Sen. Jose Rodriguez has been a strong advocate for the preservation of the Duranguito area, slated to be demolished by property owners to build a multi-purpose performance arts and entertainment center.
A recent article in Texas Monthly highlighted the ongoing battle regarding the downtown area.
In the article, Senator Rodriguez stated in-part: "to capture what El Paso really is, you need to accept the Mexicaanness, the Mexican American, and the indigenous roots of El Paso."
Adding, "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."
In a statement, Roriguez told ABC-7 the community has risen to defend Duranguito. In reference to his recent comments, he said: "Many cities have a sports arena, but most cities do not have the rich cultural history that El Paso offers."
Adding, "Given El Paso's history, culture, binational flavor and other attributes, we should not seek to clone ourselves in the image of any other city in America. 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."
Demolition in Duranguito is currently on hold. Private property owners of the Duranguito neighborhood are threatening to sue the city for $5 million after the city canceled the demolition permits it had granted them. A total of eight builders were slated for demolition.
Senator Roriguez's full response statement is below:
"I understand that there is some public discussion that includes some people misconstruing my comments in a Texas Monthly article regarding the city's efforts to demolish Duranguito for a sports arena.
Anyone who read the entire article knows exactly what I meant. Many cities have a sports arena but most cities do not have the rich cultural history that El Paso offers. Given El Paso's history, culture, binational flavor and other attributes, we should not seek to clone ourselves in the image of any other city in America. 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. El Paso's unique heritage is not only in the large buildings such as the Plaza Hotel. The physical structure of El Paso might most obviously be seen in the larger works, but the heart of it is in the neighborhoods, from the barrio of Duranguito to Sunset Heights to Manhattan Heights to Lincoln Park to the Chamizal to our valleys and on down the line.
The city continues to claim that El Pasoans voted for a downtown sports arena. That is simply not true. We voted for a "quality of life" bond that included a library, a museum, and a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center. The words "sports" or ""sports arena" are nowhere to be found on that ballot. Also not on the ballot was the proposed location of the multipurpose center. Voters did not approve demolishing Duranguito to make way for a multipurpose center.
The fact is that the city chose the site with little, if any, public input. From the moment they announced this site, the community has risen up to defend Duranguito, El Paso's first neighborhood. A coalition that includes historians, students, small businesses, neighborhoods, laborers, "creative class" professionals, and many others - in short, a coalition that looks a lot like El Paso - is demanding transparent government from the city.
Just one recent example of misinformation includes the city claim that it has no control over the properties. The city is requiring the owners to demolish buildings before concluding the purchase. All it has to do to reassure the public that it will comply with a court order prohibiting demolition is to remove that stipulation and conclude the sale. If it is so confident in its court case, and its assertion that the neighborhood is not historical, then that should be easily done."