Urban Renewal Trail of Tears Tour
In the late 1960s, Tucson, intent on becoming just like every other American city (read: not Mexican), destroyed hundreds of buildings in its historic heart. Elegant adobes and rundown rentals, movie houses and flowering family gardens, pool halls and cafes, all were smashed indiscriminately by the wrecking ball, wielded by the city fathers and enterprising developers bent on self-enrichment. Hundreds of families, mostly poor, mostly minority, were displaced, but a few architectural shards of their dwelling places remain.

The Ochoas' front porch, a fine wood structure painted green, is inside the Arizona Historical Society Museum, 949 E. Second St. A façade ornament from the original San Agustín Cathedral in the now-destroyed central Plaza Mesilla (not to be confused with the current cathedral on Stone) frames the museum's front door.

Downtown, tucked away into the corners of the Tucson Convention Center, an inhuman complex at 260 S. Church Ave. that replaced the once-lively barrio, are a few surviving buildings. A thick-walled house that's now the site of Lume Restaurant, mysteriously saved from the wrecking ball, gives some idea of the architecture of the demolished buildings. Inside La Placita, the faux-Mexican structure that replaced a real Mexican streetscape, are the Stables and the former El Charro restaurant (now housing an Italian café). Outside is the old gazebo that once dominated Plaza Mesilla, which was truncated by the widening of Broadway.

Last on the tour, at 151 S. Granada Ave., is the Sosa-Carillo-Fremont House, now a museum, gussied up to a glory it never had in its authentic life as a multi-family house.

That's about all that's left. For an idea of what the barrio once looked like, visit Meyer Avenue in El Presidio neighborhood north of the Tucson Museum of Art, or wander the streets of Barrio Historico, south of the TCC.


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