Man in the Segundo, El Paso – Sept. 2011
Photo and Text by Bruce Berman
Man from Anthony, New Mexico, describing his younger days in the Segundo barrio.
The Segundo barrio is El Paso’s most historic neighborhood, hugging the border with Juarez, Mexico and architecturally intact from the 1880’s “railroad boom,” that brought fired brick architecture and “Chicago Brick (which is atypical red).” Some adobe structures go back to the early 19th century. This part of the city has had human habitation for thousands of years. Spanish travelers began European settlement at this place in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in the mid 1600’s.
The real significance of the Segundo barrio, however, is the Latino community and it is significant. The barrio, historically, was the first “stop” on the journey north to “El Norte,” whether it was a matter of days for rest or for a generation of orientation. Many people in El Paso trace their roots to family who lived in El Segundo barrio in their first years in the United States.
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Pachuco culture was birthed in this neighborhood and the style and lingo of Chicanismo was originated in this barrio (and Chihuaita, to the west).
Caló, the language of Chicanismo, although developed throughout the southwest, was refined in the Segundo barrio of El Paso.
Talking to the man in the photo above, in the words of Caló, I said, as we parted, Al rato, vato (“later dude”).
He had no idea what I was talking about.