Dignified Man #2, Segundo Barrio/El Paso – July 11, 2009
There are a lot of viejos in the Sagundo barrio. They get around.
There are a lot of kids too.
Like it always was but just fewer. It’s the heart of this isolated town.
There are a lot of people in the Segundo barrio and it has its own life and its own culture and to anyone who has been a resident, having been a resident of the Segundo barrio carries with it a lot of pride. Never rich -except for, perhaps, the shop owners, and there, too, not really- the Segundo barrio is the one place in El Paso, Texas that one can truthfully call “city,” or “urban.”
The rest of the city is a series of not very distinct neighborhoods that could be called “suburban,” but that would be a misnomer: one needs the Urb to have the Suburb.
The Segundo barrio is now seen as a strategic neighborhood, one who’s geographic location -immediately adjacent to the border with Juarez, Mexico- positions it for the Grand Plan, the idea of a truly urban downtown, full of young people, urban “loft,” dwellers, hipsters, spenders, party on.
All around the Segundo, now, down Paisano, over by the court house, closer and closer, is loft development.
Well, welcome to the 20th Century young El Paso! It ain’t your fault. You’re just doin’ what you do. You must have heard about this, right? The urbanization of downtowns that started in the 80s in the rest of America? It’s your time. You will groove on the urban vibe. It’s cool. El Paso never much cared for what it really was anyway so, hey, why not? And as you come with your high rents, your “arts,” as your landlords revive themselves with your rents, as El Paso, once again, tries to become a bad version of someone else’s urban vision, the one authentic thing, blending with the ‘hood instead of replacing it, the Segundo barrio (and, oh yeah, Chihuahita…you’re sitting on the River of Dreams. But not yet…), will fade away, like dust, kicked up like mist on an unpaved road.
For now, they ask the residents, “What do you need?”
This is a way better tone than it was three years ago, when, basically, they didn’t ask, but told, “Here’s what we got for you…like it or leave it.”
I guess we all learn, in time, new ways.
Their hearts have changed?
Or just their words?
Time will tell. Let’s hope for the best. I do.
In the meantime, the viejos get along. The kids still play. There’s a reality to the ‘hood. It hasn’t been created, but, rather, it evolved, like neighborhoods in real cities do, slowly, becoming a homeland off the sweat and blood of the generations that pass through them. It’s the way of things.
Used to be this way before we had more people planning our lives than just living their lives and working, before a lot of equity sought investment, before anyone -including me- would even know what that means, before they became us.
Some things expand and actually help people. Clinica La Fe, for example! Health and Education. Advancement programs. Todo bien. If the people of the neighborhood can stay, this is all good.
Unless, of course, there’s a glitch: like a Recession stops everything, or a major mover and shaker getting over-extended and not being able to deliver the beans on all the property that is scooped up with Investor’s money (“The rulers now will later be last,” Dylan said), or like a narco war erupting a block from your new planned urban vision, turning your neighbor into a basket case of tattered past glory, current violence, and no real plan except to use the labor of the people -and their new disposable income- that all the new and ever expanding factories will use and bring, or, well, hey! Stop.
These things don’t happen, right?
It’s all a gamble. That’s life. El Paso has never shot itself in the foot before, has it?
People will get what they fight for. Whoever they are. They will get what they demand.
For now, truck on viejo, for me, you got the mojo.