mexico or Mexicans ever done for the world that anyone cares about? Operas? Science?
Although I’m probably wasting my time; here is a just quick sample of prominent Mexicans in the sciences. These came from a current project I’m working on related to spaceships.
Miguel Alcubierre: known for the proposed “Alcubierre drive”, a speculative warp drive by which a spacecraft could achieve faster-than-light travel.
Jacob David Bekenstein: contributed to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics and to other aspects of the connections between information and gravitation.
Nabor Carrillo Flores: He represented Mexico in the atomic test of the atoll of Bikini in 1946. The lunar crater Carrillo is named after him.
Ana María Cetto: Her specialty is Quantum Mechanics, Stochastic Electrodynamics and Biological Physics. Was the Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.
Alejandro Corichi is a theoretical physicist working the understanding of classical aspects of black holes, to the non-commutativity and black holes within the approach known as Loop quantum gravity and to loop quantum cosmology.
Guillermo Haro: astrophysicist and astronomer; co-discoverer of Herbig-Haro objects.
Theodore Brewster Taylor: A Mexican-born, American theoretical physicist and prominent nuclear weapon designer.
These are all Mexicans. I hope you noticed the connection to the science linked to the future of mankind!
Tomorrow, my blog post will be in response to your challenge,
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