I have to give credit where credit is due. Steve Ortega hates the essence of El Paso. Unlike Susie Byrd who embraces her El Paso heritage publically but turns around and votes against it, Steve Ortega has consistently been open about his disgust for his El Paso heritage.
In a paper Steve Ortega presented to his Chicano/a Literature class at the University of Texas at Austin, Ortega describes how he hated visiting his great grandmother’s house south of the freeway. Steve Ortega describes his great-grandmother’s house as a “pistachio bright green structure [that] would (sic) surely awaken the eyes of any sleeping child”.
In the paper titled; Family Narrative, Steve Ortega describes south El Paso as smelling differently; “dusty, rustic smell of the worn down neighborhood”. He adds; “people looked, talked and dressed different”. He describes his great grandmother’s home as being located in a neighborhood that “was in utter shambles”.
Ortega goes on to discuss how growing up in “middle-class east El Paso, the south-side was foreign territory to my sister and I”. He describes the area as “graffiti and religious murals [that] decorated any available space” on the walls.
As for his great-grandmother, Steve Ortega had nothing much to say about her other than to state that “he did not understand Spanish”, oh, and that she gave him $5 each time he visited. What a shame because if he had taken the opportunity to listen to her, regardless of whether he spoke Spanish or not, he would have seen the pride she had in her “pistachio bright green” house.
Just as Steve Ortega had no use for his great-grandmother’s life on the south-side of the freeway, he also has no interest in the “brown faces” that surround him. In a paper titled; Border Response, Steve Ortega writes about crossing the international bridge and seeing kids hawking gum on the border. He describes them like this, “their brown faces were blackened by the exhaust fumes of the automobiles and their clothes appeared as if they were not changed in weeks”.
I can visualize the disgust in his face as he relates this experience.
But too truly under Stave Ortega one should not look further than what he writes next as he closes his paper by asking;
“how can la migra tell that I am not a juareno (sic)?” “The unfortunate answer is; they can’t”, he closes.
And there you have it El Paso; Steve Ortega is ashamed to be brown and to not be indistinguishable from his brown brethren. More recently, Steve Ortega proudly proclaimed his hatred for the El Paso identity.
Remember the $100,000 PDNG Glass Beach Study from 2006?
The city universally condemned the study as demeaning to the character of El Paso. Steve Ortega, on the other hand did not. Instead, according to an interview in the Border Observer, he states that the Glass Beach Study was not “particularly offensive” to him. He added that he would rather be associated with “Salma Hayek” than with his grandfather.
I haven’t found anything where Steve Ortega discusses his grandfather but from his own writings about his great-grandmother, I’m not sure he had much respect for the heritage of his grandfather, either.
Even on his campaign material Steve Ortega focuses on wanting to “continue our (El Paso’s) momentum forward to greatness”. His platform is centered around keeping the bonds on time, in other words, his public checkbook at the ready for his no Spanish and no Mexicans gentrification of El Paso. It is clear that in Ortega’s world there is no place for Spanish speakers, even in his own family and the Mexican roots that dominate El Paso.
In his political website’s “neighborhood section” Ortega makes no mention of the uniqueness of El Paso that makes it the city it is. Instead Steve Ortega writes about how he was elected to raise the “standard for expectation and accomplishment in El Paso.” He is always quick to point out that he is a “fifth generation” El Pasoan but just as quick to point out that he doesn’t embrace the beauty of El Paso culture, instead he sees it as something that must be discarded.
In another nod to honesty, Steve Ortega promises to keep an “open door” to constituents but nowhere does he promise to actually listen to what they want. What Steve Ortega has publically and many times stated as that he makes the hard decisions regardless of what the community really wants.
El Paso is a unique city with much history and heritage. Many El Pasoans are multi-generational and many more have recently migrated to the city. Many embrace and honor the heritage of what El Paso is. Steve Ortega, on the other hand, doesn’t want anything to do with what El Paso is; rather he wants to make it into what he perceives El Paso should be.
In Steve’s El Paso, there is no place for hard-working Mexicans, Spanish speakers or any El Pasoan that wants to embrace the El Paso culture that makes El Paso unique.