Racial dot map shows how far El Paso has come

A look back at a one-time all black community

Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
POSTED: 07:20 PM MDT Aug 22, 2013    UPDATED: 11:11 AM MST Jan 16, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

Earlier this month a researcher at University of Virginia released a map depicting the segregation, diversity and clustering of races.

While some of the largest cities in America are showcased as segregated, El Paso looks different. Thanks in large part to its proximity to the border, when one zooms in on the map, it is nearly impossible to see where non-Hispanics live. In fact, historically black neighborhoods are shown as predominantly Hispanic.

ABC-7 visited the McCall neighborhood in central El Paso. Walking into the McCall neighborhood center on the 3200 block of Wyoming Avenue is like stepping back in time. Within its doors you'll find pictures, mementos and books from a time when the community was all-black. Its students were sent far away to the Douglass School, the only black school in El Paso.

Cleola Berry, 92, moved to the McCall neighborhood during the early 1940s. Unlike in much of the rest of the country, blacks were treated well here, she said. However, Berry said there were issues. Blacks could only go freely to a single El Paso theatre. Often, she said the African-American community would find themselves in Mexico.

"I think it was called Alejandro," said Berry. "We would go to Mexico and it was beautiful and well-equipped. They had American pictures there."

At that time the Plaza Theatre, now a jewel of El Paso's downtown, didn't allow blacks to sit in the balcony. Now, she has a commemorative brick in front of the theatre.

"Over the P-L-A-Z, right there I believe, straight down," said Berry.

While Berry remains in the community, she is a sign of times past. The Douglass school no longer remains. It was moved and eventually became an elementary school. Her neighbors are no longer black, but she said the community didn't change as much as a new-fangled map would show.

Walking down the street, Nikki Avila agreed with Berry. In her mind, things aren't as black and white, or in this case, black and Hispanic as a map would show.

"I know most of them because they grew up with my family," said Avila referring to Berry's children. "My uncles and aunts. I know their kids and grandkids."

Elsewhere, newer residents say they don't know too much about the history. Berry said it's all the same. While the neighborhood is different, it's better now, according to her. She told ABC-7 she always thought she'd return home to her roots in Houston as her days neared their end. Today, she said the neighborhood may look different, but after more than 70 years it's her home.

If you'd like to view El Paso, or another city, on the demographics map from University of Virginia researchers you can visit: http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html