EL PASO, Texas - The controversy surrounding the downtown arena and the fight to save El Paso's Duranguito neighborhood has taken a new twist.
Mayor Dee Margo and Reps. Cassandra Hernandez-Brown, Michiel Noe, Cissy Lizarraga, Peter Svarzbein, Sam Morgan and Henry Rivera have lashed out at state Sen. Jose Rodriguez after he was quoted in a Texas Monthly article titled "The battle for El Paso's Southside."
The city officials called the article one-sided and inaccurate, but they really took aim at Rodriguez's comments.
In that interview Rodriguez said too many people in El Paso want the city to shed its history and instead become "Gringolandia."
"To capture what El Paso really is, you need to accept the Mexicanness, the Mexican-American, and indigenous roots of El Paso. There's too many people who say, 'I want us to move away from that. I want us to be like Gringolandia, like all the other homogenized American cities,' Rodriguez said.
City officials fired back in a letter sent to Rodriguez and the news media. They called his comments insulting and divisive.
In their letter to Rodriguez, city officials said "We respect your opposition concerning the multipurpose center. We do not respect your comments that seek to divide, insult, and hamper efforts to continue El Paso's renaissance - especially when coming from El Paso's state senator."
El Paso county commissioner Vince Perez also responded to Senator Rodriguez's interview in the Texas Monthly.
"Senator Rodriguez's crass remarks to Texas Monthly that 'There's too many people who say...I want us to be like Gringolandia' are an embarrassment to El Paso and beneath his stature as a senior member of the Texas Senate. His racially-divisive rhetoric further undermines civility in our political discourse and fuels a dangerous 'us versus them' mentality, that has hindered the legislative process in Austin and in Washington. His disparaging remarks set a poor example for our community," Perez said.
Rodriguez's office had no comment about the letter from city officials, but he previously responded to Perez's criticism.
"We should not hide or be ashamed of our city's Mexican heritage; it should be embraced, celebrated, and most importantly, protected against those who seek to diminish it," Rodriguez said.
The city's letter also stated: "We also ask that you fulfill your fiduciary duty on behalf of the voters, taxpayers and residents of El Paso by upholding the referendum vote of November 2012 in which 102,358 (71.6 percent) supported a multipurpose special events center."
Reps. Alexsandra Annello and Claudia Perez did not sign the letter to Rodriguez. ABC 7 could not reach Annello. Perez said she was disappointed in the senator's remarks, but did not believe signing the letter would accomplish anything because Rodiguez is defending his remarks.