In El Paso, Texas, there is a storied Hispanic neighborhood called El Segundo Barrio. One of El Paso's oldest neighborhoods is this one. For many years, it served as one of the principal points of entry for immigrants coming from Mexico into the United States; as a result, it earned the nickname "the other Ellis Island." The artwork and cultural appeal of Segundo Barrio are well known. El Segundo Barrio was listed as one of Texas' Most Endangered Places in 2016 by Preservation Texas. Its history is closely related to that of Chihuahuita, a different southern barrio.
El Segundo Barrio in El Paso, also known as the Second Ward, in El Paso, Texas, has been proposed as a potential national historic area by El Paso County. A stroll through the area, which is situated south of Downtown El Paso, reveals the neighborhood's cultural and historical significance.
More thorough documentation, investigation, and legal protection of a late 19th century district in downtown El Paso with early adobe structures will encourage historical tourism in a unique city. Local activists were successful in getting county financing for the survey after the El Paso City Council refused grant money to support a downtown historic structures assessment in 2015. The Caples Building (1909) and El Segundo Barrio are only two examples of the many historic architecture that will be documented in downtown El Paso. Since the 1880s, El Segundo Barrio has served as the "starting point for thousands of families" leaving Mexico. The earliest historic neighborhood in El Paso was Barrio Chihuahuita. After the train arrived in El Paso in 1881, the city's population increased swiftly.
Santiago Alvarado, a Mexican land grant recipient who worked as a farm laborer, was the first person to live in Segundo Barrio. Many people immigrated to El Segundo Barrio during the Mexican Revolution. Wealthier migrants moved further north, while the poorer migrants stayed in the barrio. During the revolution, Segundo Barrio was home to journalists, spies, and revolutionaries. Pancho Villa also visited El Segundo Barrio, eating ice cream at the neighborhood Elite Confectionary, while Francisco Madero resided in various homes there while he worked on a strategy to fight Porfirio Daz.
Architectural designs from before the railroads arrived in the 1880s reflect the rich history of our border villages. The availability of pre-cut lumber, cast iron, and decorative building materials that were commonly available after trains connected these isolated locations had a profound impact on communities like El Paso and Laredo. Adobe and stone pre-railroad vernacular buildings were destroyed as they expanded, and the vernacular building customs were lost. However, pre-railroad architecture and traditions continue to exist in locations like Laredo's El Azteca and El Paso's Segundo Barrio. They require documentation, upkeep, and preservation.
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