Behind the Scene
by Randy Limbird
Editor & Publisher, El Paso Scene
One of the goals of El Paso Scene is to give people an insight into our community. Much of this is done by reporting on the various events coming up each month throughout the region. Our monthly feature story is another way we to try to shine some light on different aspects of El Paso, often combining history and heritage.
Perhaps no place is this combination more apparent than in the Segundo Barrio, El Paso’s “Second Ward.” It’s an area of town we’ve all heard of, but often ignored. Some people may think of it simply as the older, poor part of town — but in many ways it’s the richest and most energetic neighborhood in El Paso.
I reacquainted myself recently with Segundo Barrio to take a few pictures for Lisa Tate’s feature story this month. I stopped at some of the obvious landmarks — the historic churches and schools, La Fe clinic, Bowie Bakery, etc. But the more I looked around, the more I realized how much more there was to see.
First of all, Segundo Barrio reminds of us what all city neighborhoods used to be: places where people lived in plain view, had conversations on their neighbors’ porches, shopped at a corner grocery and walked to church.
The neighborhood exudes history. Historical markers abound on the older buildings, such as the home of Teresa Urrea, the religious mystic who became an unofficial patron saint of the Mexican Revolution, and Douglass School, which served as a segregated yet well regarded institution serving El Paso’s African American community.
Segundo Barrio is also a feast for the eyes. Murals pop up on nearly every street. The stores still use traditional hand-painted, brightly colored lettering. There are visual surprises around every corner. My personal favorite is El Mandadito de Waneks, a convenience store at 523 E. Fourth, whose bright green exterior walls host a mural paying tribute to El Paso musicians from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
Another intriguing stop is Paseo de los Heroes Park that runs down the middle of Olivas V. Aoy (formerly 8th) Street. It’s a delightful strip of green space hidden in the middle of Segundo Barrio. At its eastern end is a mural depicting the acequia madre (irrigation ditch) as it might have looked in El Paso’s early days.
To find out more about Segundo Barrio, see Lisa’s story that begins on Page 23.
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A few months ago I was surfing some El Paso-related websites and stumbled across one of Robert Carlson’s new paintings celebrating the area’s mountains. I was familiar with Bob’s older work — his painting of “La Adelita” adorned the January 1995 cover of El Paso Scene. So Bob definitely was overdue for a return to the Scene’s front page.
Bob is one of the very few El Paso artists who actually makes a full-time living from his work. Oddly enough, that’s why he not as well-known — because his work goes straight to collectors and rarely is exhibited. Myrna Zanetell will tell you more about him in her Gallery Talk column on Page 35.
One story you won’t find there is one that Bob told me years ago, when he was a hard-core triathlete and competed at the famed Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. When he showed up to register, he was asked his occupation. He answered “artist.” The volunteer filling out the form was startled — no artist had ever entered the Ironman before!
Here's the Ticket
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At the Museum
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Copyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.