EL PASO’S LINCOLN PARK
My column in the El Paso Times, Sunday, February 14, 2016:
Athens has it’s Parthenon with it’s Doric columns.
We in El Paso have our own columns which go one better.
I’m enjoying a Sunday morning at Lincoln Park marveling at the spaghetti bowl columns clad in the murals of our greatest cultural influence … the Latino/Mexican culture. These living monoliths support overpasses while revealing the folklore of generations past and present.
Despite the lack of sustained city focus towards this barrio in one of America’s poorest ZIP codes, life here pulses strongly.
Soccer fields borne of devastating floods are alive with men’s pickup soccer games while families and friends play and relax on the sidelines. Children freely explore at will while parents follow close behind.
The blaring horn of a passing train and the hum of nonstop traffic add to the soundtrack of weekend activity here at one of El Paso’s genuinely unique urban environments.
While I’m all for bringing Downtown back, it mystifies me that we are poised to spend $35 million shoehorning another museum into an arrhythmic Downtown struggling to breathe on nights and weekends after 10 years of real estate resuscitation.
Yes, we need a Hispanic cultural center, and yes, the wallflower performing arts center could use a major renovation, but we as a city must begin to look beyond Downtown and it’s wealthy landlords and denizens. It’s time El Paso infuses an combination IV of cash and attention into our malnourished neighborhood treasures.
The Lincoln Park district is prime example. An expansive area with high visibility and easy access just waiting to be asked to the prom ... all dressed up and nowhere to go, looking for a generous date to discover her charms.
Let’s start with the Lincoln Center, rightly named El Corazon de El Paso. It sits symbolically in the center of freeway arteries that lead into Mexico, Texas and the rest of America.
This would have been the ideal location for a Mexican-American cultural center, serving as an anchor to a lively tourist and local destination.
Imagine an architecturally significant multi-use Latino center that rises several stories above the freeway, calling out to every person driving past. It can house a public library, peripheral literacy programs, and office space for Latino non-profits investing in destitute areas such as this.
Lincoln Park. Sculpture gardens to showcase the work of local and regional artists. Plenty of empty lots that will serve as parking for regular events such as Mexican-inspired festivals that attract thousands of people.
If St. Anthony’s Seminary can draw 50,000 people over Labor Day weekend, imagine what can be accomplished at Lincoln Park.
Soccer fields. We’ll devote one half of the current fields for a public soccer stadium with comfortable seating for a few thousand people.
The “beautiful game” can be so much bigger in El Paso with the right facilities. Tournaments, high school and big-time semi- and pro soccer games can be played here, all while serving all El Paso-Juárez.
Surrounding area. Remember all that talk about an authentic Mexican mercado? Well this is the place for it.
A singular shopping experience for tourists and locals alike. Galleries, restaurants, bars, affordable housing and tienditas will flourish as long as we have a rent-control mechanism in place and we keep things local. Sorry Starbucks.
The Lincoln Park district has the goods for what El Paso needs desperately: a major tourist draw outside of Downtown that stands on it’s own while supporting local non-profits, artists, and entrepreneurs.
This is a conversation that needs to be taken seriously.
Some additional thoughts to consider from Jud Burgess. Scroll to the bottom to see how San Diego does it with their Chicano Park!
I love the mural on this column. It pictures this unique area as the Corazon (heart) of El Paso, as central as it gets with freeway arteries connecting El Pasoans to the rest of Mexico, New Mexico, Texas and America. This area naturally lends itself to a Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American oasis of activity. There are still plenty of unpainted columns that are waiting for local artists to tell their stories. Imagine several being set aside for Artist Invitationals where they would be painted with new murals every 2 years. Artists would get paid a decent stipend for gracing the columns with their talents. Students can join in and help paint. We can coordinate these PaintFests with a Mexican Festival every year. New murals will be painted on the set-aside columns every 2-3 years.
Sergio Flores and Jesus Melendez, Sr. enjoy a Sunday morning in Lincoln Park next to their restored classic cars and pickups. The New York Times recently ran an interesting column on the spread of Lowrider culture throughout the world...Jakarta, Indonesia; São Paulo, Brazil; and Tokyo, Japan. Guess where much of this uniquely Latino vibe originated? El Paso, East LA, etc.
This photoshopped image gives us an idea of just how beautiful and commanding a building of Mexican/Aztec/Mayan architectural significance built where the current Lincoln Park Center is can be. Symbolically centered between freeway arteries leading all directions, it would be seen by virtually every driver heading in any direction across El Paso.
This area needs to be developed, not as a profit venture but as something to elevate El Paso’s Latino and Mexican cultural heritage, tourism trade, local non-profits reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised at every level and need. It can be a thriving district attracting locals and tourists alike.
Let’s create something special for ALL EL PASO at the Lincoln Park district!
SAN DIEGO’S CHICANO PARK
Here’s how San Diego has turned their urban freeway landscape into a vibrant area for locals and tourists! We have exactly the same thing in Lincoln Park, BUT also soccer fields right down the block and lot's of space for additional attractions and local non-profit outreaches.