Duranguito solidarity march advocates for preservation of community

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Duranguito solidarity march advocates for preservation of community

Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

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Advocating against the construction of a $180 million arena near the Union Plaza downtown, about 60 protesters assembled on Saturday at Firefighter’s Memorial Park for a “Stand for Duranguito” solidarity march.

The march was put together by Paso del Sur, a local organization which advocates for the rights of residents and workers of the city. Joining Paso del Sur were other various local organizations and public figures, such as the Border Farmworkers Center, the Association for Applied Borderlands History, the Lincoln Center Conservation Committee, MEChA, Causa Unidosa, Autonomous Brown Berets, Familias Unidas, La Mujer Obrera, Sen. Jose Rodriguez, mayoral candidate David Saucedo and Father Rafael Garcia of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

“The purpose for the solidarity march is to show that Duranguito isn’t alone,” said Dr. David Romo, a historian who is one of the original members of Paso del Sur. “Our argument is that this (arena) violates citizen’s most vulnerable area. Over 100 people will be affected. We believe they chose this area because this area doesn’t have political power to stop it.”

Earlier this week, plaintiffs on behalf of the community appeared before Judge Amy Clark Meachum, Travis County Civil District Court in Austin, to challenge the legal acclimations of the arena.

The hearing to decide the legitimacy of the arena’s construction was reset for July 17-18.

Also this week, property owner Alejo Restrepo was granted permission by the city to commence five demolitions in the Union Plaza area.

Romo believes that this permission will pose an immediate threat to the neighborhood of Duranguito and believes that the team does not have the right to demolish this area.

“They knew about this area and they bought it knowing they would sell it,” Romo said. “We think it’s unethical and illegal. Our legal team is going to file a temporary restraining order on them. We just want the city to play fair and wait to see if this is even legal.”

Romo’s partner Dr. Yolanda Leyva was a key component in the protest and hosted a press conference at the beginning of the event. She invited public figures, such as Sen. Rodriguez and his wife Carolina Rodriguez, residents of Duranguito, and others to speak on behalf of the community.

One of the highlighted residents was Antoñia Morales, a tenant in the neighborhood. Morales, who has lived in Duranguito since 1965, has been active in her fight to preserve her community and was labeled by Leyva as an inspiration to the movement.

“I live in this community and I worked a lot in this community to clean it up,” Morales said. “It was once a community very dirty. When I first came here in ‘65, there was a lot of prostitution, a lot of drugs and violence. When President Clinton was in office, he said we have to work on the community ourselves.”

She spoke to the protesters who came out to support the movement and thanked them for tirelessly supporting her. She led forth a saying a the end of her speech, “no se vende, se defiende,” which translates to “we won’t sell, we will defend.”

Mayoral candidate Saucedo showed support in the protester’s efforts and believes that the local representation is not definitive of the city’s wishes as a whole.

“It’s just ingenuous. I would rather them put this arena at the rail yards,” Saucedo, who is currently in a runoff election along with Dee Margo for El Paso’s mayor. “I won’t be happy until we get closure on the rail yards. Look around; this is El Paso. This is the heart and soul of El Paso, and for us to gleefully dismiss that, I’m against that and I have been.”

Along with the idea of having the arena at a different location, Saucedo believes that the preservation of the community will continue to add more depth to the downtown area.

“I want downtown to be fantastic. A downtown is a downtown with a vibrant life. And taking this away from downtown would be completely against that idea,” he said.

After the press conference, the protestors marched throughout downtown to advocate for the preservation of Durangito.

“We’ve been very happy with all the people coming out today and we need more help when we continue,” Morales said. “Every time we do this, we get more help from different organizations. Thank you for not leaving me alone in this battle.”

Follow Adrian Broaddus on Twitter @adrian_broaddus

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