David Romo vs. Adair Margo

From Adair Margo’s guest column in the El Paso Times:

Since 2016, a falsehood has been spread nationwide about El Paso’s history that has cost citizens millions in legal fees and tarnished its reputation.

The falsehood is on the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt in a segment featuring David Romo. While Romo stood inside the Villa Stash House on Leon Street, in front of lights and cameras, he repeated the untruth that El Paso will destroy its Latino heritage by bulldozing “Duranguito.”

What Romo failed to say is that the Villa Stash House – a real Latino heritage site – is a block away from “Duranguito,” the name he and Max Grossman gave to three blocks south of El Paso’s civic center after the city designated them as the location for its voter-approved multi-purpose center.

Imagine calling the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lester Holt liars in the same sentence.

Well, Dr. David Romo, who has a PhD in History, and has written the definitive book about El Paso’s role in the Mexican Revolution, responded in a Guest Column of his own.

For a long time, Adair Margo felt she had a right to decide what part of El Paso’s history should be celebrated and what should be erased. She is the director of a foundation that promotes the works of Tom Lea, an artist whose public art pushed narratives of European discovery, westward expansion, and Manifest Destiny. These racialized worldviews have historically been used to justify the dispossession and erasure of non-white populations.

Margo is now upset that a different historical narrative is reaching the outside world. She is irritated that community-based efforts to prevent the city and developers from bulldozing Duranguito and displacing its remaining residents have made national news. She claims there is nothing of historical importance in the part of Duranguito the city wants to tear down. In a recent column to the El Paso Times, Margo accused other scholars and me of having “invented” the term Duranguito to describe what she’s always known as Union Plaza. If she hasn’t heard the name, she believes we must have fabricated it out of thin air. Margo says we are “lying.”   

One of these accounts is by McGinty band musician David Concha, who immigrated to El Paso in the 1890s and described this neighborhood in the early 1900s. He stated during an oral history interview in the 1970s that: “There was a barrio called Duranguito. Duranguito started from San Francisco Street to Overland and lied [west of] Santa Fe Street…It was mostly Mexicans who lived there.” Later its boundaries moved southward. Other El Pasoans who referred to this neighborhood as Duranguito during the first part of the twentieth century include Modesto Gomez, Father Rahm, and Charles Porras.

Margo ignores this documentation, but it does not give her the right to deliberately spread unfounded accusations. Her smear campaigns are based on the same kind of willful historical ignorance that has sadly infected a large part of the nation’s population these days.

Dr. Romo goes on to offer historical facts to refute Ms. Margo’s contentions, and he’s a lot nicer about it than I would be.

Read his whole piece here.

3 comments

    1. Maybe about the same time that City Council stops tearing down our downtown to please their owners? But, certainly not before they get that stupid deck built over I-10.

  1. Good to know that liking the work of Tom Lea is unwoke. I’ll put that little factoid away for another time. I just want that arena stopped and, if it takes disavowing Tom Lea to do it, we’ll…

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