Border Neighborhoods Named As Endangered Historic Sites

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
October 05, 2016
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Mannys Rodriguez is a fourth generation resident of the Chihuahuita neighborhood in El Paso, Texas.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
The backyard fence of many of the homes in El Paso's Chihuahuita neighborhood is the 18-foot tall border wall that separates the U.S. from Mexico.
Courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The Colon Theater in El Paso's Segundo Barrio is one of the city's many historic landmarks.

Two immigrant neighborhoods along the U.S.-Mexico border and a strip of post World War II architecture in Tucson are highlighted in a 2016 list of endangered historic places released Wednesday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

El Paso's Chihuahuita and Segundo Barrio neighborhoods are often called the Ellis Island of the Southwest. For four centuries, immigrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East have passed through and settled in both places.

Mannys Rodriguez is a community organizer whose roots in Chihuahuita go back to her great-grandfather who immigrated from Mexico.

"These houses were not meant to be sold," she said. "They're meant to pass on to generation to generation … it's the value of family."

For decades these two neighborhoods have been fighting off unwanted development such as major transit hubs. Buildings that were once the hangouts of Mexican revolutionaries like Pancho Villa have fallen into disrepair.

Three hundred miles away in Tucson's Sunshine Mile, mid-century modern buildings are facing demolition under a road widening project. The move is meant to alleviate congestion on a heavily trafficked stretch of Broadway Boulevard. 

Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit, has called attention to 11 endangered sites across the United States once a year. 

"This allows for community organizing … for local leaders and county and state leaders to be able to come in and intercept and assist however they can," said Sehila Mota Casper, who works in the organization's Houston office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has helped protect more than 250 historic places around the country including Little Havana in Miami and Manhattan Project sites in New Mexico. The 2016 list includes San Francisco's Embarcadero and Austin's Lion's Municipal Golf Course, a landmark significant to the civil rights movement.