Luis Jimenez’ Largartos (Alligators) in San Jacinto Plaza,
El Paso, Texas, July 2011 by Bruce Berman
El Paso —
by Bruce Berman
This is what kids do on their Quincineras in El Paso. They go to the heart of El Paso. They go to the downtown plaza, the “San Jacinto Plaza.”
This is what they want to record for a background, Los Lagartos, the alligators. They don’t go to the Mall. The Plaza theater around the corner really isn’t open to them (hey why not show movies? Why is it closed? It’s for “the people, isn’t it? Show movies in the daytime and they will come). Kids -and visitors- go to where their heart tells them there is a soul to the city: they visit Los Lagartos.
Do they even know why? Do they know that the artist who conceived and constructed the Lagartos was one of them, a local kid who once had Â a rented tux(I’ve seen the picture), celebrating like El Paso kids do, joyous and robust, almost free for a day (well that Limo driver is just out of camera range and is -unofficially- going to pass on a little mini spy report to the parents and they know it!).
This is the tradition and the Lagartos fountain has been sitting their since 1995 and from the moment it went up, the kids, and the visitors, the soldiers, the Christmas and News Years celebrants, the shoppers, the people, have come to this plaza to be part of the Lagartos. When there were real alligators in this Plaza, when Luis Jimenez was young, for example, that’s why they came.
Who knows or cares why. Los Lagartos, real or fiberglass sing to El Pasoans’ hearts. Can you hear that?
The Jimenez sculpture has been in this plaza where it sits in surrealistic and Pop Art felicity longer than these kids Â have been alive. The piece has gone from a sensation to a tradition. It’s now part of the generations. It is El Paso to them.
Think about it: If there were more things, downtown, that they -and others- could relate to, you’d see a lot of people crowding that almost ghost town that is the current downtown. Great new things are coming to this plaza but without these lagartos and these kids and those visitors, the new things will be missing something that is essential to all cities: a heart. A pulse. Something that “planner” cannot imagine, or render or, I guess, know.
Now they want to remove the Lagartos. It was one of native son Luis Jimenez’ best works among the many internationally acclaimed works he did, seen all over the world.
There are rational reasons they want it gone: it cost too much to maintain they say. One estimate puts the yearly maintenance cost at $22,000). The material it is constructed of -fiberglass and car paint- is not able to be maintained, they claim. That is debatable because another Jimenez sculpture, The Vaquero, sits in front of the El Paso Museum of Art, just around the corner and a second edition (Luis would make up to five editions of his major works unless contracted otherwise) another Vaquero sits in front of the Smithsonian Museum in DC and looks just fine. If that is the case -it is- then perhaps the City needs to reexamine how it maintains the piece, ask for help, plan for better funding. Perhaps the preservation of a “heart” requires another effort.
Why is not $22,000 a year not worth every penny its worth for the promotional value to the City that this piece does have and and could multiply exponentially?
Why is not $22,000 not a “drop in the bucket” for a City that proclaims, on one plaque on the western side of this very Plaza, that the plaza is dedicated to “The People Of The City Of El Paso.” The people deserve to have a piece of this quality and attraction, especially because it was done by a revered native son.
Obviously, “the people”Â love this sculpture/fountain. That’s why kids want it as part of their memory on their coming-of-age 15th birthday Quincinera bashes.
They say Long Live Los Lagartos/Viva The Alligators!
I Â bet there are 22,000 El Pasoans, with one dollar each, who’d be more than willing to send their dinero to the City -postage prepaid.
A great memory is worth a buck-a-year, isn’t it?