El Paso

Historian disputes historical significance of 'Duranguito' district, blasts historians fighting City

Historian disputes historical significance of Duranguito district blasts historians fighting City

EL PASO, Texas - Historian Fred Morales Tuesday told El Paso City Council he came up with the term "Duranguito" to describe the Union Plaza Neighborhood that has become the center of debate in the city.

The City of El Paso wants to build an arena in the neighborhood and most of the residents who lived in the area's apartment complexes have been relocated. A group, led by local activists and historians, wants to preserve some of the buildings that could be demolished to make room for the arena.

Morales said he regrets using the term to describe the neighborhood. He said there was a Duranguito gang established in the neighborhood in the early 20th century and that's where the name comes from.

Morales presented a 38-page document to City Council Tuesday, which he said disputes several of the historical claims made by other preservationists fighting the City over the arena's location. In particular, Morales singled out historians Yolanda Leyva, David Romo and Max Grossman.

These preservationists want the neighborhood to be considered historic, so that the arena cannot be built there.

"I'm not involved in the arena dispute. I'm not for it or against it. I was against it in the beginning. but since over a year now has passed, I have seen a lot of false information disseminated and I feel that I cannot support it to become a historic district," Morales said.

Morales said he's written three books on the Union Plaza District, and although Leyva, Romo and Grossman have used some of his research, "they've gotten issues wrong."

"I do not agree (the neighborhood) was the Ellis Island of the Southwest. That was located in the Chihuahuita historic district," Morales said.

Morales told Council his goal is to be able to sit down with the neighborhood preservationists with a neutral mediator provided by the City. He said he wants all the facts to be hashed out.

"Since history has been compromised, how can I support a historic district to become as such," Morales said. "If they're willing to abide by making the corrections, I'll jump on board, and I'll support the area to become a historic district."

Grossman emailed ABC-7 the following statement:

"I do not know Mr. Morales and he does not know me. I never understood why he is so full of hatred for the academic community.  As I told him before, the proper forum for scholarly debate is in peer-reviewed publications and at academic conferences, not in front of news cameras."

"They think because they're from UTEP and they have a PhD or masters that that makes them think they're perfect and accurate - but it's the opposite," Morales said.

Leyva and Romo responded to Morales' claims with this statement.

Historians with Paso del Sur challenge the false allegations made by Fred Morales regarding the history of the neighborhood known as Duranguito. Today, Mr. Morales appeared before the El Paso City Council at the invitation of Mayor Dee Margo to dispute historical research disseminated by Paso Del Sur. Fred Morales, who is not a trained historian, attacked the scholars who have conducted research on the oldest neighborhood in El Paso, accusing them of not being “real historians” and calling them other ad hominem invectives.

Paso del Sur members Dr. David Dorado Romo and Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva are award-winning historians whose peer-reviewed work has been recognized by prestigious organizations, such as the National Council for Public History and the Ford Foundation.

Romo also provided this oral interview which he states proves where the term "Duranguito" came from.


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