As if the Glass Beach study wasn’t enough proof that the current public policy agenda is to erase the Mexican influence over El Paso I offer you another example. A significant part of the raging cultural center debate is about allowing the title to reflect anything having to do with Mexico. This is because it is counter to the political agenda to extract everything having to do with Mexico from the El Paso psyche. Consider the comments attributed to Bernie Sargent in the local paper.

In yesterday’s edition of the local paper, Diana Washington Valdez quotes Bernie Sargent, the chairman of the El Paso Historical Commission as well as the Bond Overview Advisory Committee. Sargent’s comments to Washington Valdez poignantly makes the case for the ongoing de-Mexicanization of El Paso.

Bernie Sargent wants the proposed cultural center to “see the city’s cowboy culture, among others, celebrated.” Washington Valdez adds that Sargent named “John Wesley Hardin” as one of the famous gunslingers he wants celebrated. Hardin, by historical accounts, was a criminal running from the law.

The quest to erase the Mexican influence in El Paso is so great that celebrating a criminal is offered as an example of what the proposed cultural center should offer.

However, in their quest to erase Mexicans from the El Paso landscape; the facts are conveniently ignored. Let us take a quick look at the culture of the cowboy and where it originated from.

Contrary to the notion being perpetuated, the United States did not invent cattle raising or the cowboy way of life. The genesis of the US cowboy is the Mexican vaquero. The vaquero evolved from the Spanish equestrian culture which morphed into the southern charros and the northern vaqueros. The cowboy perpetuated by television, movies, US literature and reenactment groups like Sargent’s are nothing more than a myth. As a matter of fact, many of the cowboys in the El Paso area were smugglers – smuggling cattle, alcohol and other illicit materials across the US-Mexico border.

Now contrast that history with the caricatures created and perpetuated by individuals like Bernie Sargent. Notice that the Mexican is either the criminal or the caricature in the movies, books and the reenactments perpetuated by groups such as the Six Guns and Shady Ladies. In other words, Cowboys have been Anglicinised and the Mexican influence effectively erased from the presentations.

This is exactly what is going on with the naming of the cultural center fiasco; the erasure of anything having to do with Mexicans.

Clearly, naming the cultural center the “heritage” center only does one thing; it keeps the Mexican identity out of the El Paso landscape. That is the policy agenda that is driving this debacle and has been driving the continued gentrification of Mexicans from El Paso.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

20 replies on “The De-Mexicanization of El Paso”

  1. Peppers would love it if the heritage center “celebrated” the Old Kansas Street brothel culture. It would be fun to cum up with exhibits for that part of our culture:)

  2. While reasonable people may concede your point, the problem is that voters do not subscribe to your viewpoint and continue to elect those with europhile bent. Historical reality is brutal. Witness that our ancestors experienced a holocaust that makes Nazis look like an afternoon tea party. You speak Spanish, a European language, and not Maya or Nahuatl or Wirrarika… And there we are.

  3. Or, we could all just paint our houses pink and park our cars in the front yard as a symbol of our solidarity with Mexican culture 🙂

  4. Peppers, you’re just ignorant.

    Jaime, “Makes Nazi’s look like an afternoon tea party?” Perhaps you should try a different analogy.

    1. Why did you find the analogy of extermination of native americans with Nazi extermination of jews and catholics inaccurate? The history of Mexico with the Spanish enslavement and mass murders and inquisition is horrific. Estimates are that over 70 million souls populated the americas. After a period of 20 years 1.5 million remained.. That is pretty horrific.

      1. The above notwithstanding, I don’t want to add to the interracial divisiveness because of inartful commentary, so to any persons who may have been offended, I sincerely apologize.

  5. Enough with self pity and screams of discrimination against Mexicans in a 85% Mexican city! That is absolutely, totally stupid, look around you, who owns the stores, who is on the police force, who sits on city council, who is your neighbor, look at the driver of the next car. Listen to the language.

    Whether you like it or not, truth of the matter is El Paso was not built by one ethic group. It was built on the backs of mutltiple ethic groups. The Native Americans, the Spaniards, the Mezitos , Chinese, Arabs, French, German, former Slaves, the list is endless. You cannot rewrite history ! Do any of you realize how stupid you sound about this issue? Other states and Texas are laughing. Museums are designed to showcase ALL history(story!). For crying out loud, you can hear the German influence in our music.

    The fight over the name of the cultural center reeks of racism and displays El Paso as such. Don’t pretend you’re not a racist to some degree. In the privacy of your home or among company. I am sure you use, pinche matayte, fucking chink, asshole wet back, tooth fairy faggot, rag heads, grease ball, gabacho, should I go on. If you ever used those terms even once you ARE a racist. So now you want to highlight the racism with a museum?

    Then we have those that profess we don’t like ourselves because we refuse to feed into this nonsense. More likely YOU don’t like us! That idiot Muench goes with the wind, nobody asked him. Don’t ever expect this guy to have your back in a fight. He’s the kind that will see which side is winning and THEN pick a side. To his credit Renteria told like it is. The most racist people in El Paso are Mexicans ! Heck we even discriminate against each other based on money, age, neighborhood, position, education, politics and the worst, shade of brown or whiteness.

    Don Williams is taking a lot flack for telling you the truth. He knows what’s going on in this city when it comes to race or ethic groups. Heed what he is saying, bring unity and recognition to this city by showing everybody, we are all different but we are one as El Pasoans. Is he against Mexicans ? Well, hello he is married to a Mexican and as he likes to describe his children, blackicans. Is he perfect, of course not, but he is not anti-Mexican.

    This follows the Lincon building that makes us look terrible and shows despite all the money that is being spent to make the city look modern, we are still in the dark ages(no pun). Can you imagine what the Bowling Tourists are thinking? It’s all over the media. So they know this a divided city. They know that when you have visitors to your home, clean up and make the house look good, but don’t move the furniture or look in the kitchen sink. If we believe these people impressed, you’re tripping. If you ask a visitor to your home their opinion, do you believe they will tell you the house has a lot of hidden problems. Slapping paint on the old shack doesn’t fix the foundation.

    If you want corporations and families to relocate El Paso, stop this stupidity that highlights your racism. Accept the facts, everybody built this city and let’s tell that story. To hell with the other cities. We are El Pasoans and let’s show them.

  6. Someone please hand “El Pasoan” a dictionary so he can look up what the term “racism.” It was a half decent rant but he/her forgot that most major cities have cultural centers of all types.

    Considering the latent racial prejudice directed at Latinos in El Paso, it’s no surprise that there’s so much pushback. But to turn the Hispanic Cultural Center into a history/culture museum is a mistake. Too many people are focusing on the term “culture” and mistaking it for the word “race.” A race, like “RAZA,” which only exist in the minds of the far right, the far left, and the Chicana/o/Latin@ studies department of universities.

    In this case, I believe the term was meant to be more encompassing and includes art, music, lit., and other cultural expressions. In other words, people voted for a center that would celebrate and highlight El Paso’s diverse Hispanic heritage, not declare its superiority.

  7. Someone remind Victor where he lives. Like I said, the hell with what other cities do. This is El Paso, stop trying to be like other cities !

    Also remind him, who built this city. They weren’t all named Jose !

  8. I’m sorry labeling any center paid by taxpayers of all races and creeds an ethnically biased center…well, is ethnically biased. I think this center is waste of money and just increases more taxes later. UGH…El Pasoans will never learn that individual drive and innovation is much better than making government bigger with entertainment fluff. The private industry does a much better job at entertainment without forcing property owners to pay for those who don’t care about not paying for any of it. Last, I resent having my tax money being used to cater to any “group” over any other no matter what the majority is.

    1. “El Pasoans will never learn that individual drive and innovation is much better than making government bigger…”
      Not as long as they think they are Mexicans. That is what Mexico does.

  9. Dear El Pasoan and James You’ve impaled yourselves with your own arguments. Corporations and families are flocking to cities like San Antonio, Austin, Phoenix, Albuquerque with “racist” (by your twisted definition) Latino/Hispanic cultural centers. They’re staying away from El Paso which by your definition would be a generic utopia of non-racial distinction. And James, these publicly-funded cultural centers, along with public libraries, theaters and yes, even sports stadiums are a stunning success with the masses. In short, you,lol have to try harder to conjure up stronger arguments to bolster your anti-Mexican bias.

  10. Oh and PS, “museums” are not the same thing as a cultural center. They also don’t feature “all” history. There’s air and space, history, anthropology, cowboy, border patrol, art, museums, each featuring distinct themes. But hey, if you think you’re not being represented, turn on Fox News.

  11. Typical for El Paso, call a Mexican an anti-Mexican, lol. I am as proud as the next Mexican to be a Mexican. Which feeds into my previous comments. We discriminate against our own, even to the point that the shades of brown becomes an issue.


  12. I think one solution would be to have a cultural center with a permanent rotating Hispanic exhibit and a rotating “other” exhibit. Around holidays and themes, they could center around the many cultures that contribute to the history of El Paso.

  13. Vegas, not a bad idea. It would be easier if they had one center with multiple rooms with a room for each ethic group. And the ethic group would be responsible for setting up and maintaining the displays. They could change the setting whenever.

  14. I think you are incorrect….with Limon leading the charge on this issue to be a Hispanic cultural center..her leadership skills and many sub committees should ensure that this becomes reality for the people of El Paso…once she leads her committees to agree the project will surely be completed in a timely fashion. I believe Limon can get this done since she has over 75 people on variouse committees to ensure its success. She even has 2 more years to make it happen. With that much community involvement I’m positive she can push this project thru.

  15. Anon…people are moving to those cities in search of jobs. They could care less if there is a cultural center or not.

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