EL PASO, Texas – Little attention has been paid to the pivotal role of El Paso, Texas, in the Mexican Revolution, according a published author, who said landmarks that serve as reminders of that history are at risk of disappearing.
David Dorado Romo, an American historian of Mexican descent, said that whereas the French and Russian revolutions were hatched in central cities, the Mexican Revolution was spawned between that country’s periphery and the neighboring United States.
“(Francisco I.) Madero issued his call to arms (against dictator Porfirio Diaz in 1910) when he was in San Antonio (Texas),” he said.
“In (the northern state of) Coahuila, apparently just 10 people responded to the call, but it was very successful in (neighboring) Chihuahua and especially in the region of (the border city of Ciudad) Juarez and El Paso.”
The author’s book “Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923,” whose Spanish version was recently published by Ediciones Era, has sparked controversy in Mexico City because it challenges the standard narrative that the revolution was launched in the capital’s massive Zocalo main square.
He found in his research that at the end of the 19th century there were already traces of clandestine activism and subversive and revolutionary movements in El Paso that would plant the seed for the Mexican Revolution.
“All along this street you’ll find vestiges of the Mexican Revolution, and those traces began in 1896 here in El Paso when (revolutionary) Teresa Urrea lived on Fourth and Oregon,” the historian said during a tour of the city’s downtown, some of whose historical sites are in danger of being demolished.
Dorado referred in particular to a project to build a sports arena in Duranguito, an old El Paso district that is strongly linked to the Mexican Revolution and whose landmarks include an adobe house where (revolutionary general) Pancho Villa took refuge in 1913.
“If they knock down these places, half of my book would be destroyed,” said the historian, who has led efforts to preserve that downtown neighborhood.