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In the 1990’s when El Paso’s Hispanics were beginning to assert political power in the city, several Latinos emerged as power players. One of them was Alicia Chacon. The other four Latino political power players, according to the El Paso Times in 1990, were Charlie Ponzio, Ramiro Guzman, Lina Frescas Dobbs and Ray Mancera. Pete Duarte, a founder of the Hispanic Leadership Institute and a well-known El Pasoan who worked in Segundo Barrio penned a letter to the El Paso Times on October 13, 1991. In it, Duarte wrote that “using malicious lies,” unknown individuals were trying to undermine Carmen Felix’ work in Segundo Barrio to “further their own interests.” [15] Who was the malicious liar? It was Ray Mancera.

The gentrification of Duranguito and Segundo Barrio tends to be blamed on an Anglo oligarchy, but the reality is that El Paso’s Hispanics often help with the gentrification of poor Hispanic communities because of selfish interests. While one group of Latinos is helping to save poor Mexican-American communities from eradication, other groups of El Paso’s Hispanics work to gentrify South El Paso to make way for economic development. As the Hispanic Leadership Institute has proven, unified Hispanic political power is not possible when members within the community work to undermine each other. Ray Mancera proves this dynamic.

Ray Mancera was born in Cd. Juárez and seems to have become politically active in the late 1970’s. It appears that Mancera entered the public realm as a traffic judge at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) sometime in the late 1970’s. [4] He is active in the League of United American Citizens (LULAC). Politically, he was likened to San Antonio’s Henry Cisneros, while helping his brothers run their wholesale shoe and other business interests. He also ran Mancera Productions, a boxing promoting business from 1981 through 1995 with his brothers, Albert and Manny. [5] The Mancera brothers also had business interests in Cd. Juárez, including at least one boxing gym.

Another business that Mancera ran was the Fox Plaza flea market. Several violations during the first inspection of the flea market by city officials in 1987 were discovered. This was not to be the only time that Mancera would be exposed by city officials for his business practices. In the Fox Plaza case, city officials were most concerned about the illegal use of electrical extension cords that posed a fire hazard. Mancera took over the operations of the flea market in January 1987. However, in October 1986, the City Plan Commission implemented new rules for flea markets after many complaints were lodged with the city about parking and other issues with the flea markets. Serving on the plan commission at the time it required the new rules for flea markets was Mancera. [7] As readers will discover, Mancera used his position to unfairly benefit his business interests and impede residential development in Segundo Barrio at the expense of commercial interests.

One of Mancera’s competitors in the flea market business was Carlos Sandoval, who ran the Bronco Swap Meet. Sandoval complained that city officials were giving Mancera special treatment in allowing him to operate without meeting the stringent new requirements implemented by the city the year before. [7]

A few days after the city documented problems as Mancera’s flea market, the owner of Fox Plaza, shut down the city’s largest flea market on Saturdays after shopping center owners complained that Mancera’s operation was taking up too many of the customers’ parking spaces. [8] It was the mall owner and not the city that stepped in.

Mancera also ran the Caddy Shack at the Ascarate Municipal Golf Course. In 1998, the County paid Mancera $120,000 to buy out the Ascarate concession from him. The county was forced to buy him out over a disagreement with the concession contract between Mancera and the county. [3] The county spent $1 million in emergency funds to defend against Mancera’s lawsuit. [14] At issue was Mancera’s failure to provide the insurance required by his contract with the county. The county’s ineptitude of not following the notifications provisions of the contract allowed Mancera to claim victory, although he did acknowledge not purchasing the required insurance.

The Politics Of Mancera

By the middle 1980’s, Ray Mancera’s name was floated in El Paso as a political up and coming Hispanic leader. Before the advent of online politics, Ray Pearson, an attorney, used to hold almost weekly open political meetings to discuss candidates and public policy. Pearson’s group was formed in 1981. His forum averaged about 25 to 65 participants. Pearson also used to mail out flyers to about 125 individuals, the majority of which were non-elected officials. [6]

Pearson moved away from hosting the meetings in 1986 towards actively endorsing candidates for elective office. Pearson told the El Paso Times in 1986 that “in El Paso there’s a political vacuum.” Pearson added that “there’s a small group that is running” the city’s politics, and that “political concentration in the hands of a few is bad.” [6]

In 1986, Pearson offered the El Paso Times a list of 13 individuals he labeled as “among the best and brightest.” Among them were names like Lupe Rivera-Eggemeyer, Ted Houghton, Phil Martinez, Charlie Ponzio and Ray Mancera. [6] That same year, then-city representative Orlando Fonseca appointed Mancera to the City Plan Commission. [1] Mancera served on the plan commission between 1986 and 1991. [3]

In 1990, Ray Mancera worked with Tati Santiesteban’s senate campaign as a co-chairman. [9] Mancera ran for public office several times, losing each time. In 1995, when long-time Texas Senator Peggy Rosen announced she was retiring, several individuals announced they would be seeking her seat. Ray Mancera was one of them. The list also included Joe Pickett, Eliot Shapleigh, Hector Villa and then-state representative Nancy McDonald. [10] In 1996, Mancera ran against Eliot Shapleigh for state senate. Mancera finished third in the March 12, 1996 Democratic Primary, behind Shapleigh and Villa. [3] [11] Shapleigh went on to win the state senator seat.

In 1998, Mancera ran against Paul Moreno for Moreno’s state representative seat. [2] [12] At first, Mancera was taken off the ballot because he had filed to run for two offices in that primary. After going to court, Mancera was allowed to remain on the ballot against Moreno. [13]

Mancera, although proclaimed an upcoming political leader failed on several attempts to be elected.

The Mancera “Vicious Lies”

On August 9, 1991, anonymous flyers started to appear in the mailboxes of residents living in South El Paso. The Spanish-language flyers asked, “did you know that there is a person in Segundo Barrio that says she helps the poor people but in reality she is only helping herself?” The flyer identified Carmen Felix as the person taking advantage of the poor residents in Segundo Barrio. (link 3) [17]

At first, Mancera denied that he was behind the flyers. He told the El Paso Times that people should “consider the source (Carman Felix),” adding that “coming from Carmen you can expect something like this.” [17]

On August 19, 1991, Felix complained about the flyers to then-mayor Bill Tilney. Tilney refused to remove Mancera from the plan commission. [18] The following day, city council was expecting to hear a zoning case involving Felix’ organization in Segundo Barrio. Mancera was the chairman of the city’s Plan Commission that advised city council on how to zone the property before them. [17]

Mancera had mailed 600 anonymous fliers accusing Carmen Felix “of being a Nicaraguan communist who was paying herself a fat salary.” Felix found the print shop clerk, Edward Boxx, [17] who took Mancera’s print order and identified him as the individual that ordered the flyers.

On September 17, 1991, Carmen Felix filed a lawsuit against Ray Mancera for libel. Mancera responded by threatening to file his own lawsuit against Felix. Mancera was quoted in the newspaper as stating, “I’ve held off because a lot of people have pleaded with me to let it all die,” adding that he thinks “it’s unfortunate that things have come to the point that two community leaders have to resort to court. [19]

When Mancera created the flyers, he was still chairman of the city’s Plan Commission. After originally denying that he was behind the anonymous flyers, Mancera admitted on November 22, 1991 that he was the individual that handed out the flyers denigrating Carmen Felix. Mancera said that he made the flyers because Felix and her supporters were harassing him over the decisions he made at the plan commission. In addition to alleging that Felix was a communist, Mancera also alleged that Felix was “pocketing $2 million in grants and paying herself a $60,000 yearly salary.” [16] According to tax records, Felix reported $12,239 in income in 1990 [17]. Mancera publicly retracted in a press conference the false allegations he made against Felix on November 22, 1991. [16]

In January 1993, Ray Mancera settled the case with Carmen Felix paying her $5,000. [3] Felix gave the $5,000 to Bowie High School. [20]

Ray Mancera created a whisper campaign against Carmen Felix for political purposes. It was Felix’ enterprising sleuthing that proved it was Mancera who was behind the anonymous mailers. But the damage was done because the flyer and the back-and-forth between Felix and Mancera left voters wondering who was right or wrong. The court settlement proving the complicity of Mancera took years and was barely a blip in the news cycles.

Although Mancera had been caught red-handed his profile in the El Paso Hispanic community remains high, as if his “vicious lies” are just part of the political landscape of the city. Carmen Felix spent her life fighting for the soul of Segundo Barrio but the person that political operatives in El Paso hold up as “leaders” of El Paso’s politics are often the Ray Mancera’s and Ramiro Guzman’s of the community.

Footnotes:

  1. Gary Scharrer, “Mayor Mancera? Just a matter of time,” El Paso Times, June 23 ,1988.
  2. Gary Scharrer, “Moreno to decide whether to retire or to run again,” El Paso Times, October 24, 1999.
  3. David Crowder, “Mancera aims to unseat House veteran Moreno,” El Paso Times, March 1, 1998.
  4. “Dorm residents lack parking spot,” The Prospector (UTEP), October 14, 1977.
  5. Fred Herrera, “Castillo faces ‘most important fight’,” El Paso Times, December 10, 1981.
  6. Gary Scharrer, “He grooms them for politics,” El Paso Times, November 30, 1986.
  7. David Crowder, “Inspection of flea market turns up many violations,” El Paso Times, March 5, 1987.
  8. Amber Smith, “Fox Plaza kicks out flea market on Saturdays,” El Paso Times, March 8, 1987.
  9. Gary Scharrer, “Tati’s spending habits rile supporters,” El Paso Times, January 30, 1990.
  10. Gary Scharrer, “Freshman House member debates Senate run,” El Paso Times, August 27, 1995.
  11. Gordon Dickson, “Shapleigh, villa face off again,” El Paso Times, March 13, 1996.
  12. Patrick C. McDonell, “Concessionaire to run against Moreno,” El Paso Times, December 19, 1997.
  13. Gary Scharrer, “Oft-bickering politicians find themselves temporarily teamed together,” El Paso Times, January 18, 1998.
  14. Allison Gregor, “County uses one-third of emergency funds already,” El Paso Times, February 2, 1998.
  15. Pete T. Duarte, Hispanic Leadership Institute, letter to the editor, El Paso Times, October 13, 1991.
  16. Joe Olvera, “Ex-city official admits passing out critical fliers,” El Paso Times, November 23, 1991.
  17. Denise Bezick, “Housing activist cries foul over flier,” El Paso Times, August 20, 1991.
  18. Denise Bezick, “Tilney won’t ask commission chief to quit,” El Paso Times, August 21, 1991.
  19. David Sheppard, “Felix suit alleges libel by Plan Commission chairman,” El Paso Times, September 20, 1991.
  20. “Felix lawsuit,” News Update, El Paso Times, January 25, 1993.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.

4 replies on “The “Vicious Lies” of Ray Mancera”

    1. “Smells” you are correct, he was involved in bringing the law school to El Paso as well as the medical school. This is a follow up article we have planned. There is more to Mancera that we have yet to report.

  1. Good article. Mancera is not the only politician out to lne his pockets. Its too bad Pete Duarte has not wanted to run for anything

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