As if the Glass Beach study wasn’t enough proof that the current public policy agenda is to erase the Mexican influence over El Paso I offer you another example. A significant part of the raging cultural center debate is about allowing the title to reflect anything having to do with Mexico. This is because it is counter to the political agenda to extract everything having to do with Mexico from the El Paso psyche. Consider the comments attributed to Bernie Sargent in the local paper.
In yesterday’s edition of the local paper, Diana Washington Valdez quotes Bernie Sargent, the chairman of the El Paso Historical Commission as well as the Bond Overview Advisory Committee. Sargent’s comments to Washington Valdez poignantly makes the case for the ongoing de-Mexicanization of El Paso.
Bernie Sargent wants the proposed cultural center to “see the city’s cowboy culture, among others, celebrated.” Washington Valdez adds that Sargent named “John Wesley Hardin” as one of the famous gunslingers he wants celebrated. Hardin, by historical accounts, was a criminal running from the law.
The quest to erase the Mexican influence in El Paso is so great that celebrating a criminal is offered as an example of what the proposed cultural center should offer.
However, in their quest to erase Mexicans from the El Paso landscape; the facts are conveniently ignored. Let us take a quick look at the culture of the cowboy and where it originated from.
Contrary to the notion being perpetuated, the United States did not invent cattle raising or the cowboy way of life. The genesis of the US cowboy is the Mexican vaquero. The vaquero evolved from the Spanish equestrian culture which morphed into the southern charros and the northern vaqueros. The cowboy perpetuated by television, movies, US literature and reenactment groups like Sargent’s are nothing more than a myth. As a matter of fact, many of the cowboys in the El Paso area were smugglers – smuggling cattle, alcohol and other illicit materials across the US-Mexico border.
Now contrast that history with the caricatures created and perpetuated by individuals like Bernie Sargent. Notice that the Mexican is either the criminal or the caricature in the movies, books and the reenactments perpetuated by groups such as the Six Guns and Shady Ladies. In other words, Cowboys have been Anglicinised and the Mexican influence effectively erased from the presentations.
This is exactly what is going on with the naming of the cultural center fiasco; the erasure of anything having to do with Mexicans.
Clearly, naming the cultural center the “heritage” center only does one thing; it keeps the Mexican identity out of the El Paso landscape. That is the policy agenda that is driving this debacle and has been driving the continued gentrification of Mexicans from El Paso.